Filmmaker Q&A: Nicole Schafer & Andrew Scott

Tangled Waters

Dunedin, New Zealand, is the only place in that country with shark nets. Why? Tangled Waters is an irreverent, comedic journey that explores why some people want the shark nets, while others seek to dismantle them. Illusion, confusion, and self-delusion account for the nets' presence; hopefully, an informed public will bring about an enduring resolution. We talked with filmmakers Nicole Schafer and Andrew Scott about their experience creating Tangled Waters, which screens on Saturday, March 9, at 1:00 pm as part of our 2013 Shark Program.

What was your inspiration for creating the film? The inspiration behind the film was to try and do something new with shark documentaries. Humorous tones have been used to great effect in some of our favorite factual films and programs, and it was something we wanted to try to make work, but in the context of natural history.

What was the most challenging part of creating the film? Tangled Waters ended up being that rarest of beasts: a film that was actually pretty easy to make once we got the ball rolling. Almost everyone we approached, regardless of their stance on the shark net debate, was eager to help us in any way they could. Even the great white sharks were supremely obliging during our short trip to see them. If there was anything that was a challenge, it was the seemingly endless stream of red tape we had to wade through in order to secure the right to film a local council meeting. Give us sharks any day!

What do you want to impart on your film's viewers? If there's anything we'd like the audience to take away from the film, it's that fighting for a winning cause, no matter the scale, is truly an achievable thing. There's a tendency (sometimes justified) towards a bleak outlook in environmental activism, but the principle of acting local in order to effect large change is a sound one, and really can be done. And if the audience finds the film funny, that would also be nice.

Tangled WatersWhat was the most enjoyable part of creating the film? By far, the best part of making Tangled Waters was filming the sharks themselves. We had two days to do the shoot and we ended up with the perfect conditions and eight (count 'em!) great whites. Days seldom come better. But a close runner-up, in terms of experience, was meeting the wide range of people involved in the subject matter, many of whom we are now happy to call good friends.

Who (or what) is your inspiration? Talking about who and what inspires us can quickly turn into a laundry list because so many influences got mixed into the pot for this film; however, in the broadest possible terms, I'd say we wanted to find a happy medium between the BBC's Natural History Unit and the work of comedian Charlie Brooker. And of course the sharks are pretty darn inspiring, but that should go without saying.

How or why did you begin creating ocean-focused films? We've been obsessed with the ocean for as long as we can remember. Andrew grew up next to the sea and was a constant worry to his parents as he snorkeled off into the distance and Nicole had been working with wildlife in every conceivable form for years. There’s something quite uncanny about the ocean--a place we all came from, that we depend on, but is still somehow other. I think it's in that dichotomy that our fascination lies.

Why did you choose to submit your film to the San Francisco International Ocean Film Festival? Well, it’s an ocean-focussed film festival, so we’d be nuts not to!

Is this your first time participating in an ocean-focused film festival? With Tangled Waters, it's our first time participating in any film festival! We did screen at the Blue Ocean Film Festival and have been submitting to every festival that we think would have us. That fact that we have been accepted into any of them is still amazing to us, we're amazingly stoked.

What was the most memorable moment in creating the film? One very memorable sequence ended up being cut out entirely from the finished film, but involved the dissection of a blue shark that had washed up on shore. Foolhardiness in moving the body led to Andrew being "bitten." He now claims, to anyone who will listen, that it was an attack from beyond the grave.

Don't miss Tangled Waters at 1:00 pm on Saturday, March 9, part of our 2013 Shark Program.