Posted tagged ‘indie film-making’

Michael Ironside and “Catch A Taxi Productions”

January 16, 2009

picture-113

by Michael D. Sellers

As many of you know, Michael Ironside will be joining the cast of Way of the Dolphin for the Los Angeles shoot.  He’ll be playing the role of Captain Elias Blaine.  I haven’t spoken to him yet and I’m not sure he’ll remember me (I’m almost certain he won’t), but we’ve met and actually worked together once, long ago.

It was in the Philippines in 1992.  I was line producing my first bona-fide international film — Fortunes of War — starring Michael, Martin Sheen, Haing Ngorr (of Killing Fields fame), and some others.   Michael worked on the first day of filming, which was to take place at a residence in some very remote corner of “Metro Manila” (which means the whole 15 million population mega-city), probably a good hour in nasty traffic from the hotel.  Although as line producer I was generally responsible for all aspects of the below the line production, which would normally include getting the actors to the set — the American producers (I was considered a Philippine producer because I lived there) didn’t want to entrust this to the Filipino side, and insisted on organizing this themselves.  picture-114

So, on this first day, I remember arriving there before daylight, checking to make sure that the camera truck was there; the grip/electric truck; the catering; the craft services; all the different pieces of production.  Everything was good.  We had cameras; we had lights; we had film; we had all the picture vehicles; the set was ready; set dressing was in place; props were there — you get the idea, it’s a long checklist and when you’re production manager or line producer it’s all your responsibility.

Then the actor’s started arriving and — Michael Ironside was missing. It wasn’t that he was late.  It was just that he wasn’t in the van bringing actors to the set and he wasn’t in his hotel room.

By this time the US producers were there too and there was a big scramble to try and figure out where Michael Ironside was.  The communications weren’t good — we had radios for communicating around the set, but this was before there was any cell phone coverage in this section of Manila (might have been pretty much before cell phones entirely).

I remember standing on the balcony of the house that was our set, looking down a road that was a long, slow climb down a hill. Eventually I saw a decrepit Manila taxi (all taxis in Manila were decrepit in those days) putt-putting up the hill.  It slowed down and seemd to be searching for an address (no street numbers, of course), and my hopes rose.  And sure enough, the taxi stops, the door opens, and Michael Ironside gets out.

I’m pretty sure I was the first one to greet him and he was pretty cool about the whole thing.  Seemed to be taking it in stride.  I thanked him profusely for finding his way to the set on his own (no small feat), didn’t ask too many questions about how it happened, and walked him up the driveway to the house where we were filming.  There I handed him off to the First AD and breathed a sigh of relief.  We were complete.  Whew.

But the PS to all this is the following:  As I said, Michael was totally cool about it when it happened and didn’t show his anger at anyone, and in fact seemed to take the whole thing in stride.  If you’re not in the film biz this may not seem that big a deal — but let me assure you, in a foreign country, on the first day of filming, to somehow miss the pickup of one of your major stars and leave him standing at the hotel with no ride to the set and no way of communicating with the crew — this was a huge screwup and many/most actors of Michael’s stature would have been spitting nails by the time they got to the set.  Michael didn’t do that.  He did, however, get his comment on this when he showed up the next day wearing a T shirt with a beautifully designed logo and inscribed:  “Catch A Taxi Productions, Manila Philippines,” and then the date on it.

Message received, loud and clear.  And, all things considered, it was a very gentle way of chiding the production for a pretty big mistake on day one.

Anyway — I did some searching around the net and was able to find the trailer for that film.  It brings back memories for sure, and it’s worth a look.  It wasn’t a bad film at all.  And I brought in the entire below the line Philippine cost at $297,000 — pretty hard to imagine doing that now.  Take a look:  FORTUNES OF WAR TRAILER

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Supreme Court Agrees to Review Navy Sonar Case

June 23, 2008

Now this is interesting.  It just came out that the Supreme Court has agreed to review a California Appellate Court ruling against the U.S. Navy regarding the use of mid-range active sonar in California coastal areas. 

