Guest Post by: Charlie Morris-Co Director and Editor. Originally written on October 18, 2023
Today I am able to finally have perspective on this entire process because we have passed the hurdle of “picturelock”. And wow, it’s a LOT to process. I had no idea how complex this undertaking would be.
So today as I waited for my dirty hot chocolate order I looked out and noticed birds, colors, people, cars, clouds, leaves and I realized how much, over the last 5 months, that I have looked…but I wasn’t really seeing.
I feel like I am just now realizing there is an entire world out here and wow. It’s a paradox right? As the Editor and Co-Director (but really more as the Editor) you go head down into this narrow and isolated path, away from people, away from the world. It’s you, it’s two large screens, it’s Premiere Pro, it’s an editing timeline with over a thousand cuts and multiples of layers of tiny little rectangles. You start to actually dream about the timeline. Your life, in essence IS that timeline. It’s all you think about.
It’s a strange fact that in order to focus hard enough to make a movie that will impact people and the world around you, you have to remove yourself from it for a time. So strange. But so worth it-if you don’t take it too far.
I want the reader of this post to know some of the backstory of how this movie got made…
In the beginning-Dewett Dewett is the original Director. He ran the filming and originated the idea to make a movie about the shark nets in the KZN, back in 2021. Dewett and Frankie both tried to find an editor for the project after they finished filming in 2021 but it never panned out. Why? Because it’s really hard to find funding for movies that matter. They both had to get back to work as they ran out of personal money. Also the covid pandemic affected momentum. After interviewing 24 shark conservation minded folks..they had to take an indefinite pause on the work.
Charlie Meets Frankie
Frankie is the Director and Producer. We first started talking on Facebook December of 2022. Frankie pushed hard to find a way to make the movie and mentioned to me that if an editor could be found that she would also volunteer her time to see it through. I had no idea what I was in for but the information about the demise of sharks and the involvement of shark nets was just too much to ignore. So I signed on, figuring I would just fit this in over the course of a year in my free time. I also did think that perhaps, given the topic, that money would come in so that we wouldn’t be working ourselves into being broke financially.
The Hand Off Dewett still had all the original files on hard drives in South Africa and I lived here in the USA. So he had to organize the files and then ship it over. But that’s not the hard part. He had to trust others to take all of his footage and turn it into something-while relinquishing control over the process. And I gotta say, that’s a REALLY hard thing to do. Hats off to Dewett.
Making the Movie-No Funding Frankie and I absolutely tried to raise funds. We had every confidence we could raise around $50K. A very meager budget but better than nothing. We barely hit $1,300 with that fundraiser. Then we had a choice. Proceed as volunteers or throw in the towel. We decided to proceed.
Living on the Cheap!
I decided to dip into my savings and not work for anyone else until the movie was done. We agreed that we would give it our all, even without funding. We aimed for a release date in late 2023 instead of 2024. Why? Because there are so many sharks dying every year, to wait another year seemed wrong. Our approach was that any kind of movie would be better than no movie at all. To make it work I began long term housesitting and petsitting gigs to keep my overhead costs low so that I could stretch out what little money I had. Frankie lived very inexpensively in South America where the cost of living is incredibly low compared to the USA. We both joked a LOT about living on peanut butter. The truth though is that it really was quite difficult to focus on the work while watching the little money you had disappear.
Inspirations There were absolutely times when I felt like giving up. Just being honest. I was like “what am I doing? I am going to go broke doing this!” But for both of us it felt like the effort was worth our time. In order to do this, and not crash, you have to have a team of people around you. No movie is made alone. Speaking for myself, here is what got me through this process:
Frankie I could never have made this movie without Frankie’s energy and enthusiasm and laughter. Our mantras have been “let’s gooooo!” and “for the sharks!!!”, among others. Frankie is 26. I am 52. I’ve been around the block a few times, so to speak, but for her, this is her debut as a movie director. And she was an absolute natural and seriously blew me away with how she was able to understand the role and occupy that space like a seasoned pro. She didn't just work with people on this project. She checks in with you. She makes sure you are doing okay. She rallies and cheers. Frankie worked hard on this project, harder than I have seen anyone work on any project. Bar none.
The Interview Subjects
What also sustained me are the 24 people whose interviews I was editing and reading over and over and over and over. I have about 24 hours of interviews from shark conservationists now locked into my memory forever. And their dedication, up there on my screens, and in the many pages of transcripts, kept me fired up for the project when I was struggling with the next steps. All of these interview subjects freely gave their time, their experiences and passion for sharks to this movie and that mattered to me.
Dewett If I was ever lacking in drive, I would think about Dewett’s swim to Dyer Island. This guy literally risked his life in order to raise awareness about the decline of the Great White Shark. So when I would be laying on the floor, surrounded by scattered transcripts, with my brain melting, I would absolutely think “If Dewett can swim to Dyer Island then surely I can do this”
Samantha Samantha is our narrator! This is her debut as a narrator. Frankie and I tried SO hard to find a narrator. I have narrated all my movies and so I was the Plan B. But we desperately wanted a South African voice, since this is a South African centric movie. Samantha stepped into the role and worked exceedingly hard at learning the ropes of recording, finding her voice, pacing, diction…it is very hard to do in fact. And she really did so well. Putting your voice out there for the world to hear is intimidating. But she stepped right up and the movie is better for it.
There are many other people I could list as inspirations but I think I will stop since we are already up to 27.
Anyway…that’s the fuller story of how The Last Shark has been made! As for me I am heading to Vermont now for my last scheduled housesitting gig til December 15. While there I will be likely editing right up til the Premiere date. Then I go visit my kids in Iowa for Christmas. After that? I am currently houseless, jobless and in need of rest. So we will just see what life has in store...