Latest Interview! (18 Comments)

Dear Rob,

I hope you’re doing fine and everything is great in L.A.

I have some questions from a journalists of ivy online magazine www.ivyworld.de (their motto: “for a better world”). Can you please answer them (or some of them) and send it back to me?

1. How long did it take to produce Sharkwater?
– 5 years and 15 countries.

2. First you wanted to shoot a film just about sharks. That changed why?

When I started out making Sharkwater, it was supposed to be a beautiful underwater movie about sharks, giving people the reality: the anti-jaws that brings people closer to sharks than ever before.
I figured if I could make a film that gave people a new view of sharks, counter to Jaws, then perhaps they’d want to fight for their protection as they would for pandas, elephants and bears.
As you see in the film, everything changed dramatically when we started filming ourselves to keep ourselves out of prison, and the movie evolved into a much larger movie full of corruption, espionage, attempted murder, hospitalizations, mafia and machine guns…
The film grew greatly into a new breed of film, blending a true-life action with a shark film about the survival of humans as a species.

3. Describe the ups and downs of making the film.

The creation of Sharkwater was a series of worst case scenarios. The lowest low was when I was hospitalized for flesh eating disease. The doctors were talking about removing my leg, and we were 3 weeks into shooting a shark film and had no shark footage. Everyone told me I should return home for proper medical care. My girlfriend and parents were upset, my crew was freaking… I had to turn into captain positive to keep people from flying me home… If I went home, the film would have never been finished because it was such a colossal failure that it would have been shelved. The expensive cameras would have been returned to the rental houses, and once freed from the hospital, I wouldn’t have been able to return to South America to film because of the huge financial hole that I was in. This was my one shot at making a difference and my first foray into filmmaking. I couldn’t accept that my effort to make a difference and to get into filmmaking was a failure.
The film also had a huge potential to do good…. To change the way people view sharks so they would fight for their protection, ultimately saving the oceans and humanity from destroying the ecosystems upon which they depend. Knowing this, there was no way I could give up.

Another hugely difficult part of the 5 years and 15 countries that it took to create Sharkwater was convincing people to believe in me, and the project. I started Sharkwater when I was 22 years old. I had no film experience, I’d never shot a video camera, and I had no film allies. I was a total long shot. When I came back from the initial shoot where I tried to make a beautiful underwater shark film, I had no underwater footage, but I had corruption, espionage, mafia chases, machine guns, and hospitalizations. I was also $300,000 in debt. I went to every relevant film festival to pitch the film and gain support to finish Sharkwater. I also had Dengue Fever, West Nile Virus, and Tuberculosis. After a year of this painful process, I was turned down by every broadcaster and distributor. I actually gave up on Sharkwater, and went to shoot a starfish movie for a friend of mine in Australia. Only after I’d been shooting in Australia for a year, having time to heal, reflect and shoot more footage did I realize that I had the missing pieces to Sharkwater. These supposed failures turned Sharkwater into something much greater than it would have been if I succeeded in getting the film on TV a year earlier.

4. Have your life been in danger while shooting the film? Why?

A half dozen times. We were shot at, chased by the mafia, I almost lost my leg to flesh eating disease, I had dengue fever, west Nile virus, and tuberculosis all at the same time. I was also lost, floating in the Pacific ocean for half a day when I surfaced from a dive 2 kilometers from my boat.

Everything going catastrophically wrong during shooting turned out to be a beautiful thing, as all the events became part of the movie. They gave Sharkwater what documentaries so often lack – a story, and a personal narrative. Doc’s often feel like taking medicine… you know you’re in for an ordeal that’s not necessarily pleasant… Its easier for people to come onto the crazy journey of the long shot – the 22 year old kid who’s trying to make a shark film – and come out the other side armed with the info necessary for the world to change.

5. Describe your relationship with Paul Watson.

Paul has become a close friend and ally. There aren’t many people working for the preservation of the oceans, particularly ones that put their life on the line for it. Paul is a hero, and I’m sure we’ll continue to work together.

6. What kind of person is he?

Paul is an eco hero. He’s the most outspoken and radical warrior in the most important battle humans have ever faced. He moves forward unshakably, and will be thought of as a revolutionary for centuries.

