Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Sitka Alaska Shoot

We just returned from a week shoot in Alaska. We went up there to tell a success story about the halibut fishery. It was quite an amazing trip. The landscape and people were wonderful. I went up a few days early before our director and camera/sound crew arrived to do some scouting and to meet the fishermen/women and fish processors in person.

Prior to our arrival, we had a hard time getting fishermen and fisherwomen to commit to interviews and fishing trips over the phone. So I hit the ground running. My job was to find as many halibut fishers as possible. But I also needed to find someone to take us out on a boat so we could film halibut fishing. This was not so easy. It was salmon season, and the majority of boats were focusing on salmon. Plus the weather looked like it was going to get really bad by the time the crew arrived. So I lucked out and found a boat called the Kathleen Jo heading out for a two-day halibut trip. I did some fast-talking, and within an hour I was on board heading out to sea with two kind fishermen.
I had brought my HDV video camera and a tripod. I am not sure why I bothered to bring the tripod. It was completely useless on a boat. I ended up getting some nice footage of the fishermen setting three sets of long-line gear. I got a little nauseous, but managed to keep all my cookies to myself. It’s hard to keep your balance, look through a viewfinder, and not get seasick. By the second day I had my sea legs and filmed the fishermen catching halibut without feeling like I might need to find the leeward side of the boat. They only caught about 30 halibut, but that was plenty for me to film. They said it was the worst catch they had ever had. But 30 halibut ended up being over 600 pounds. They caught twice the pounds of yelloweye. It’s a kind of orange rockfish. The fishermen said yelloweye is actually tastier than halibut.

By the middle of the second day, the weather report was calling for gale force winds, so we headed back to Sitka. The director, Rob Whittlesey and the cameraman, Harry Dawson, met me at the dock. Later we met up with our sound mixer, Phillip Powell and went out for the first of many fabulous seafood meals.

The next day we went to a fish processor and filmed several boats offloading their halibut catches.

Since the weather turned bad, it had chased all the fishing boats back to port. So we had lots to film. And what’s more, the weather was going to stay bad, which meant we were able to interview the fishermen/women of Sitka. If the sun had come out, we would have been out of luck.

All in all, the shoot went very smooth and we got the footage we hoped for! Click HERE to see all the photos from the shoot.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Strange Days is all over youtube!

Hannah Smith Walker here...I am a production/post coordinator at Sea Studios. But I am also one of the team members helping Sea Studios enter Web 2.0. We started a youtube channel called StrangeDaysAction (, and have posted many of our videos. But I just did a quick search on youtube and found lots of youtubers posting trailers of Strange Days, interviews and speeches with Norton about Strange Days, and actual pieces of the newest episodes that only aired last week.

Here's a couple examples of what I found posted:

Monday, April 28, 2008


Earthday, Tuesday April 22. New York City.

It’s 7am and Edward has just arrived at the Today Show studio. We’re welcomed by a nice producer who prepped the interview. Edward is going to be able to talk about Strange Days and our campaign encouraging people to stop using plastic bags. He’s asked to hand out reusable bags to the crowd outside. Great that even the Today show is going green—at least for today. 7:40 and he’s taken to the “couch.” I’m invited along to watch from inside the studio. But today is no normal day. Mrs. Bush is a guest also. As a result, I’m not let in and watch on a monitor in the green room. The interview goes well. Matt Lauer seems to be a genuine fan. With a day to the broadcast, I hope that it will convince some folks to tune in. And who knows, it might even get some to think about their use of plastic.

I had to laugh. As I was hustling to the subway to catch my flight back home, I look up and spot “plastic man.” Here is this guy covered in plastic bags. I had to meet him and get his picture. He and his buddy are traveling the country on behalf of the environment. And plastic man is a Stanford grad. What a kick. I’ll find out more about what he’s up to and post it when I do.

--Mark Shelley

Earthday Rally

Sunday April 20, Washington, D.C.

Woke up this morning and pulled open the shades… rain. Hard rain. My fantasy of being involved in the latest of a great tradition of historic events that have taken place on the Mall-- Viet Nam war rallies, Martin Luther King, the Million Man March-- dissolved into scenes from Woodstock. Well, if we’re celebrating nature, what better way than for her to show us what she’s got. Norton’s psyched, though. Spirits are still high. We have the chance to introduce our Bag the Bag video to the hearty soles who won’t be discouraged by a little… torrential downpour.