For us, this is quite fascinating because this is a story which plays a significant role in our film story for Way of the Dolphin.  First of all – here’s the AP story on the Supreme court decision. And then afterward, some comments from me: 

Supreme Court agrees to review Navy sonar case

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court on Monday stepped into a dispute over the Navy’s use of sonar off the Southern California coast and its potential harm to dolphins and whales.

Acting at the Bush administration’s urging, the court agreed to review a federal appeals court ruling that limits the use of sonar in naval training exercises.

Sonar, which the Navy uses primarily to locate enemy submarines at sea, can interfere with marine mammals’ ability to navigate and communicate. There is some evidence that the technology has caused whales to strand on shore.

The administration says the decision by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco jeopardizes the Navy’s ability to train sailors and Marines for service in wartime.

The government also says national security interests can trump those of marine mammals, and that its use of mid-frequency sonar in training exercises hasn’t caused any documented harm to dolphins or beaked whales.

The Navy applauded the high court’s intervention.

“The Navy’s position has been the same since the first court case. This is an issue that is essential to national security and we welcome the Supreme Court’s decision to hear the case,” said Admiral Larry Rice, the director of the Chief of Naval Operations’ Environmental Readiness Division.

Rice said the restrictions placed on the Navy in earlier court rulings, if not overturned, could cripple training exercises.

The Natural Resources Defense Council, who along with four other advocacy groups sued the Navy over the issue, contends there are ways to use sonar and to protect wildlife.

“It’s clear … that the Navy can reduce the risk of this harm by commonsense safeguards without compromising our military readiness,” Joel Reynolds, director of NRDC’s Marine Mammal program, said in a statement.

Although the science is inconclusive, there is strong evidence that sonar affects marine mammals. The Navy’s own environmental assessment of the use of sonar in 14 training exercises off the California coast found it could disturb or harm an estimated 170,000 marine mammals, including temporary loss of hearing in at least 8,000 whales.

Some environmentalists said the Supreme Court’s hearing of the case will finally settle what takes precedence — national security or environmental protection.

“This will decide whether or not the Navy is fulfilling its security goals in a way that doesn’t leave massive collateral damage,” said William Rossiter, president of Cetacean Society International, one of the plaintiffs in the case.

Lower courts concluded there would be near certain harm to marine life in Southern California if the Navy proceeded with sonar exercises as planned.

An injunction by a federal judge in Los Angeles early this year created a 12-nautical-mile no-sonar zone along the coast and ordered the Navy to shut off all sonar use within 2,200 yards of a marine mammal. That prompted President Bush to step in and sign a waiver exempting the Navy from a section of the Coastal Zone Management Act so training could continue as the government appealed the decision.

But the 9th Circuit sided with the lower court and said the Navy must abide by the injunction. However, while the litigation was under way the appeals court gave the Navy leeway to lessen the restrictions if it determined it was in a critical maneuver point, so that sonar shutdown would begin at 1,000 meters (about 1,093 yards) and full sonar shutdown would come at 200 meters (about 219 yards). Those are the restrictions the Navy is currently operating under.

Arguments will take place in the next court term, beginning in October.

COMMENTS:  It’s important to understand that one of the reasons the California Court decision happened the way it did, is because a big piece of it is simply that the court felt the Navy should use use reasonable precautions to in effect “clear the range” before releasing sound bombs into the water that can kill marine mammals.  One of the things that really struck me about this issue is that on the one hand, you can easily make the case the national security trumps the welfare of a few marine mammals — acceptable collateral damage, right?  But on the other hand, if what is required is simple common sense precautions, why would the Navy not be willing to exercise the same care in “clearing the range” of vulnerable marine mammals.  I think it’s important to understand that in the movie we don’t demonize the Navy … rather we present the two competing arguments and frankly it’s not an easy one to figure out.  That complexity is evident in the fact that the Supreme Court has agreed to review the issue — it would never have gotten elevated to that level of consideration if it were not an interesting and compelling issue with meaningful arguments on both sides.