7. Your main message is that sharks are shy creatures. How is it that other documentaries capture such savage footage of them?

Every time you see a shark cage on TV, there is someone outside of the cage filming the cage. Shark documentaries mostly misrepresent sharks, making audiences think that they attack every camera, boat and cage in the water. People drag large pieces of fish or bait through the water, just in front of the shark, getting the shark to bite at the bait, eventually bringing the shark close to the camera to get dramatic footage. This is the standard for shark documentaries, and it’s atrocious. We spent 200 days a year outside of cages filming Sharkwater without a problem.

8. How hopeful are you that people will stop killing sharks for their fins?

More than 75% of the people surveyed on the ground in China don’t know that shark fin soup has shark in it because the translation literally means fish wing soup. I believe enough in the compassion of people towards species and future generations of people that awareness will create a huge change.
People can’t see what happens in the oceans, so what is out of sight is out of mind. We waste 54 billion pounds of fish each year while 8 million people die of starvation. 90% of all large predators in the ocean are gone and every fishery will have entirely collapsed by 2048. If the public knew that we depend on the oceans for survival, yet we’re destroying them every day in unprecedented ways, they would take a stand, just as they spoke out for whales and for holes in the ozone layer.

8. Are the sharks still alive when they got cut? And even when they were thrown back into water?

Some sharks are still alive when they are finned. These finned sharks can take days to die when thrown back into the ocean. Finning is a horrible practice that wastes 95% of the animal. It’s like killing an elephant for ivory or a rhino for its horns.

10. If there wouldnt’t be any sharks no more. What kind of consequences would that bring for the oceans?

Sharks sit atop oceanic food chains, controlling the populations of animals below them as they have for over 400 million years. Life on earth depends on life in the sea, which sits below sharks in the food chain. Phytoplankton (tiny plants) are the greatest consumer of carbon dioxide (global warming gas) on earth, turning it into oxygen, providing us with 70% of the oxygen we breathe. Removing sharks is cutting off the head of the most important ecosystem for our own survival. The biggest issue in any global warming debate is life in the oceans that allows life on land to exist, yet it’s never spoken of… all we hear about is industry and carbon footprints.
We know relatively little about the removal of large predators from ecosystems as we’ve traditionally eaten animals at lower levels – the herbivores.
One example is the sea otter, which was hunted virtually to extinction off the west coast of North America for the fur trade. The otter’s food population, sea urchins, exploded in numbers. Those urchins ate all the Pacific kelp (huge seaweed that form an underwater forest). Without the kelp, the Pacific herring (sardine like fish) had no breeding grounds, and without the herring, there were no sharks, sea lions, salmon, tuna, dolphins or whales. The ecosystems collapsed all from removing the sea otter, which as a species has only been shaping ecosystems for 7 million years.
What we’re doing with sharks is removing an animal that has been sitting atop of oceanic ecosystems for over 400 million years, and the ecosystems that will be affected include our own – the very air that we breathe.
So, the worst-case scenario – we cause catastrophic consequences through ecosystems that result in a great number of species’ extinction, including our own.

Best regards,
Rob

18 Responses to “Latest Interview!”

    1. Charlie April 13th, 2008 at 6:02 am

      Superb information Rob, do you mind if i use this source for my school work? I’m sending your information to every student in my school. I’ll help you with all my power, best regards, Charlie.

    1. dare rob April 16th, 2008 at 5:25 pm

      so i think it should be wrong to kill anymals how do nothing ok for the ones that atck peopel but the ones that are inasint is very crlu so STOP KILLING SHARKS THAT ARE INASINT OK PLZ

    1. Serena Smiley April 22nd, 2008 at 3:51 pm

      Hey!!

      I just wanted to say that your movie is great! We watched it in our class and we had a great time. Also, I believe that I will never be afraid of sharks again.