After a short delay for a thunderstorm to pass, the rally gets going again and the giant Jumbotron’s light up with our video. The loudest cheers of the day emerge from under thousands of umbrellas when he says “paper or plastic? How about neither.” No question he speaks to this crowd. Edward is then introduced. And he’s on fire. For 5 minutes he made getting involved with environmental issues hip, relevant, and the most important challenge of our time--. It reminded me of the first Earthday rally in San Francisco. I was lucky enough (and old enough) to have been there. Country Joe and the Fish; Crosby, Stills, and Nash, Joan Baez. It was a movement. There was passion, energy, urgency. And we-- all of us-- were going to change the world. And in many ways we did. For a moment, I thought that we just might be able to do it again. Edward finishes, the crowd erupts, and so does the sky. At one point I saw a lightning bolt hit the top of the Washington Monument. Solid water. Minutes later, the Park Service cancelled the rest of the show. But we made it and it was thrilling. I’m hoping to get a recording of his talk and will post it if we do. Check back.

--Mark Shelley

On the Way to Earthday

Heading out to DC for Earthday on the Nation’s Mall. We’re launching our Bag the Bag viral video campaign for reusable bags (saying no to paper AND plastic)-- It is also the final swing of promotion for the broadcast Wednesday night.

Interesting that Bisphenol A (BPA) is in the news right now.
This is a story we were picking up on over a year ago when we started research for Dirty Secrets. Today it is getting a lot of press because new studies with lab rats given BPA show changes suggesting a potential cancer risk and and could be involved with changes resulting in early puberty Polycarbonate is made with BPA.

This is one of those unnecessarily confusing issues for the public. A google search for BPA will result in a mixture of peer reviewed study references and industry disguised sites. A parent sorting through the sites finds comforting words telling you there is absolutely no health concern with using polycarbonates countered by scientists like the one we feature in Dirty Secrets, Dr. Frederick vom Saal, telling you that there is enough evidence to avoid the use.

To illustrate, check this out—go to Fox News and read the article, Coming Soon: More Chemical Scares Than Anyone Dreamed Possible by Steven Milloy,,2933,25065,00.html
The tag for the story is: Anti-chemical activists achieved a major victory this week. A government-sponsored panel of scientists laid the foundation for banning virtually any chemical on a whim.

“On a whim?” This is journalism? The article goes on to state: “[Activists’] claims are based in the work of Our Stolen Future cult leader and University of Missouri researcher Frederick vom Saal. His experiments on laboratory mice supposedly show that very low doses of some chemicals — thousands of times lower than current safe standards — increased prostate weight in male mice and advanced puberty in female mice.

Now go to an article at in the peer reviewed journal, PLoS Biology (from the Public Library of Science) by Liza Gross called, The Toxic Origins of Disease.

Her tag line: Researchers say endocrine-disrupting chemicals can permanently harm the developing organism and may even promote obesity. But the chemical industry doesn't want you to believe them.

What does a concerned person do—particularly if you don’t want to spend hours sorting through the controversy? You may want to look at what Canada is doing. Just last week, Canada banned the import and sale of plastic polycarbonate baby bottles. And Wal-Mart Canada is pulling baby bottles made with polycarbonate from its shelves. That’s enough for me, though I tend to adopt the precautionary principle on these issues—I had enough evidence sometime ago.

To help you—at least a little-- check out our Smart Plastics Guide at at

--Mark Shelley

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Exciting New Media at Sea Studios

Sea Studios has embraced Web 2.0! Please explore some of our new media ventures:

We have our very own YouTube Channel called Strange Days Action. Go to: to see many of our films.

We have also started several social networking communities and causes on Facebook and Myspace. Please click on any of the following:

Strange Days Facebook Cause: Make Waves
MySpace Strange Days Action Cause
Save the Coral Reef
Stop Trashing the Ocean: The Great Garbage Patch

We are involved in an online movement called Drop the Plastic Bag. Please visit: to join forums, to find resources, and to take a number of actions.

Go to the The Green Guide to see our "Bag the Bag" video, starring Edward Norton.

And finally, go shopping at our interactive supermarket. Go to:

Television Premiere of Strange Days II

We are counting down the days to our broadcast premiere! Please join us by tuning in to PBS on April 23rd (Wednesday evening) to see "Dangerous Catch" and "Dirty Secrets".

Also check out our brand new interactive Strange Days PBS website:

Friday, April 4, 2008

Photos from the "Strange Days on Planet Earth" screening in Washington, D.C.

Mark Shelley, Executive Director of Sea Studios Foundation, Justin Brashares, Assistant Professor, Ph.D., University of California, Berkeley - also the terrestrial ecologist featured in the Ghana story of "Dangerous Catch", and Gretchen McClain, President of ITT Fluid Technology, sat on the panel following the screening to discuss their work and take a few questions from the audience.

In the lobby of Grosvenor Auditorium at the National Geographic Society where guests were greeted for the screening of Strange Days...

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Two new web videos by Sea Studios

Dr. Sumaila, director of the Fisheries Economics Research Unit at the University of British Columbia Fishery Center, talks about overfishing, its impact on the Ghanaian economy, and the global ramifications of a fish shortage in Africa.