Sunday: A Day Off (Sort of)…and Some Quiet Time With the Script

June 22, 2008

7:00 PM

I got in a good 5 hours this AM with no phone calls, no emails, no interruptions — and was able to put it toward developing the shooting plan for some of the key scenes. I started with the open water scenes and did a narrative shooting plan and some sketches. These will be examined by the others in the production, and with their help troubleshooting we will refine them into a final plan. Here is a sample from one scene: I got about 10 scenes done today:

SC 3
SYNOPSIS: Craig and Gwynn arrive, talk, watch Delphinus leave.

OVERVIEW
We start with A CAM on the Diving Platform (where it was at conclusion of scene 2 previous)
We start with Dolphins on hand, continuing from scene 2, so we have to shoot out the dolphin portions first
Later, after the dolphins leave, A CAM moves to Delphinus for additional coverage w/o dolphins.

Note: To avoid wasting time with the dolphins in the water (and they will be here in continuation from scene 2), our initial coverage of this scene will pickup from the point where Gwen and Craig are already stationary on their jet skis, and will end before Daniel fires up the engine and the Delphinus begins to move. So we will skip the arrivals and departures and do them separately, at the end, after the dolphins are gone. Also, for the same reason we will start this scene with both cameras in same position they were at the end of Scene 2 — i.e. CAM A is on the diving platform, and CAM B is in the water.

SETUP 1
W/DOLPHINS
A CAM ON DIVING PLATFORM
B CAM IN WATER
SEE SKETCH ENTITLED: SCENE THREE, SETUP 1

1A) A CAM: Wide Classic Master on Craig/Gwen from high enough angle that it could be POV from deck of Delphinus — wide enough to show Craig/Gwynn and Rasca in the same shot.
1B) B CAM: Grab dolphin pieces as possible, taking care to stay out of A CAM’s shot, which is pretty wide. Might get some underwater shots wide enough to show the two jetskis from below, and Rasca in the water around them.

2A) A CAM: (LENS CHANGE; SAME POSITION AS 1A) Lively master, tighter, panning from Craig to Alyssa
2B) B CAM: In water, can be closer, trying to get Rasca and Craig/Gwen in same shot. We’ll take whatever pieces we can get that tie them together.

SETUP 2
W/DOLPHINS
SHOOTING END OF SCENE ONLY (from point where Daniel fires up the engine

SETUP 3
W/DOLPHINS
5A: A CAM: From Delphinus, closer shots of Rasca

WITHOUT DOLPHINS
ARRIVAL/DEPARTURE MASTER
SETUP 4
1A) A CAM: From Platform: Clean classic master on Craig/Gwynn from Delphinus, mainly for the beginning and end of the scene. We need to get the jets skis approaching, stopping, and beginning of dialogue; then we need the end, a two shot of Craig and Gwenn watching the Delphinus and Rasca disappear. If we can get all the dialogue too, that’s great – but not essential and becaue of jet-ski maneuverability issues, it will be necessary to shoot the “dialogue master” separately, without showing the arrival, so we can implement procedures to keep the jet skis stable during the dialogue.

1B) B CAM: From water, catching 2 shot master of same action. This would be Rasca’s POV of the arrival; at the end it would just be another angle of Craig/Gwynn watching, since Rasca is no longer there. During this take, B CAM can also free lance some underwater shots of the jet skis arriving and, while talking is going on, maneuverng in the water as seen from below – presumably as seen by Rasca from Rasca POV.

SETUP 5
W/O DOLPHINS
A CAM ON DELPHINUS
B CAM IN WATER

DIALOGUE MASTER
Note: This setup starts with Craig and Gwynn on their jetskis after having arived. This is so that we can implement procedures to keep the jet skis as stable as posslbe during the dialogue, with the engines off for sound purposes. There may be some special rigging to keep them close together and pointed in the right direction.

