Ahead of the start of the Blue Ocean Film Festival on Monday, realscreen talks to founder and CEO Debbie Kinder (pictured) about the event, which marries the best in ocean filmmaking with an industry confab and a conservation summit.
As founder and CEO Debbie Kinder prepares for this September’s edition of the biannual ocean filmmaking film festival and conference, the Blue Ocean Film Festival and Conservation Summit, she remembers the choppy waters that could’ve served to capsize its debut.
“We launched it in 2009, around the time when the economy started taking its jump off the cliff,” she recalls with a laugh. But thankfully, interest in ocean filmmaking from both the general public and industry delegates made the event’s first outing – in Savannah, Georgia – a success.
Kinder says the event – a combination of film fest, industry conference and conservation summit often referred to as “Blue” – was spawned out of a desire to bring together the ocean filmmaking community, scientists devoted to the oceans, and deep sea film buffs, in much the same way that Jackson Hole and Wildscreen serve the wildlife filmmaking set.
Moving the event to Monterey, California in 2010, a biannual schedule was established “to make sure we had a good fresh crop of films coming through, [as] documentaries can take so long to produce.”
Kinder says both the range and number of films being submitted to the fest has grown considerably over the event’s history, with the team receiving 250 submissions in the first year, and the number hovering closer to 370 this time around. From that amount, roughly 130 films will be screened. And while audience numbers for the film program in 2010 were healthy at just over 8,000, Kinder expects to surpass that for this year’s event, taking place from September 24-30.
From an industry perspective, Kinder says one of the chief goals of the event is to “encourage stewardship” of the oceans. Thus, filmmakers and members of the scientific community are encouraged to mix and mingle, and discuss issues central to both conservation and ocean filmmaking in an open environment.
“We bring everyone together and use these films to help address complicated issues in a way that makes them easier to understand,” she says. “Those are the foundations for the conversations we have with the scientists and filmmakers in the same room.
“Early on, getting the scientific community to buy into it was a little bit hard,” she admits. “I think people within it are now realizing that visual media is such an important part of helping people understand the science. Part of what we do is help scientists to become better communicators and storytellers, and also help them meet professional filmmakers who can help them showcase the work they’re doing.”
To that end, this year’s fest includes a “Deep Blue” initiative that will feature a collection of innovative manned submersibles and their creators, including Guillermo Sohnlein with OceanGate’s Antipodes, and Chris Welsh with Virgin Oceanic’s DeepFlight Challenger, among others. Besides providing eye candy, the submersible component will also act as an educational platform for filmmakers with a panel geared towards spotlighting new tech.
Other highlights for delegates will include speed pitching sessions featuring international commissioners, media funders offering tips on how to work with them, and a mentor series.
Also, the fest will feature a Legacy Awards dinner, which will this year honor filmmaker James Cameron with a lifetime achievement award in ocean filmmaking, as well as Captain Don Walsh, the first man to explore the Mariana Trench, who will be honored for a lifetime of ocean exploration. Tribute will also be paid to underwater cinematographer Mike deGruy, who will receive the 2012 Dr. Sylvia Earle Award posthumously.
This article appears in the forthcoming September/October issue of realscreen magazine, publishing shortly. Interested in becoming a subscriber? Click here for more details.