In the narration, there’s a statement that loggerheads have been around for more than 200 million years, which implies that the age of the earth is that old. For people who have a different worldview or belief system and don’t agree with this assertion, can they still enjoy the film and take away something from it?

Absolutely. I think that nature and all its beauty is seen in this film, and I was lucky enough to be in the water when we filmed some of the sequences. And it never ceases to amaze me just how stunning and beautiful the oceans are. The turtle’s journey is a story of an individual that has to make it on a 20-year odyssey and the chance of its survival are just one in ten thousand. You’re rooting for your character the whole way, and you want it to succeed. It’s an individual you can’t help but want to support. So it’s a story of a single animal and its challenges in the ocean, and it’s an adventure of a real kind. 

 

What kind of challenges are unique to making wildlife documentaries that the average moviegoer may not know about?

When you’re making a movie for Hollywood, you start with a script and by and large you stick with it. When you’re making a wildlife movie, that script tends to get torn up quite quickly—because nature, as we all know, is full of surprises. And so when I make a wildlife film, I go in with a broad idea of what I think the story will be, but I think you have to be incredibly flexible as to how that story is actually twisting and turning before your eyes. So the storytelling is actually told afterwards in the [editing process]. So that’s one very big thing.

The other is time. The amount of time you have to put in to trying to capture wildlife behavior. To give you an example, we wanted to film the mating sequence for the loggerhead and it took us three weeks on the water before we even saw a mating couple. And it wasn’t until the last day of production, the last hour of production, that we actually filmed the mating sequence. I think it’s also the time that goes into actually trying to capture these things of nature.

And then crews. Feature films have got huge, huge crews. With wildlife [documentaries], you’re often only working with five or six people. And you depend very heavily on your underwater cameramen, because they have remarkable skills and they have an incredible sensitivity toward wildlife. They understand their behavior and how they move, and they’re able to get close and actually record them doing what they do in the wild. And that’s a very, very specific skill. And you rely on it heavily as a wildlife filmmaker.

 

Speaking of getting close, would you talk about the miniature Hi-Definition cameras you used in the opening sequence of the baby turtles poking through the sand and desperately trying to get to the ocean?

It’s something I really wanted to do was to immerse in the turtle’s world, get down on its level and really get a sense of what it must be like to be a little loggerhead turtle and being on that beach for the first time. These are some very high-tech miniature cameras that the lines get right down on their level, and they track the land of the beach and these little turtles are only the size of a child’s hand. We can track them along the beach with these little cameras that just breathe the action and the immediacy of the scene. So we spent a lot of time finding the right technology, deciding on the right cameras to use, and finally settled on a camera that really, really delivered. And so I was very happy with the result.