2A) A CAM: From Delphinus, 2 Shot of Craig/Gwynn
2B) B CAM: From water, lively master panning from Gwynn to Craig and back, simulating Rasca’s POV

SETUP 6
W/O DOLPHINS
A CAM ON DELPHINUS
B CAM IN WATER

3A) A CAM: Lively MCU master, panning from Alyssa to Kita to Daniel — try several takes, various combinations.

3B) B CAM: Simulate Rasca POV, swimming around actively while watching Craig/Gwynn from above and below surface, freelance closer shots on each.

19 June Log: (Updated at 5:49 PM)

June 19, 2008

5:49 PM

Back at the hotel now after a longish meeting at the production office. Covered a lot of issues — also took a call from Craig Woods, the film commissioner for the Bahamas, who has been very supportive of our efforts here.  I am about to dive into the weekly cost report — and am in the midst of sending out check requests to the LA office for some major payments that have to be made in Los Angeles.  

As half expected, I never got the chance today to deal with the script and it’s too late now — that part of my brain doesn’t work this late in the day.  Fortunately the number crunching side does, so I’ll be able to do the necessary with the cost report.  (For some reason — math and spreadsheets are fine for me to do at night, but not writing — or rather not creative writing, screenplays and such.  Those cylinders seem to only fire early in the morning up until about noon.  Tomorrow morning I will definitely do that work first thing…..

 

 

2:30 PM

Back from a long meeting with Susan Johnson. We covered a lot of territory:

  • Wardrobe issues. No major problems but we’re not happy yet with where we are with Ivana Milicevic. We looked at everything on the costume designers online gallery, then selected the few that are working — then provided guidance via iChat with the designer. We ended up feeling like we’ve got it going in a good direction.
  • I’m also a little concerned that the proposals for what we see the Navy Marine Mammal trainers wearing does not match exactly what they really wear. So I did some online hunting and have been forwarding around photos. I’ll post a couple of them here:
  • We also went over the schedule, got ourselves on the same page on that one. No major dramas…..got pretty much solidified through the first week. (I will post the sked on a page on the site … probably tonight when I have more time

Got back over to the hotel and logged in to discover a little banking drama. I mentioned that I sent out the first wire transfer to the Bahamas (i.e. the first one I’ve had to do since I was here — which requires different procedures, actually some hi-tech stuff that the bank kitted me out with.) Well, there was a glitch…turns out the account that the bank set me up for the whizbang hi-tech thingy is not the right account. So the wire I thought I sent didn’t get out. Sorted it out after about an hour of phone and email wrangling. The bank, by the way, has been very good generally.

Have finally gotten back to “work” (what feels like work to me and what I get forced to spend my time doing are two different things. I supposed they’re all work of one sort or another.)

Anyway, I’m now working on my director boards starting with locaction and set photos and sketches. I’ve made a page here to post them — LOCATIONS –. Meanwhile here’s two just so you can see what they’re like. There will end up being one of these for each location and/or set. Click on the images to see a larger version.

(Logoff 2:36PM)

10:40 AM

Four hours hunched over my laptop … feeling a bit of cabin fever at this point.

Things I’ve been dealing with:

  • Reviewing/commenting on the shooting schedule sent to me by the first AD. Gradually getting us both on the same page …. had discussions with Susan Johnson about this as well.
  • Set up all the check requests for today/tomorrow…..waiting for the return inputs from the production office.
  • Spent an hour on the phone wth banks in the US sorting out some issues regarding wire transfers from US to here, which are now about to begin in earnest.
  • Answered a ton of emails.