Captain Charles Moore, founder of the Algalita Research Institute, highlights some of the problems of plastic contamination.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Strange Days on Planet Earth Premiere in Washington DC

After weeks of color correction and sound mix at the Skywalker Ranch, we are finally ready to show our film at the Environmental Film Festival in Washington, D.C. We arrive to find the lobby of National Geographic decorated with large Strange Days posters; the ticker outside the building invites people to come and watch. Overwhelming, exciting and a bit unnerving. Then we begin to worry whether we will fill the auditorium.
We worry in vain.
In front of a full audience, Strange Days displays all its glorious colors, sounds and exciting scenes. The audience gasps at the sight of albatross chicks bellies full of plastic and responds loudly at scenes that excite them.
The final credits roll at a thundering applause. Yes. It is a success! Now we must spread the word: watch April 23rd on PBS.

Here's a taste of what's to come on Season II of Strange Days on Planet Earth:

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Finishing Strange Days on Planet Earth

We are in the final stage of our film: color correction, sound layback and mastering and sound mixing.

Video Arts in San Francisco is where we are doing Visual FX, Color Correction, Sound laybacks and Mastering. Video Arts is a 20 year old post production house that specializes in high definition post production and finishes documentaries for PBS and Theatrical release on a regular basis.
Next week, Skywalker Ranch for the soundmix.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Strange Days on Planet Earth Host Shoot

Well it finally happened...we filmed our host, Edward Norton in LA. We would have filmed him earlier in the month, but a freak storm put an end to that plan.

The second planned shoot went very smoothly. Our line producer, Brook Holston spent weeks working on the pre-production plans. We only had two days, but we managed to film all of the scenes starring Edward Norton for both new episodes of "Strange Days on Planet Earth". "Dirty Secrets" and "Dangerous Catch" will be premiering on PBS in April 2008 (the day after Earth Day).

This shoot was especially exciting for me because I was brought on as the still photographer. This was the first time I had been on a crew where it was my sole responsibility to take photos. Normally, I am a PA (production assistant), so my job usually consists of doing whatever anyone tells me. Plus, I always take photos anyway. But this time I had the pleasure of focusing on just the photography. Also, someone hooked me up with a headset so I could listen in to all the production-speak. I am a scientist and a photographer by background, so the whole LA film scene was new to me. We had a 40 person + film crew this time. There were assistants for the assistants! Everything had to be perfectly choreographed so that we could film Edward Norton at all of the correct locations in the perfect light. We shot at a pier, a culvert, a fish market, a parking lot, a beach, and a water treatment plant.

Imagine getting that many people set up, tore down, and moved around in just two days. Kudos Brook!

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Ahead of the Curve 2

Following up on the hugely successful Ahead of the Curve: Business Responds to Climate Change, SSF began production in December on a companion short film that will highlight the positive efforts being made by state governments around the country to address this pressing issue. Right off the bat, producer Rob Whittlesey and associate producer Julie Crawford got a reminder course in why we don’t call this problem ‘global warming.’ For five hours they sat in a packed plane waiting for clearance to take off from Boston’s snowy Logan International. This was a December storm to warm the cockles of any misguided climate change denier. In the end, with a final dose of de-icer at the head of the runway but no food in the galley, they were able to leave New England on their way to sunny Phoenix Arizona, where they had an appointment the next day with Arizona’s dynamic governor, Janet Napolitano.

Interview with Janet Napolitano, Governor of Arizona

Unfortunately, they were booked through Cleveland. Upon arrival they learned their connection to Phoenix had departed ‘on time’ many hours earlier. Worse, it was the last flight of the day to the southwest. Fortunately, there are many fine airport hotels to choose from in Cleveland and they found one that offers shuttles back to the airport even before the sun has risen. Their reward for that chilly ride was the news that the crack of dawn flight they’d been booked onto wasn’t actually going to leave at the crack of dawn. Seems the crew hadn’t yet had it’s required down time. Undaunted, our intrepid travelers, grande lattes in hand, soldiered on. By early afternoon, they had indeed arrived in Phoenix, where the kind folks at the governor’s office welcomed them with open arms. Eight hours and two interviews later, they were on a red eye home. Pretty glam life this filmmaking.

In the weeks since, Rob’s made a mad dash to California to interview Terry Tamminen and then flew on to wintry Minnesota, where, joined by Julie, he interviewed Govenor Tim Pawlenty and the charming mayor of Minnetonka Jan Callison.

Interview with Tim Pawlenty, Governor of Minnesota

Interview with Jan Callison, mayor of Minnetonka

Upcoming trips to Maryland and Florida loom, after which it’ll be time to hunker down in the editing room, safe hopefully from the vagaries of winter weather.