Rock Bottom

Students Plan To Make A Shark Documentary

Three teenagers have teamed up to give sharks a voice through film and dispel their bad reputation

Pittsburgh-based university students Jordan Durham, 19, Jaz McKibben, 19, and Blaise Kepple, 18, are on a mission: to change the way people think about sharks. They want to do this by creating a marine conservation documentary that not only busts shark myths but also sheds light on issues surrounding these creatures, such as finning, poaching and loss of habitat.

The trio will spend a few weeks in Cape Town where they will participate in an eco-conservation programme and helping scientists in activities like shark tagging and beach clean-ups. They plan to record the entire process and turn the footage into a documentary that will change misconceptions about sharks, as well showcase their learning experiences as young conservationists and filmmakers.

A Kickstarter campaign launched to fund the project has alread exceeded the initial goal of US$10,000 but is open for donations until the end of today. 

We caught up with Jordan and here’s what he has to say about their project…

How did you come up with the idea to make a documentary?

Jaz and I were sitting in the computer lab at our university when we started talking about our interests in wildlife and film. We decided at that moment that we needed to make a wildlife documentary and started the process by searching for an animal to highlight in our film. We chose sharks because they have such a negative reputation and we felt that there was an untold story there.

Tell us more about why you chose sharks as the focus of your documentary...

We picked sharks for a few reasons. Ever since Jaws came out in 1975, sharks have had a very bad reputation. People think sharks are vicious monsters who hunt and kill humans, when really they are not. In reality, out of the 500-plus species of sharks, only 12 of them are dangerous to humans. Also, out of the millions of people who visit beaches, only four people are killed a year. This is very small compared to around 30,000 people who are killed by dogs and 50,000 or more who are killed by snakes. The chances of a person getting killed by a shark is one in 11.5 million so the fear people have is really extraneous.

Have you always been a shark lover?

I have always been fascinated with sharks but it wasn’t until working at a zoo that I realised I wanted to work with these animals in the future.

What do you hope to achieve with this documentary?

We would like to showcase the struggles that many sharks face today and help reduce the fear that films like Jaws have created. There are too many reality TV shows that give a false image of this creature. Most importantly we would like to inspire generations to dive into wildlife conservation. I would like to just tell a true story dear to my heart.

What’s your favourite marine conservation documentary?

As a kid I was inspired by TV shows on Animal Planet such as The Crocodile Hunter and The Jeff Corwin Experience, but now I think my favourite is The Cove. I just love the ‘in your face’ style it has. Every moment of that film is a rush and I hope our film will be just as great.

What are the biggest challenges you are facing, and why did you decide to tread this path despite those challenges?

Getting the documentary funded has been a long but promising journey. We are using Kickstarter to accept donations from friends, family, and shark followers. Currently we are halfway there but we must reach $10,000 in the next few days. How Kickstarter works is, if we don’t reach our goal by 9 February, all the donations are returned and we don’t get funded. I am very hopeful things will work out for the best. Also, getting people interested and concerned about this species is going to be tough. It’s hard to get people to care about sharks because of their bad reputation, but in our documentary, we hope to change that negative stigma.

To donate or find out more about the project, visit the Rock Bottom documentary's Kickstarter page here.


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