I have to say — doesn’t sound (or feel) all that productive to me. Fact is, one of the biggest stress inducers for me is when I have things that I want to do and feel are important – but I can’t get to them because I’m being swarmed with “must do” stuff. It’s been that kind of morning. I’ve got cost report stuff to do later today so I’m not home free yet from the admin stuff……

6:48 AM

I’m in the lobby of the Sheraton again … logged in with a cup of coffee. Weather’s good after some storms last night. (I’m going to start noting the weather each morning because this is important to us.) Today’s Thursday which means I’ll be heavily involved in accounting and finance stuff for at least half the day. This is the day we handle all the weekly check requests and then create a weekly cost report….Also I’m also going to try and get a google documents setup going for the crew so that we can use shared documents rather than constantly emailing updated documents around. I’m also going to be going over the schedule revisions which have just been submitted by the first AD, then spending some time with UNEXSO to make sure all is well with them. (We had a hiccup yesterday when a marketing rep for the film made contact with the Alliance of Marine Mammals Parks and Acquariums and inadvertently triggered “dolphin politics”. I’ll write separately about that sometime (dolphin politics) …. there’s a bit about it now on the “dolphin issues” page. Somewhere in all of this I’m hoping to get two hours with the script for some dialogue revisions. Anyway – that’s the plan, we’ll see how it goes.

18 June Log (Updated at 5:40PM)

June 18, 2008

Updated 5:40 PM

Spent the last two hours on the phone with the 1st AD going over the detailed production schedule. For anyone not familiar — this is a very intricate process in which every scene is broken down into a “strip” and then all the strips are assembled into a “board” (kind of a linear jigsaw puzzle) which eventually depicts what you’re shooting, in what order, day by day. The trick to scheduling is that you have to consider a lot of variables–which actors are available which days; how to minimize unnecessary moving around, which locations are available which days, day/night and “turnaround” issues (you can’t shoot until 3 am one day and start at 6 am the next … need 12 hours “turnaround”….and on and on. Here’s what day one looks like on the strip board I created before sending it off to the 1st AD for him to do his thing. (And any indie film-makers out there, this looks slightly different than what you’re used to because I did it in Excel, not Movie Magic Scheduling. I actually prefer Excel for first pass scheduling because it allows me more flexibility in the design of the strips and the elements you can sort for — also, for example, I can color code the strips which also helps. In this case, blue means open water … it makes it easier to go through the whole board and capture all the open water days when they’re color coded like this.)

Anyway … the good news is, it’s now 5:51 and the fish fry at Smith’s Point is about to start. We’re all going down.   I’ll have some pix to post when I come back.

Updated 3:40 PM

Had a working lunch with Susan Johnson, Jay Smith (co-producer), and Angela Carroll (production coordinator) where we went over some of the drudgery of production — shipping arrangements, vendor payables, plus some discussion of location site rentals and catering.

Afterwards Susan and I had what was supposed to be a fairly major script conference to talk mostly about the character of Hawk. I had spoken yesterday at length to David Keith, who will play Hawk, and had gotten his notes on the character and the role. Had processed these and sent them to Susan — thinking that maybe we were going to have a bit of a struggle to get everyone (producer, director, actor) synchronized. Turns out, no big dramas — the Susan Johnson-Michael Sellers mind meld seems to be working okay.

So … finishing early meant we spent more time on other production details — housing for actress Christine Adams who wants a condo rather than hotel because she’s bringing family; the deal for the local casting director which is just now being finalized; discussion of a looming communications problem (Sheraton seems to be about to change their internet system and may go down for up to a week); discussion of on-set cooling arrangements (it’s going to be quite hot in July and actors need to be able to really cool off between shots without having to go back to their dressing rooms. (End entry 3:46)

Updated 12:06 PM

Okay, finished with the meetings — all went well. Took some video of the art meeting which I’ll post later. Major debate at the art meeting was whether we’re going to build a house at the research facility or have them living on the beach in another location. The art dept and Susan are kind of pushing to use a beach house that they like. I’m pushing to have them at the facility on the corner point, looking out through the inlet to the ocean. I just feel that it ties together everything they’re doing with the dolphins to see them living there with the dolphins with that inlet to the sea. The cost differential is about $5,000 to do it the way I want to….although I think that analysis may be off because they haven’t done “deep analysis” of all the cost factors such as the cost of moving the entire shooting unit to the house on the beach (10 miles away from everything else that we’re shooting), and things like that. Anyway — we set a deadline of the weekend to get this decided. We also decided to set up an online google document for tracking location locks.