    1. billybobsmacker April 25th, 2008 at 9:50 am

      ok umm thats cool i guess

    1. Carrie M April 28th, 2008 at 8:19 pm

      Rob
      I was touched by the movie.
      i have started a petition and started collecting pledges
      What those bad people did was wrong i was c,lose to crying and puking.
      I’m in grade 8 and i am ready to help the sharks.
      i don’t want to be scared of shakrs they are the most graceful creatures in the sea.
      i am scared but im learning not to be.
      The movie was so touching and im ready to fight for many sharks lives.
      do you have any suggestions to help does anyone?

      Carrie M
      Canada BC

    1. MELISSA April 29th, 2008 at 1:05 pm

      OKAIEE umm, i unnno if this is the right place or w/e but umm
      ive been inlove with sharks my whole life. and everytime i see a shark
      get killed a cry i dont want to sit on my ass and watch them die away,
      i wanna do more then just spred the word i wanna do more then just talk
      i wanna take action. sharks are kind i lvoe em so much and i dont want them to die out
      expechally the great whites if there is trully antthng i can do i know.
      i maybe not be old evough to do much. but i am old enough to know
      its wrong and to do somethnig about it.
      i hope i wrote this at the right place i just dont have much time to search
      throuygh the website anymoire.
      so better safe then sorry. lol.

    1. tianbin huang May 4th, 2008 at 4:30 am

      you people should develop some kind of gene weapon which design specifically aginst chinese people who eat fins.

    1. Jennifer Herrell May 5th, 2008 at 1:07 am

      Dear Rob,
      Finally a modern day hero. I was worried that once we lost Martin Luther King and Ghandi we would be screwed (so to speak)! I have not felt this passionate or fired up since I graduated from university and was willing and wanting to change the world. I am a school teach in my 30’s and spend all my spare time in the ocean with a snorkle and a camera. Tell me please what can I do? Where do I start. I have signed the online petition to stop shark fining, sent e-mails to everyone I know about your movie and had a movie party and invited everyone to view Sharkwater. Now it’s time to get serious and busy. Please point me in the right direction. I am prepared to buy a boat and start beating Costa Ricans, but I foresee you advising me against this! I will start a campaign against eating anything to do with shark fish seafood in general. I do not eat fish or seafood, but only because they swim and poop in the same water and this was always a turn off for me! Seriously, please tell me what one person with connections can do to make a difference. I appreciate what you have dedicated your life to doing for me and our future sharing this planet. You were right when you stated that only individuals and small groups have ever really made change. Never underestimate the power of one voice or the love of one heart. Keep doing what you do. Take care of yourself. You are a rare and special person.
      Sincerely,
      Jennifer Herrell

    1. Brenda Hampson May 18th, 2008 at 2:06 am

      Hi Rob, My heart is crying right now. It tears me apart to see how we devastate the beauty around us for nothing but profit. I am an acupuncturist in Canada and have heard of the ridiculous things the Chinese use for nothing but status. My feeling towards this is… The Chinese are extremely superstitous people, so we could start a rumor to the effect that if you serve shark fin soup at your wedding, it will turn out in disaster such as financial ruin for the family or infertility, or something to that effect. It would get to the heart of the problem and possibly change their minds about shark fin soup, because essentialy it appears that it is simply a status symbol for them.

      Good luck!

      Brenda Hampson

    1. *V* May 20th, 2008 at 11:50 am

      hi! I’m french and I don’t speak very well english !!
      I prefer right and french ! I hope, you understand me

      dear rob this message is for you:

      Charmeur de requins,
      entraînes avec toi dans les profondeurs de l’Océan,
      L’espoir de l’*Amour* Rayonnant…
      Requins, baleines et dauphins, frères aimants de *Terre Mère*
      Dansants au doux murmure de l’*Amour* annonçant une nouvelle ère,
      Répandez et Chantez la Bonne nouvelle d’une Lumière,
      jusqu’alors cachée
      Enivrés et Joyeux de *L*’avoir Retrouvé
      Vibrez et combattez en Unité à *Ses* cotés pour qu’avec vous
      le Tout puisse s’élever !

      voici un message d’amour et d’espoir
      pour le Grand *Frère* des Océans

      Je suis très heureuse de savoir qu’une personne telle que vous existe en ce monde!
      je suis moi-même dans la protection de l’environnement, essayant tant bien que mal de sensibiliser nos générations futur. Je fais parti d’une association qui à pour but de sauvegarder et protéger nos Océans, une association qui s’étend du Brésil en France. Nous nous battons pour faire entendre la *Voix* de la nature, ce qui n’est pas une “simple affaire” face à des organismes de pouvoir et d’argent. Je travaille avec les enfants et essaye de créer des projets de sensibilisation et de découverte de notre *Terre Mère*
      J’espère de tout coeur un jour pouvoir vous rencontrer et ainsi mettre nos missions en commun afin d’apporter à cette planète la Joie de L’Amour Absolu.

