MAKE A SPLASH

HOW CAM­ERA­MAN UPPED THE ANTE FOR DAVID AT­TEN­BOR­OUGH’S BLUE PLANET II

The Gold Coast Bulletin - Play Magazine - - FRONT PAGE - SEANNA CRONIN

Amag­i­cal in­tro­duc­tion to the un­der­wa­ter world in By­ron Bay led Roger Munns to a dream ca­reer film­ing the ocean’s wildlife. Now, 17 years af­ter earn­ing his open wa­ter scuba div­ing cer­ti­fi­ca­tion, Munns is part of a global team be­hind the stun­ning footage in Sir David At­ten­bor­ough’s Blue Planet II.

From clever cut­tle­fish and co-op­er­a­tive oc­to­pus to the per­son­able clown­fish, the Bri­tish na­tive filmed more than half of the footage that fea­tures in the Reefs episode. He also shot two seg­ments for the pre­miere episode, One Ocean.

In this Q&A, Munns talks about work­ing with nat­u­ral his­tory icon At­ten­bor­ough and some of his most ex­cit­ing un­der­wa­ter ex­pe­ri­ences while film­ing for Blue Planet II.

Does the fact you’re film­ing for the BBC and, in this case Blue Planet II, put added pres­sure on you or change the way you work?

It re­ally is an hon­our to be in­volved in the mak­ing of a big land­mark se­ries such as Blue

Planet II. There was such an amaz­ing team of pro­duc­ers, pro­duc­tion co-or­di­na­tors and re­searchers on the se­ries that we were usu­ally very well pre­pared for ev­ery shoot. That sup­port and team work meant there was ac­tu­ally a lit­tle less pres­sure on me as we suc­ceeded or failed as a team. How­ever, I put huge pres­sure on my­self re­gard­less of the job I’m work­ing on. I’m my own worst critic and I’m never truly happy with my shots. There’s al­ways room for im­prove­ment.

How did you go about find­ing some­thing new and dif­fer­ent to film?

Re­search, re­search and more re­search! The pro­duc­tion team scoured sci­en­tific pa­pers and con­tacted sci­en­tists, recre­ational divers and all man­ner of ocean-go­ing folk to dig out amaz­ing sto­ries and new be­hav­iour be­fore we set out to film any­thing.

Is there a cer­tain amount of luck that comes into play cap­tur­ing some of these be­hav­iours that have been rarely, if ever, filmed?

In­for­ma­tion, prepa­ra­tion, lo­cal knowl­edge and ex­pe­ri­ence were the main el­e­ments in cap­tur­ing some of these amaz­ing be­hav­iours. Of course luck (both good and bad) can al­ways play a part in pro­ceed­ings.

Was there a level of risk or dan­ger in­volved in film­ing your whirlpools seg­ment?

We had a hugely ex­pe­ri­enced lo­cal cave diver with us in Brian Kakuk but that was a shoot when my adren­a­line def­i­nitely pumped. When the whirlpool was form­ing the suc­tion into the cave sys­tem was in­cred­i­bly strong. It was like a huge toi­let had just been flushed!

You were here in Aus­tralia on the Great Bar­rier Reef for your seg­ment on the grouper and oc­to­pus, what can you tell me about that? What were you try­ing to cap­ture?

We filmed sev­eral se­quences on the GBR. The grouper and oc­to­pus story was a fas­ci­nat­ing ex­am­ple of how two reef-dwelling an­i­mals, who would nor­mally com­pete for food, have learnt to work to­gether for their mu­tual ad­van­tage. That, in it­self, is very cool but even more amaz­ing was the fact that re­search by Dr Alex Vail has shown that these two species have learnt to com­mu­ni­cate by means of a ref­er­en­tial ges­ture.

We know our oceans face many chal­lenges right now. As some­one who spends so much time un­der­wa­ter what’s most con­cern­ing to you?

Cli­mate change feels like the big­gest one to me be­cause it seems like it will take so long to slow down and re­duce our global emis­sions. Mass coral bleach­ing events ap­pear to be in­creas­ing in fre­quency and even the homes of some of the char­ac­ters we filmed for Blue Planet II were bleached re­cently. I re­ally hope that view­ers will take the mes­sage home that these ecosys­tems are frag­ile and beau­ti­ful and need to be pro­tected.

What orig­i­nally in­spired you to get into un­der­wa­ter film­mak­ing? Did Sir David At­ten­bor­ough have any­thing to do with your ca­reer path?

I fell in love with div­ing af­ter tak­ing my open wa­ter course in By­ron Bay. The first time I hov­ered, weight­less over a coral reef just blew my mind. I knew I wanted to work un­der­wa­ter for a liv­ing so I mar­ried my pas­sion for pho­tog­ra­phy with my love of wildlife, travel and div­ing. David At­ten­bor­ough’s orig­i­nal Blue Planet se­ries came out just as I be­gan my film­ing ca­reer in Bor­neo in 2001. It was a mas­sive in­spi­ra­tion to me at the time so to have worked ex­ten­sively on the se­quel re­ally is a dream come true.

Blue Planet II, Satur­days at 7pm on Chan­nel 9. Catch up on episode one on­line at 9Now

Tal­ented cam­era­man Roger Munns filmed stun­ning se­quences on the Great Bar­rier Reef for Blue Planet II.

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