Second area of major discussion was where we’re going to do the hospital room. Turns out shooting it in a real hospital here doesn’t work to well for a number of reasons. Trying to come up with viable alternatives.

And the big “get” of the meeting was that they (Production Designer/Art Director) came up with a GREAT lab — I mean really great. Don’t have time to explain why, but it was awesome. Love it love it.

Casting meeting with Pepper Johnson, our lovely Bahamian casting director, was productive. Main point was to make sure she’s on board and understanding that I want to use real residents of Smith’s Point for the scenes depicting Smith’s Point. Got that idea across. Also sorted out some issues about our US Navy extras and bit parts.

Phone meeting with Jack Scanlon re product placement and promotional tie-ins also was productive. Working on dolphin tie-ins and jet skis, a few others. (Actually he had a long list of others but we ran out of time…I have 30 minutes to grab a sandwich and do this blog post, then I’m on to location scouts and stuff this afternoon.)

START THE DAY 7:25AM

I’m down in the lobby of the Sheraton, cup of coffee and a banana, reading about as much of the news coverage of the Celtics blowout of the Lakers as I can stand (about half a dozen articles and I was done, what a disappointment but kudos to the Celtics). I’ve got about ten minutes before Susan and I are off to a morning of meetings.

First up is an art meeting with production designer Gabor Norman and his team. He’ll be showing us some sketches and budgets and photos of some alternative locations. The big issue on the table is the Hawk family house and whether we can create something on the site and UNEXSO or not. I’m very partial to making it work at UNEXSO. We’ll see how it goes on that one.

Second is local casting … we’re doing pretty well in that regard. We have most of the more significant local roles cast, but it’s important to get every one of them right. One lousy actor generating one lousy moment can really wreck a movie. And there’s really no excuse for it — even when you’re out ‘in the field’ like this. There are people who can do the small rloles and give them authenticity and life.

Third is a promotional meeting by phone with Jack Scanlan in LA who’s been doing a great job pursuing product placement and promotional opportunities. On the table at the moment is a situation with the Whales and Dolphins Conservation Society. Jack has been pursuing a rather large sponsorship deal with them, and felt that he had been getting some traction. It now looks, however, like they are going to pass. We shouldn’t be surprised or disappointed in this. As enlightened as we believe our story to be — the waters of dolphin conservation are very turbulent and groups like WDCS are inevitably going to be conflicted by any film that has any hint of captivity in it, and even interactivity is questionable. We have a chance on the issue of captivity because of the Third Phase program we depict in the movie in which the dolphins are not held in pens, but are free to come and go. But we can’t get around the “no interaction” position that WDCS and many conservationists have — a position that basically says not only should dolphins not be held captive, but any interaction with them is inherently detrimental to the dolphin’s welfare. The movie takes the position that scientifically managed interaction can bring benefits to both humans and dolphins…..and there’s no way to sugarcoat that. So I dont’ think anything wll come of it but we’ll see. Meanwhile there are many other things to talk about — jetski deals, boat deals, etc. (Finished 12:14 PM)

Ubuntu….Lakers and Celts

June 17, 2008

Well, it’s the final three minutes of Lakers/Celtics game six and it’s over. Rivers just took out Allen, Pierce, and Garnett….and they’re talking about the unselfishness of these three…how they sacrificed their individual goals and subjugated it for the team. 25 All star appearances among the three of them, but no championship. Now they have it.

Rivers came up with using “Ubuntu” as their rallying cry. I find the “ubuntu” concept intriguing and meaningful — “we are therefore I am”….It’s an African concept – Nelson Mandela speaks eloquently about it. It’s really a beautiful way of conveying the idea of submerging one’s individual identity into a larger whole — very apt for an NBA team, particularly Boston, with the three superstars coming in this season, two by way of a trade.

