“Of Shark and Man” is a ground breaking film about one man’s journey to get closer than anyone thought possible, to the world’s biggest Bull Sharks and tell the incredible untold story of Shark Reef in Fiji, one of the greatest marine conservation successes of all time.
“Of Shark and Man” is an epic, incredibly ambitious, cinematic and award winning love letter to the world’s most feared predator, in which the shark is the hero.
What made you decided to give up your job to make a film about sharks?
I think ultimately, it was the realisation that, as I reached that time of life when I should have been in a career I wanted to be in, something which gave me a reason to get up in the morning and something which fulfilled that sense in all of us that we are doing something with our lives, I realised that I was simply not anywhere near being in that position. I didn’t like my job, had very little social life and very rarely felt excitement about anything. For my entire adult life it had eaten away at me that I had not got anywhere near to fulfilling my greatest ambition of being a professional film-maker telling stories about sharks so decided one Monday morning, literally seconds after opening my eyes to the sound of the alarm, that nobody was holding a gun to my head, I didn’t have to live this life and I had nothing to lose, just go for it, it’s either going to take me somewhere I want to be or bring my entire life crashing down around me in a ball of flames, either way I’d have a decent story to tell in a few years’ time.
How many times have you dived?
I stopped counting years ago but it’s now around the 450-500 mark with about 200 shark dives in there.
What is it that draws you to the predator?
They’re just so cool! They have a charisma about them, they’re ancient and perfect, they’re so graceful and beautiful with this mystique and there’s just something about that shape which has an immediate effect on everyone. Think about it, if someone yells “shark” on a beach, every single person is going to look out to sea, nobody is apathetic in a situation like that. The vision of a dorsal fin cuttingthe surface of the water is iconic in nature. Plus, I have a fascination in big, dangerous animals, I am certainly drawn to the bigger and more dangerous species for sure.
Have you had any frightening or dangerous experiences in the water?
With sharks? No I haven’t actually, that may surprise you. I did however once go blind at 34 metres due to an issue with my eyes which decided to manifest itself during a dive. That was terrifying, basically, long story short, I had unwittingly been using eye drops which used a chemical I was unaware I was allergic to, this essentially rotted away 90% of the corneas in each eye and it just so happened to kick in during a deep dive, three hours from shore in Egypt. A trip to the emergency medical centre, numerous injections, potions and three days sitting alone in a darkened room later, I was back diving again.
Do you get scared?
No, never. I’m not trying to play the big macho card here either! I personally get a heightened sense of awareness, everything becomes clearer, louder and more impactful. There are times I feel vulnerable but I actually enjoy the feeling that goes along with that, it’s quite humbling to become apart of something much bigger and more awe inspiring than anything you can experience during a normal day on land.
Where have you dived and which one stands out?
Fiji, the Bahamas, the Mediterranean, Egypt (North and South), the UK, Gran Canaries… For shark diving? Fiji, hands down is the best place I have ever been although for overall diving, the Southern Red Sea is just incredible, so much life and colour. I went to Cape Town in April to dive for the first time, but the trip was cancelled due to a swell.
Any tips for a shark diving novice?
Research the operation you want to dive. As with every other industry, there’s the great, the good, the mediocre and the bad, try to stick with the first two. Any kind of business dealing with environmental stock so to speak, will automatically have some kind of impact on that environment. Try to dive with operations which put back into their local communities and contribute to education and conservation of the animals which are making them their money. Also, and this will endear you to the dive team no end, don’t be that guy/girl who has seen a few episodes of shark week and either thinks they’re an expert or wants to do something a bit different to the normal dive. Listen to the briefing, be respectful of the crew and other guests and understand that, although you may not be nervous, there will be those on the boat who are, don’t ruin their experience by making them feel self-conscious about being apprehensive about seeing a shark up close, it’s completely normal.
Do you have any plans to return to the life of a recruitment consultant in Leeds?