Filmmaker Q&A: Dan Griffin & Robin Garthwait

Dan Griffin & Robin Garthwait, Ocean Babies on Acid

Creatures such as urchins, crabs and oysters need to grow a protective shell home. “Ocean Babies on Acid” focuses on a research experiment that Dr. Steve Palumbi from Stanford and Dr. Eric Sanford from UC Davis are doing to create an ocean time machine of the future. Sea urchin babies are grown in two lab-based oceans: one ocean has the current ocean chemistry and the second ocean has CO2 added to mimic the ocean of the future. The question that "Ocean Babies on Acid" looks at is whether or not rising acidity levels in the ocean are making it harder for the babies of the ocean to grow their protective shells.

What was your inspiration for creating the film?

The inspiration is climate change, which there is a lot of talk about. This experiment and film are designed to look at more of the facts. Are the animals being affected by this basic change in ocean chemistry? What happens if the ocean’s babies can’t build their homes? How would this break in the basic chain of life affect other organisms?

What was the most challenging part of creating the film?

The technical aspects handled by the scientists were quite involved and challenging. Urchins were collected from four distinct areas of the Pacific coast, ranging from Santa Barbara to Newport, Oregon. The urchins were then spawned in the lab and the babies were grown in an ocean time machine. The experiment recreated the living conditions of the current ocean for one group of babies and also created the ocean of the future for a second group. These carefully controlled worlds let us take a look ahead in time.

What do you want to impart on your film’s viewers?

The oceans are changing. We don’t always know how a change in one aspect of the ocean will affect others. It’s important to know that this change is going on and to understand that we have a stake in it.

What was the most enjoyable part of creating the film?

The concept of creating the ocean of the future is totally fascinating. That is cool.

Who (or what) is your inspiration?

It’s a cliché, but the ocean is the inspiration. There is so much going on and it is so important. I’m afraid there is a bit of the Cousteau legacy in action too.

How or why did you begin creating ocean-focused films?

We began through our HYPERLINK "http://www.microdocs.org/" Microdocs series, developed with Dr. Steve Palumbi. The series have the unique mix of pairing a world-class scientist who likes to tell stories with a world-class, story-telling team. It is a mix that allows us to go deep and it is very important work. What could be more important that telling the story of the ocean? Plus, it’s fun.

Why did you choose to submit your film to the San Francisco Ocean Film Festival?

We are local and we have shown in the festival once before. It is wonderful to connect with our home audience.

What was the most memorable moment in creating the film?

The most memorable moment was the results of the research in this second film (which is a three-part series). The results are in and they are surprising. We hope everyone will tune into “see what happened!”

Is there anything else that you would like to share?

Thanks you for supporting local filmmakers!