Section: World Cinema Documentary Competition

Dir: Sally Aitken, DoP: Ron Taylor, Judd Overton, Nathan Barlow, Michael Latham, Jono Heighes
Format: 16mm, 35mm, 4k
Camera: Arri Alexa Mini, additional cameras: Sony F55 a7iii DJI Mavic 2 Drone (Plus archival cameras: 16mm and 35mm Bolex and Arri)
Lens: XEEN Cine Prime Lenses

Aitken: “Playing with Sharks” is Valerie Taylor’s incredible story — pioneering shark expert, fearless underwater icon, and maverick conservationist. With both archival and contemporary footage in the film I was keen to honor Ron Taylor’s incredible film library gathered over a half century as well as reflect the energetic vibrancy and sage wisdom of 85-year-old Valerie today. So this movie is a contemporary story and a journey through time… something of an artistic challenge!

Ron’s remarkable underwater scenes from the 1950s, 60s, and 70s were brought back to life after production company Wildbear Entertainment contracted the Blackmagic cintel scanner. The colors in the film stock popped brilliantly, and the quality of the image had not diminished. What Ron captured, reefs swimming with plentiful sharks, have however become almost impossible to film today — the confronting realities of a depleted ocean.

Our contemporary cinematography; shot by Judd Overton, Nathan Barlow and Michael Latham, of Valerie in the present day still diving without Ron. The impressionistic imagery I wanted to film, such as the ‘tinny’ (the Taylor’s runabout boat), and all our interviews required a clean modern look with high-end cameras and prime lenses for beauty. We wanted to intercut present-day with the past, and so an Alexa Mini afforded us some maneuverability while on location and also a high quality look for observational sequences.

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