      Cordialement *V*

    1. Hannes June 7th, 2008 at 7:42 pm

      Hi i have question what can i do that lives in sweden…..? And what does sweden has for responsibility to save the sharks?, i want to save the sharks but its to far away for me…..!!

    1. Eliane July 17th, 2008 at 3:42 pm

      Hi, this message is for Rob and for all the people that helped him to do this film

      I live in France. I just saw the film and I have to confess that I’m touched… very touched!
      I’ve studied biology to try to do the same thing that you’re doing.. but it’s a big fight and it’s not really easy.. actually I ‘m not working as a biologist … I work in something that helps people to protect the environment… (!!??)
      I just want you to know that what you’re doing is great and that you are big and that you’ll arrive far.. don’t give up!
      I’ll try to diffuse this film to all my friends..

      PS. Sorry about my english..

    1. Heather July 29th, 2008 at 11:02 am

      Hi Rob,

      I heard about your documentary through a co-worker and ordered it on my TV that same evening(yesterday). I previously had huge misconceptions about sharks, but after watching that, my views have changed completely. I have always had a huge interest in the ocean, and ocean life. My Dad’s side of the family is from the Bahamas, and when I went there, we did snorkeling and went down in mini submarines to explore the ocean life. one of the most amazing experiences of my life..I can only imagine how amazing your life experiences have been.. although, I know that some are not great, esecially after watching your film. It saddens me and disgusts me that people could do such horrible things to such a beatiful creature.
      My hometown is VERY close to yours! I am currently working full-time trying to decide on what I want to do. I have gone back and forth with ideas about Nursing, and a few others, but have always had a HUGE interest to do more travelling. I have also gained an interest in marine biology, I’ve had one for some time, but even more so after watching your film. That was always what my Dad wanted to be when he grew up in the Bahamas, but unfortunately he never got the chance to go through with it.
      I am very interested in what you do, and I think you are an amazing person to have made such an effort and now made a dent in history to show people the reality of what is going on in our oceans.
      I am very interested in helping and interested in travelling. Please let me know what I can do to help.
      I look forward to hearing back from you!

      Sincerely,
      Another Canadian Girl,
      Heather

    1. Gabriella September 28th, 2008 at 7:40 pm

      Hey Rob,

      I’m speechless.

      You movie was beautiful. I saw it almost 3 months ago and I’m STILL talking about it. You are my inspiration. A true hero.
      I used to just think that everything was ok with the world and that no one was really that bad until I saw this movie and saw how these people can just KILL and not feel anything…no sympathy or anything.It broke my heart.

      I told so many people that I was going to change the world,just like you ,but they always told me, your only in high school.
      I know I am only in high school but I will help, I will get the word out there
      I have already signed up to help at the animal shelter for bringing the dogs on walks and grooming the animals. I’m setting my future on helping this world and the living creatures in it.
      I am determined to become a marine biologist and ocean photographer because I’m simply in love with it.

      I just want to thank you
      I thank you soo much, you are a gift to our world

      With much respect

      Gabriella

    1. Patrick Finnegan October 25th, 2008 at 9:58 am

      Hi Rob,

      We absolutely totally support and applaud the great work you have done and continue to do in shark conservation and beyond. We operate as a world-wide Television channel trying to raise awareness in all areas of earth conservation from global warming issues, to animal cruelty, to airing practical vegan cooking shows, plus many more constructive ways to help our planet survive as peacefully and harmoniously as possible.
      We would love do feature Sharkwater and your work in one of our programs and would like to know if there was any chance of interviewing you (at any events worldwide) or having permission to use your DVD footage? We are based in Los Angeles and have branches in the UK, and many other countries.

