Project Ocean Bonaire – Thoughts from the first filming
As a typical morning frost envelopes my home in the Virginia mountains, I prepare for a day full of organizing and editing footage collected from a place that now feels a world away.
Our Click & Pledge Foundation team returned in early January from the Caribbean island of Bonaire, where we completed the first of 12 planned shoots for our Project Ocean documentary. Admittedly, the transition back home has left us with cold ears and dry hands. But we also find ourselves with full hearts, excited spirits and expanded perspective.
While I’m sure I could write a multi-volume book series on all that happened during this trip, I will spare you of having to lie to me that you would read it. Instead, I will attempt to summarize our takeaways in four key points and some pretty pictures.
A New World
My camera has taken me to a lot of places in the world, brought me in front of all kinds of people and landed me in a plethora of emotional situations. But this was the first time in my life that my work took me underwater.
As a recent convert to SCUBA diving, I was lured in with tales of a place otherworldly. It’s funny, really, given that most of the earth is the ocean. Maybe the land is what is otherworldly. Anyway, I never knew quite what these divers meant until now.
18 dives in one week took us day and night to film coral reefs, a shipwreck, vast expanses of sand and life abundant. The rules feel different down there. The bubbles from our breathing provide a visceral and constant reminder that we are very much guests in this world, not designed to survive it. The vibrant, colorful and sometimes surprisingly noisy creatures around us zip and glide so effortlessly, almost showing off. Gravity is all but suspended as we float 60 feet over a bottom, our brains debating whether to trigger the fear of heights response. I truly have nothing to compare it all to, other than my pure fantasies of what it is to be an astronaut.
For me, everything was brand new. All the colors, all the life. We know almost nothing of them, they know almost nothing of us. Oh, how limited our eyes really are.
The Ocean’s Essence
If you’ve never watched five people carrying about 60 extra pounds each try to enter and exit the ocean from the shore in the midst of waves and current, I highly recommend it for your comedic benefit.
Some of our most fruitful and action-packed footage came from our shore dives, but falling down in the process is almost a guarantee. Like the breath bubbles, there is no lack of evidence for the sheer power of the force you’re entering, and your pitiful limitations in comparison. It is scary, empowering and simply irresistible all at once.
I am struck by the ocean as an entity, and our relationship with it. As humans, we have forever been drawn to the sea. Oceanfront property is some of the most expensive and sought after in the world. Yet this place that provides us such peace and beauty can also bring more chaos and destruction than we can withstand. It soothes our skin and heals our scratches, but could swallow us whole without a trace. Its wrath is not survivable, yet we depend on it for our life. It’s a complex relationship indeed; a relationship that requires action.
A Permanent Mark
Whether we like it or not, we are leaving a mark on the ocean one way or another. The question is: What kind of mark are we leaving?
I grew up minutes from the North Carolina shoreline. I thought I knew the ocean well. And in some ways, I do. It’s like an old friend to me; molding me, shaping me and carrying with it some of my most treasured memories. But after just a week of existing beneath its surface, I realized the scope of what I don’t know about this old friend. And perhaps, we’ve been in a fairly one-sided relationship thus far. For decades, I have basked in its glory. But what have I given in return?
In addition to filming on this trip, we also partnered with Buddy Dive Resort and Reef Renewal Foundation Bonaire to clean and outplant coral near the island. For the first time, I felt like I was using my hands to heal a place I loved so much. It became personal to me in a way that I thought it already was.
I believed Project Ocean would be a way for us to tell stories that would convince others to care for the ocean. I didn’t even know how much I need the lessons too. So, may we all learn and grow together!
I am humbled and eager for what’s to come in Project Ocean.
We are thrilled to be working with 10 Click & Pledge nonprofits and counting on this initiative. During pre-production conversations with all of them, I was continuously uplifted by the dedication, intelligence and passion these people have for the ocean. The creativity and insight they all bring to their respective work is inspiring.
Bonaire confirmed and expanded this inspiration, as we met some of these ocean stewards in person. There is so much work to be done, but it’s hard not to be hopeful when you cross paths/fins with people like this.
What an amazing way to kick off Project Ocean, and we are just getting started. We hope you follow the journey!