One picture speaks a thousand words but what about a film?
Adrienne Gittus is an underwater filmer based in Indonesia. Much of her focus is capturing marine life, promoting conservation through film. The highly acclaimed documentary “A Fish Full of Dollars” created through Adrienne’s production company, Soulwater Productions, is a heart-wrenching documentary highlighting the devastation and destruction of sharks through fishing in Indonesia. We sat down with her to ask her all about the go-getting life she leads.
How do you bring awareness to important conservation issues?
As a videographer and photographer the best way I can bring awareness to conservation issues such as shark fishing, plastic pollution and general reef health issues is through sharing my imagery. Dramatic images of shark fishing or marine pollution as well as beautiful videos or photos of marine life and stunning coral reefs can tell people a story about the threats to our beautiful underwater world. It is important for people firstly to appreciate what they are protecting, as well as showing them shocking and disturbing images of what humanity is doing to our planet. Simply showing people the negatives is not enough. We must first make people love our ocean and learn not to fear it. We must help people to understand its importance to the overall health of our planet before we can show them the threats that it faces and offer solutions. People must also believe that their actions can make a difference, no matter how small. Simply educating people about the ocean is the first step. I hope to achieve these goals by sharing my imagery on social media such as Instagram and Facebook, as well as through my film “A Fish Full of Dollars” which tells the story of shark fishing in Indonesia.
Can you tell us about your film "A fish full of dollars," and what inspired that documentary?
“A Fish Full of Dollars” is my first documentary and took over four years to make. It tells the story of shark fishing in Indonesia and specifically focuses on the fish market of Tanjung Luar in Lombok, where fishermen actively target sharks, primarily for the Chinese and Hong Kong fin trade. It started with just a single visit to the market as part of a group trip organised by the Gili Eco Trust. I really didn’t know what to expect, but when I saw the extent of the market and the numbers and variety of sharks and other rays, mobulas and even a dolphin, it horrified me that this was happening so close to where I lived and worked. Although I made a short film after that first visit, I felt that I had only scratched the surface of a very complicated issue and felt compelled to return two more times, to get more footage, as well as interviews from fishermen, a buyer and a fisherman who had converted to become captain of a snorkelling tour boat, through a conservation organisation known as the Dorsal Effect. The result four years later is the feature length documentary “A Fish Full of Dollars”.
What is like living in Indonesia spending all day in the ocean?
I lived in Indonesia for nearly eight years filming around the Gili Islands, Bali, Komodo, Raja Ampat and the Banda Sea. I am definitely an island girl and being next to the ocean, diving, out on the boat every day or at least close to the beach, is what makes me happiest. Long days were spent diving, filming and then editing video and photos from that day. One of the things that made the Gili’s special were the people who live there. I made some long lasting and special friendships there and there is a strong community of close friends. There were definitely a few fun times both on land and in the water. Most people who Iive there either directly or indirectly derive their income from the sea. They have a love and appreciation for the ocean and there is a very strong awareness of the importance of the ocean and conservation efforts to preserve it. Living in a place like Gili Trawangan means you sacrifice some of the luxuries of the western world, such as hot showers, wine and cheese. However, it is definitely offset by the lifestyle and being able to explore beautiful dive sites every day.
You're a self-taught videographer, what advice would you give to someone wanting to take a similar route?
The best advice I can give you is don’t give up or become disillusioned if you don’t succeed at first. Remember that all those amazing photographers and filmmakers that inspire you have probably been doing this for a very long time. Also, don’t compare yourself to others. Appreciate yourself and the work you produce for its own value. As long as it makes you happy that is the most important thing. If other people also like your work that is great but the first step is to produce something that makes you happy. One of the biggest dangers of social media is creating the tendency for people to compare themselves with others. Don’t spend every spare minute on Instagram or Facebook. Yes it can be useful for inspiration but it can also make you feel you are so much less than other photographers or videographers.Spend time learning from others as much as possible. Never stop learning. There is always something you can learn from your peers.
What has been the most memorable moment in the ocean for you?
Wow, there are so many! One of the most memorable has to be snorkelling with a whale shark in 2004 after the resort I was working at was damaged by Hurricane Ivan. It was a magical moment that gave us 20 minutes of joyful respite from the drudgery of fixing the resort.
Another memorable moment for a very different reason was my first dive to 100 metres on JJ-CCR. As we reached our maximum depth we spotted a thresher shark. It was an incredible feeling looking up the deep wall unable to see the surface, with incredible silence, not even able to hear the boat above us anymore. There is less colour and light at that depth, but it's definitely not dark. It felt a little like diving at twilight.
What is your advice for the younger generations?
Don’t lose appreciation for our oceans, or forget how fragile they are. Don’t discount your ability to change the world. Even small efforts in our own lives such as not using single use plastics can help preserve our planet. It is easy to become disheartened when we hear so many species are threatened with extinction. One of the biggest things you can do is share your images and message with the world and help others learn to love the ocean too.
"In the end we will conserve only what we love; we will love only what we understand; and we will understand only what we are taught." - Baba Dioum, 1968.
To see Adrienne's work for yourself, check her out here.
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