HOW HOLLYWOOD SELLS SHARKS
Most of us love to watch films about monsters going on a rampage, whether it is "Godzilla," "King Kong," dinosaurs and giant sharks. They make up a big portion of the Summer Blockbuster movie line up and they are one of the reasons all of us love to go to the movies.
In the case of sharks there is, however, one tricky disadvantage. They actually exist, and the fictional story lines have become people’s impression of sharks. Despite lots of great shark documentaries out there, the general public is still more likely to buy into the monster image than the scientific reality. It is critical that people become more aware of what is real and what is imagined.
There is nothing wrong with watching and indulging in this phenomenon. "Jaws" is a great movie. Genetically modified Mako sharks in "Deep Blue Sea" are awesomely scary. "Meg," a dinosaur shark terrorizing a coastline – (coming out soon) will probably be campy and spectacular. Just make sure you remember that you are watching fiction.
Fear sells. Sharks make networks a lot of money. But along with that comes the responsibility that they are amplifying a damaging message that indirectly contributes to the demise of sharks. Storylines that vilify sharks continue to be produced every year. This includes exaggerated re enactments of events at sea, documentaries that propose far-fetched hypothesis of evil spirited sharks that torment surfers and beach communities, and horror films that show people being stalked by sharks. It is this image that sticks with people. Educational, fact based documentaries have little chance to counteract this effect.
Even films that may be factually correct often exploit sharks by exaggerating the danger of the situation, by using shaky shots, repetitive slow motion bite shots, fast paced music and hosts that pretend to be frantic and scared.
Particularly damaging are programs that are presented as documentaries, yet still build on the fear of sharks. They may even tell a decent story, but everything about the way it is presented tells a different psychological story – sharks are exciting in a scary way.
Pay attention next time you watch a nature documentary and take notice how the music changes when sharks are shown. People seek out documentaries to learn something about the world. There is a responsibility to NOT exploit the fear factor in films that are meant to represent the true nature of sharks.
Raising awareness about the misrepresentation of sharks in the media and about the immense value sharks have brought to the film and TV industry. Educate studios, film makers and writers on the impact they could have with a different approach.
WHY? The opinion of the public is shaped through the media. In the case of sharks it has mostly been negative. This often makes it harder to make a case for the protection of sharks. We are hoping to find ways to change the image and use the media to generate a positive impact... one small step at a time.
HOW? It would be delusional to think that we can change the film/TV industry. And we shouldn't think thats the only way. Small changes in content can go a long ways. Building positive campaigns around big screen films could make good use of the popularity and convert it into a conservation outcome.
∇ Presentations at studios and networks - educate, engage, collaborate
∇ Provide input and ideas for shark related content
∇ Produce a video series of interviews with shark film makers
∇ Produce a series of Video messages that inspire and entertain
∇ Give #SharkAttack a new meaning - (sharks being attacked by humans)
∇ Create a Media Fund (proceeds from shark films towards shark conservation)
WHAT YOU CAN DO
∇ Consider the facts when you watch shark films and documentaries (read more)
∇ Share quality stories on social media, not sensationalistic hype. Use #SharkAttack to show that the true assault is ON sharks, inflicted by humans, not the other way around. Let give this expression a new meaning.
∇ If you are working in the media industry and need help with shark facts, contact us. We are keen to help.
∇ If you are part of a network, studio or creative company that would be interested in a presentation or would like to have a discussion on how to create positive impact for sharks, contact us.
∇ If you are a film maker and would like to run an awareness campaign alongside your film, please contact us. Its easier to develop an effective campaign if we have some time to develop ideas.
∇ If you have ANY ideas for this campaign, please let us know. We are extremely open for new, creative approaches. We have only begun this effort and realize the potential is endless. We want to open the door for anything that we haven't thought of.
∇ Not everyone has time and energy to dedicate towards a cause. You can help us empower these campaigns by donating or coming up with creative ideas for fundraisers.