We got off the phone this morning with a production company wanting to shoot sharks. The phone call prompted me to think about the current status of productions with sharks and a disturbing trend we're seeing.
(Note: The image here is from a 2008 shoot with a professional crew and certified divers in the Bahamas)
The company we spoke with has a terrestrial show host wanting to move into the aquatic world. On the face of it this is not a problem. The disturbing trend we're seeing is taking show hosts with little or absolutely no dive experience and getting them into big sharks, Tigers, Bulls, Great Whites.
Like any predator all sharks demand respect. Sharks happen to have 200 million years of evolution behind them and we-as divers-are visiting them in what amounts to life support gear.
Why would you put a show host with little or no training into a risk filled environment?
The trend is not just limited to this shoot or the two others we have passed on recently. It's a growing problem. Within the dive community there are operators and outfits who do not see it that way and will take newly certified or non certified show hosts into shark encounters that are way above their pay grade. For the general public this is on-your-seat television. For our community this is a disaster waiting to unfold.
The end result is Erich Ritter and an event that came to define the extremes of film and television production with sharks in the late 90's and early 2000. I don't think there's one operation now who looks at the infamous Ritter leg bite incident and feels that this shoot was anything but out of control from the get-go. Today you will be hard pressed find one company willing to attempt a similar event.
Why did it take this event to educate our community to big sharks-when common sense and some creativity could have delivered a similar show without the almost life ending bite?
In the end it is up to us as a community to set the standards for film and television with sharks. One shoot at a time. It is also up to us as a community to educate film and television productions to the limits of shark/human interactions. That's not to say shark shoots cannot be extremely exciting, or lack the on-your-seat quality the public demands. There's a fine line and skating that line demands professionalism, a tight safety crew, and above all-creativity.
As far as we're concerned, you never want to be in the water with a show host who's "uncertain" when the particular shark you are filming decides to become...extremely uncooperative.
Patric Douglas CEO