In a way, the same thing that the Celtics did — that’s what we have to do when we’re making the movie. We have to blend all the talents into a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts. We can’t be driven by ego … we need to pull together, find the totality of the concept we’re trying to create.

I grew up with sports….football, basketball, baseball until later years of high school — then golf in the spring. I went through two-a-days in Mississippi, and in Pennsylvania with a coach who had actually survived the Bataan Death March and thought that was a fitting template for what he wanted to put us through. Directing an indie feature is worse than — or I should say (remember, no editing, that’s the deal here, so I have to correct on the fly)…not worse than, but more challenging than, those high school and college two-a-days. I’m talking just physically for starters — when you do a “regular” shoting day its 12 hours and 45 minutes of actual shoot time, and then there is the prep before and after — and all of that time is on your feet, in the heat (or here, in the water)…..I don’t know what it’s like on studio shoots….sometimes I see behind the scenes stuff and I wonder what it must be like to have 60- or 75 days to shoot the film…to have to do a page a day or less…..and then look at us — 5, 6, 7 pages a day, every day an impossible challenge to get it all done, get the performances, get the coverage….

Wow…it’s a 40 point lead now … 129/89. Got to give the Celtics their due. Ubuntu. Signing off.

UPDATE: The game’s over and Kevin Garnett just gave the most amazing interview…I’m sure a lot of people will be turned off by it….but I was move by it. Michelle Tafoya asked him what it felt like and he just threw his head back and screamed “Anything is possible!”…said it three or four times….. then buried his head and cried……How few of us ever get to experience what he experienced tonight. So many years proving he’s a good player, a great player — but tonight he got the championship and it overwhelmed him. I’m jealous – can’t deny it. Want that moment. Will keep fighting for it.

Figuring Out the Boats and Other Dolphin Stuff

June 17, 2008

Yesterday some time was spent working on the “picture boat” situation (i.e. boats that will appear in the movie, as opposed to working boats that will be camera platforms, etc). The story involves depiction of elements of the US Navy’s Marine Mammal Program so we’re trying to “get it right” — correct boats, work uniforms, etc. First stop is the Navy’s official website for the program. It’s reasonably helpful and worth a visit. Have to say the logo they’ve developed is borderline silly — don’t mean that in a harsh way but what are they thinking. Here it is. But anyway, the site has some photos but it’s interesting — they don’t show much of the actual equipment that is used with the dolphins. The site identifies the areas in which the Navy uses its dolphins: Mine Hunting, Force Protection, Object Recovery, and fleet support — and has a map showing where the dolphins have been deploted around the world. Conscious that there is a good bit of criticism of the Navy for using Marine Mammals in this way, the site also includes discussion of Marine Mammal Health and Welfare, etc.

The one picture that is quite interesting is this one, which is widely available around the internet. In the movie we also intend to depict a Navy dolphin with a camera mounted …. one of the problems in doing this is that we can’t mount on on a pectoral fin, like that — the training issues are too extreme.

Instead, we will create a different mount using a vest that our dolphins at UNEXSO have already been trained to wear.  The one they’re used to wearing contains medical monitoring equipment as part of a medical sciences experiment that UNEXSO is sponsoring.  We will replace the monitoring equipment with a camera.

The Boats

We did manage to find some photos of specially rigged boats and smallcraft used by the Navy dolphin program.  Here are the three best ones. The first one shows a boat that has part of the gunwale removed so that the dolphin can be easily placed inside the boat for transport.  The second one is a modified large zodiac with a sling on board for transport.  And the third one shows another type of modification.

Based on these, we’re able to know pretty clearly what it is we’re looking for — and now we’re on the trail of finding it.  Also — you can see that these photos help with wardrobe issues as well, as they depict the Marine Mammal Program types at work.