by Angelo Villagomez
I first met aspiring film-maker David Diley in October 2011 on a dive with the world famous bull sharks of Beqa Lagoon. I struck up a conversation with him because he had an arm wrapped in shark tattoos and a camera that gave me some serious lens-envy. In the years since we have kept up a correspondence. I caught up with him this week.
Angelo: So I see you‘ve been busy. Can you tell me about the video you just released?
David: This is the first of three teaser trailers for “of Shark and Man”, the film I’ve been working on since I quit my job in 2010. My life up to that point was not heading in the direction I had imagined when I was a lad, so I dropped everything, made the biggest life changes you could imagine, made myself homeless, and worked my backside off until I was able to make it over to Fiji for a month to shoot this film.
Angelo: So why Fiji? You could have done a story on sharks anywhere else. What was it about the bull sharks of Beqa Lagoon that intrigued you?
David: “Of Shark and Man” is part one of a series of films I am making called “From the Office to the Ocean.” Each part is location specific. I have dived with many different shark species around the world, but what makes Beqa Lagoon so special is not just the size of the Bulls there, not just the frequency of the Bulls there, and not just the sheer number of different species on the reef, but the back story as to how it came about, the effect on the local communities, and the historic significance of sharks in the area. I'm a story teller and it's a great story, whether you're a shark lover or not.
Angelo: And what do you hope to accomplish with your film besides telling a great story?
David: There are two things really. Firstly, to inspire people to see sharks in an accurate light, to appreciate them for what they are, to respect them and to ensure they are properly represented in the media, hopefully leading to empathy for their well-being in the viewer. Secondly, I want to do what I can to help raise the bar for shark related film and TV. Honestly, as someone who has grown up with sharks for the last thirty years, inspired by films by Stan Waterman, the Taylors and Eugenie Clark, I'm not hugely keen on the messaging and imagery used in so many of the more modern productions. Sharks have become a vehicle for self-promotion, dumbed down and aiming only at the lowest common denominator. Gone are the adventure, the genuine passion, and wide eyed wonder, to be replaced by sensationalised images designed to back up a story written by someone in an office somewhere thinking only about ratings.
That might sound harsh and although it's not the case with every modern day shark show or series, it's not often I see the kind of thing I want to see, so I figured if nobody else is going to do it, I might as well just do it myself. I'm coming from a place where I measure what I do against the classics “Blue Water, White Death” and “The Realm of the Shark.”
Angelo: And if people want to get involved in shark conservation, in Fiji or otherwise, what would your advice to them be?
David: In my opinion, it's always advisable to see how you can help in matters as local to you as possible, but I know from my own experience, that isn't easy if you live in an area which is not what you could consider “sharky.” If you want to be involved in global matters, before even thinking of “educating” others, you need to educate yourself. Local aquaria often run education and conservation projects, get involved with those, try to get involved with well-designed and structured initiatives run by credible organisations like Pew, Shark Defenders, Bite-Back, The Shark Trust, and CORAL.
The best way you can help really is through raising awareness. It's not that exciting, it's not sexy and it's not going to get you much thanks but what it will do, is help immeasurably in shining a light on the things which can have a quantifiable effect on the long term fight to help protect sharks. Most importantly, it's about pulling in the same direction and not being afraid to ask difficult questions, to debate and to be pragmatic. Contact the professionally run conservation groups directly and ask how best you can help and take the advice they give you, they are the ones who know how best to help.
Most importantly, try to enjoy what you contribute and remember, don't forget to celebrate the thing which attract us to them in the first place, they're awesome!
Angelo: And how can people help your project?
David: This film is not funded by a giant production company with hundreds of thousands of pounds to spend on post-production and promotion. This has been built on a foundation of love, passion, and determination and what we need more than anything is to reach as wide an audience as possible, sharing the trailers on your social media pages, blogs and mailing lists, joining our Street Team (email firstname.lastname@example.org ) and generally helping to build awareness amongst people so that when the film is released, there is a genuine interest to see it. It's so easy to do and takes barely any effort yet it is enormously helpful, plus people can really be a part of something special.