      With deep gratitude,

      Patrick

    1. Erick Montero November 9th, 2008 at 9:39 pm

      I just recently watched this documentary on cable and I have to say I felt like a criminal as a citizen of this country. I don’t want to be naive but for me is hard to believe that Costa Rica Government allows this massacre of sharks. Of course I guess there are people that just want the easy money and don’t care about anything else but I really hope we as humans who have a brain and “think” can use it to protect what we still have left in our planet, not only our sharks but all that supports our environment.

      What really concerns me about this documentary is the clear reference that Costa Rica government and by default the people supports these shark killers. Watching a fast boat with 3 armed guards pursuing the producer’s ship, really shocked me as if they were protecting the shark killers. Unfortunately I didn’t watch the part where explains why these coast guards were after them but I would be the first to march against the government if this was true they wanted to put him in jail just because he wanted to film how the sharks were killed for its fins. Again I don’t want to sound naive but as far as I know no body would be put in jail just because was trying to spoil these shark killer’s business…I don’t think so Jennifer, please don’t beat me for say that.

      I know for instance that around Coco’s Island and other places not only “ticos” but also other ships from other countries( including China, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Colombia,Japan just to name a few) come to Costa Rica to explode our rich natural resources and unfortunately we don’t have enough resources to fight back this “mafia” as the film makes reference. It is most likely that some fisherman from Costa Rica unload their boats with shark’s fins in Costa Rica, but this still illegal and I have seen in news, cases where police retain this ships and penalize the ship’s owner. Unfortunately, yes we might require harder laws that help prevent this and I recognize my government is weak creating effective laws.

      I hope maybe using the money of this awarded film can help to get more help and resources to safeguard the island and other places where this is happening. Also will be go to differentiate the good people from this Mafia on these films to avoid generalize and have the wrong people beaten as Jennifer Herrell states above. Not all Costa Ricans are bad as well as not all “Gringos” are bad despite the pollution of the world or not all Danish and Japanese people are bad being responsible of the unmerci massacres of whales as well, or all the people that lives in Congo of killing the Gorillas…so on and so on.

      I support these kind of documentaries that wants to bring conscience about what is going on, however it opens my eye about how the information is presented by the authors. I just hope that because of this I would not be treated as a shark killer whenever I introduce myself as as costa rican outside my Country, without mention what would happened to me if I ever meet Jennifer around. 🙁

      Erick

    1. Ophelia February 16th, 2009 at 9:36 pm

      Hi there.
      I watched the film last night – late in the game, I know.
      It was brilliant and extremely touching. I found the hammerheads especially fascinating.
      The reason I wanted to write something is this:
      I gotta tell you I cried a lot and didn’t sleep a bit. I had the images of the finless sharks being thrown back into the ocean in my head. Even right now thinking about it makes me want to cry all over again.
      I am in Vancouver, BC. I know someone who works at the Hyatt Regency Hotel. The employee told me that the Hyatt serves shark fin soup to the Chinese clientele on ‘special occasions’. Disgusting!
      The Hyatt doesn’t ‘make’ the soup the Victoria Restaurant next door does, but serving it makes them just as guilty. Serving it is condoning it!
      Is there any way to find out if all Hyatts serve it? Is there is any way to force them to stop it?
      Thank you!

    1. Darryl Lester May 22nd, 2009 at 4:17 pm

      Well what a documentary. I live in Victoria BC and a few years ago there was a group trying to legalize the harvesting of the 6 gill shark in Canada. It was quickly squashed by the Canadian government, but the audacity of wanting to start a fishery on just the fact that there were a specific type of shark in the region. I have been a diver for more than 20 years and I must say that shark diving is the most exhilarating that I have ever encountered. I commend and honor your efforts. Thank you for putting this out there for the world to see. I only hope that China (specifically) and Taiwan will stop it mass rape of the ocean. Not only are sharks at risk but dolphins and other large predators are being decimated on a daily basis. Hopefully with education and information to the masses the slaughter will stop.
      Darryl Lester

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