Filmmaker Q&A: Peter Stonier, John Martin, Rebecca Field, & Sebastian Perry

Field Chronicles & Spotlights from Conservation International

Three different films at the 2013 San Francisco International Ocean Film Festival chronicle Conservation International's preservation efforts in the Pacific Islands. Feel the highly personal elements of conservation in Field Spotlight: Kevin Iro (screening on Friday, March 8, at 1:00 pm), which follows former professional rugby player Kevin Iro on his mission to conserve the coral reefs where he swam as a child. See what it takes to turn local concerns into political action in Field Spotlight: President Anote Tong, Kiribati, which screens on Friday, March 8, at 4:00 pm. And get a taste of the efforts involved in international collaboration on conservation issues by watching Field Chronicles: The Pacific Oceanscape on Sunday, March 10, at 10:00 am. We talked with Conservation International filmmakers Peter Stonier, John Martin, Rebecca Field, and Sebastian Perry about their experiences creating these three films.

What was your inspiration for creating these films? Our inspiration for creating the films came from the work that our organization, Conservation International (CI), was doing in the Pacific Islands region. Working alongside governments and communities, CI helped to create the Pacific Oceanscape, the largest protected area network on earth. As we begin to see sea levels rise, fisheries decrease, and ocean temperatures increase, we see a greater need for marine protected areas. As a film crew working for Conservation International, we felt it was an important time to not only highlight these threats, but also show the positive steps that CI and others are taking to protect our oceans.

Kevin IroWhat was the most challenging part of creating these films? The most challenging part of creating the films was the travel and logistics to these remote locations. As part of this filming trip, we only had three weeks to get to three different nations in the Pacific. The most difficult, however, was flying to Tarawa in the nation of Kiribati, where there were only flights in and out once a week.

What do you want to impart on your film’s viewers? We hope the viewers of our films recognize the urgency of ocean conservation. We hope they don’t continue to take our oceans, and all the invaluable gifts they give us, for granted. We also hope our films present a message that something can be done. Setting up marine protected areas is a step in the right direction. There is hope for our oceans and our films provide examples of this hope.

What was the most enjoyable part of creating these films? The most enjoyable part of creating the films was meeting the people on the ground. The local fishermen, struggling to get their catch because of overfishing; President Tong of Kiribati, trying to lead his people out of a difficult time; former Rugby League star Kevin Iro, whose love of his home country has inspired him to lead the way in creating a marine park; and all the other members of the communities we visited who rely every day on the ocean’s gifts. Their stories really made the filming experience so valuable to us.

Pacific OceanscapeWho (or what) is your inspiration? Our inspiration comes from the people on the ground. Those who deal with the threats of overfishing, sea level rise, and rising temperatures on a daily basis. The people who rely on the oceans for their livelihoods. These people inspired us to get their stories out there and highlight ways we can solve these issues.

How or why did you begin creating ocean-focused films? We have been creating ocean-focused films for years now. Our organization, Conservation International, has always had a focus on marine conservation. We see the importance of giving the ocean a voice through our films when so many people depend on it.

Why did you choose to submit your film to the San Francisco Ocean Film Festival? We chose to submit our films to the San Francisco Ocean Film Festival because we wanted to share our stories from the Pacific, an ocean San Francisco depends on for so much.

What was the most memorable moment in creating your films? Our most memorable moment in creating our films was on a small island off the coast of Tarawa in Kiribati. We spent a full day and night with President Anote Tong, filming with him and his grandsons and learning more about Kiribati and the challenges his people are facing. It was truly a special moment to spend so much time with this strong and inspiring leader.