Cameraman of the “Oceans” shares his experience…

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On September 23-26, Almaty hosted International festival of cinematography “Eurasia”. One of the festival’s subsections devoted to the modern French cinematography was opened by the premiere of the full-length documentary “Oceans”.

During the film presentation, Joel Chapron, promotion director for the French cinematography in the Eastern Europe, noted: “It took four years to shoot this grandiose film, and editing took another two years».

Green Salvation’s staff member Nadezhda Berkova had an opportunity to participate in a conversation with the film cameraman Rene` Heuzey and to ask him a few questions. 
- Dear Mr. Heuzey! For many years, unique life of seas and oceans and the related environmental issues were depictured in the television series “Underwater Odyssey of Commander Cousteau”. What objectives did the directors set for you as a professional cameraman? How many cameramen participated in the project?

- Jacques Cousteau was that personality, that unique author who showed the humankind the life under water, discovered the underwater world. He played himself the main character, and the spectators followed his adventures all over the world.  Creators of the “Oceans” - Jacques Perrin and Jacques Cluzaud made an emphasis on the life of the nature itself as a character and set an objective to demonstrate this powerful world, describe its life million years ago and its current state. If you are asking about the filming team, there were 5 cameramen groups under water and 6 cameramen groups who filmed above the water in different parts of the globe, for example, in Australia, where we filmed the march of crabs, or in Arctic, where the scenes with the whales were shot. The shooting took place in 54 areas of the world.

– Did you participate in the creation of the film “Birds-2”?
– Jacques Perrin was a director and producer of this movie. He is madly in love with the nature. Perrin was starting as a producer in the film “Microcosmos” about the life of insects, and later together with Jacques Cluzaud, he made the “Birsds-2”. For the full picture he was lacking one more part, and he created the “Oceans”. The film “March of the Penguins” with the director Luc Jacquet was made by another group of cameramen.

– When did you become a cameraman?
 – 23 years ago, I started to make underwater filming. I came to cinematography from the television world. At that time, I lived at the Mediterranean shore. Then, there were a lot of talks about environmental issues, and that the Mediterranean Sea was dying. I discovered the sea by myself, this became my personal knowledge. And I realized that I didn’t agree with many of the statements. I was starting with small short films which were later shown during different festivals and were winning different awards. That is how I entered this path.
We saw how fragile the nature and the oceans are. Humans endlessly take from it, but the nature never ceases to exist.

– What kind of optic equipment did you utilize?
– We used filming equipment which was specifically made for underwater shooting. On the water surface, we used 35mm-film equipment, while underwater filming required optics with high resolution.  Because it wasn’t a movie played by actors, but a documentary representing the sea fauna. It was necessary to reject the usual approaches applied in documentary cinematography. Here we observed the natural life of the ocean inhabitants. Underwater filming was limited by time. Aqualungs allowed staying underwater for one to four hours.  If working underwater with 35mm-film, it will only last for three minutes. Camera adapted for the underwater filming allowed to shoot for 53 minutes. For example, a scene of a whale calf sleeping next to his mother: we had to wait until he is awake. With the special equipment it was possible to wait patiently.

– Were there any life-threatening risks related to the underwater shooting, particularly, related to the works at a specific depth?
– The risks were not so much related to the depth or duration of being underwater, but more were coming from the animals we were filming. Here is one of the examples. Dolphins hunting sardines. They are attacked by sharks that are attracted by the sudden movements of the various groups of animals. Or – a shark is guarding her prey on the depth, while at the same moment, a bird dives down and cuts through the water mass as a bullet. It is very important not to find yourself between the shark and the bird! But many more treasure moments are connected to the feeling of a true unity with the animals.

– Did the participation in the film influence your worldview, your life philosophy?
– Underwater filming is my secret and innermost garden which I perceive not simply like an observer from the land. In order to make such film, it is necessary to overcome a number of controversies. To see the underwater world, you need to deal with the pressure of the water mass, adjust to the different light structure under the water. If you are able to overcome this, you are a winner. A special knowledge is opened to you, a feeling of unity with all these creatures.
– Thank you for your answers.

Translated from Russian into English by Sofya Tairova. 

October, 2010.