Filmmaker Q&A: Angela Sun

Plastic Paradise: The Great Pacific Garbage Patch

The Battle of Midway Island in 1942 marked the turn of the tide in the Pacific War. Now, that island, home to thousands of Laysan Albatross, is at the center of a war against discarded plastic. Plastic Paradise is an exploration into the history of plastic: where it comes from, what it is used for, where it ends up. We talked with filmmaker Angela Sun about her experience creating Plastic Paradise: The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, which screens on Saturday, March 9, at 10:00 am, at the 2013 San Francisco International Ocean Film Festival.

What was your inspiration for creating the film? My inspiration for creating the film was from an LA Times article in 2006 about a mythical floating garbage island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. It came from an organic curiosity. The more I learned about how complex our plastic problem was, the more I had to tell this story, so it grew into what it is today.

Plastic ParadiseWhat was the most challenging part of creating the film? The most challenging part of creating the film was raising funds and the red tape to get out to Midway Atoll. There were so many hoops and hurdles to get through to logistically get there. Because it’s a national marine sanctuary, there was a lot of paperwork that had to be filed, and it took nearly three years to get through permissions and governmental approvals before we were allowed access.

What do you want to impart on your film’s viewers? I would like viewers to take away new knowledge and be moved to action on the grassroots level. I would like them to share the message of what the Great Pacific Garbage Patch actually is; to be more cognizant of the disposable plastics we throw away daily, and the unnecessary need for it. I hope that this awareness will create a sense of civic duty to make small, daily changes in habits.

What was the most enjoyable part of creating the film? The most enjoyable part of creating the film was being on location in one of the most remote parts of the Earth. It was absolutely breathtakingly, beautiful and horrifying to see such a pristine landscape literally being trashed.

Who (or what) is your inspiration? My inspiration was my love for the oceans. There are so many untold stories that lie beneath the water’s surface. I knew of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch before the images of birds with bellies full of plastic were easily found online. Seeing it firsthand was one of the most disturbing things to witness.

Plastic ParadiseHow or why did you begin creating ocean-focused films? This is my first feature-length documentary film, but I have done shorts for broadcast television for awhile now. I focus on the ocean because it is one of my greatest loves. I have always been a water baby, grew up watching Jacques Cousteau films, and have been fascinated by the ecosystems below. The ocean is as much therapy as it is a huge untapped source of stories and wealth of life. I surf, dive, swim, and travel to some of the most amazing places on Earth for work and play. My life revolves around the water.

Why did you choose to submit your film to the San Francisco International Ocean Film Festival? We chose to submit to the SFIOFF because it aligned with our purpose and focus for the film.

Is this your first time participating in an ocean-focused film festival? Yes! We are thrilled to be a part of it!

What was the most memorable moment in creating the film? I think the most memorable moment in creating the film was when we were on a boat pulling up a giant four-ton net from the ocean and I fell into the water. It wasn’t caught on tape unfortunately, but luckily for me I removed my wireless mic just minutes before, and then fell into the tangled net. It was like getting stuck in a giant hairball!

Don't miss Plastic Paradise: The Great Pacific Garbage Patch on Saturday, March 9, at 10:00 am.