One of many oddest relationships you’ll see on display screen this 12 months is the one between South African filmmaker and diver Craig Foster and the octopus he befriended whereas diving within the Nice African Sea Forest. That’s the connection on the coronary heart of the documentary “My Octopus Teacher,” which gained the British Academy Movie Award on Sunday and is nominated for an Oscar within the Greatest Documentary Characteristic class.
The Netflix movie relies round footage shot by Foster in the course of the 12 months and a half he spent observing and interacting with a feminine octopus throughout day by day dives he says he made to rekindle his reference to the pure world. Extra materials was shot by co-director Pippa Ehrlich within the astounding underwater panorama that was near Foster’s home in South Africa. Co-director James Reed shot and carried out intensive interviews with Foster that kind the backbone of the narrative.
“My Octopus Teacher” was not thought-about probably the most high-profile docs when it made the Oscar documentary shortlist in February — however it has turn into a crowd-pleasing sleeper since then, as evidenced by the BAFTA win. Ehrlich talked to TheWrap in regards to the movie.
Craig’s expertise with the octopus had already taken place once you grew to become concerned, hadn’t it?
PIPPA EHRLICH That’s appropriate. Craig and I had been diving and swimming collectively for a while, and he’d began realizing that even though he swore he’d by no means make one other movie, his ardour had come again and he’d had this unimaginable expertise with the octopus. He knew how transformative it had been for him, and wished to share it. So he began speaking to me about it, and I assumed it was a tremendous story. However the octopus had died a number of years earlier than I obtained concerned.
So did he have already got all of the footage that he wanted? What did you shoot?
The entire footage with the octopus was within the can. He dived with that animal each day for a 12 months. And typically he was within the water along with his good friend Roger Harrocks. He knew that the issues he began to see when the animal began searching in entrance of him had by no means been filmed, so he referred to as Roger. And between what he shot himself and what Roger shot, there was an enormous quantity of footage.
However there was some stuff that we didn’t have. We didn’t have all the fabric we would have liked of Craig and his son. We didn’t have any photographs of Craig swimming on the floor or within the kelp forest, and we didn’t have any common, magnificent kelp forest photographs. We truly spent a very long time getting the proper photographs – photographs of the stormy shoreline, and Craig swimming within the wild ocean.
The advantage of residing the place we capturing is that if there was a shot of Craig we would have liked, we might wait and get it.
The unique thought wasn’t to deal with the octopus, was it?
At first, Craig was making an attempt to make sense of the story to himself. The unique therapy that we had was fairly broad – it was an amalgamation of many occasions that had occurred over his 48 years of life that had led to a degree the place he might even take into consideration devoting day after day to studying in regards to the secret lifetime of an octopus.
At first, it included his childhood. The opposite massive transformational expertise in his life was making his first movie (2010’s “My Hunter’s Heart”), the place he spent years within the Kalahari desert studying to trace. He was studying a couple of totally different means of seeing the pure world and fascinating with the pure world. So at first, there was going to be quite a bit about that on this film.
After which there have been different issues we might have included. The kelp forest is a wealthy ecosystem. There are so any creatures in it, and we had some unimaginable sequences with sharks and stingrays. However as soon as we obtained into the story of the octopus, it grew to become clear that the interface between her and Craig was the story we would have liked to inform.
One of many questions that all the time arises with documentaries primarily based round wildlife footage is how a lot of what we see was truly happening for the time being that we’re listening to about, and the way a lot was reconstructed from footage which will have come from a special time or place. How scrupulous had been you with that?
We had been as scrupulous as we might be. For many of that stuff, it could be inconceivable to movie with an animal that was not habituated. There’s simply no means an extraordinary octopus can be courageous sufficient to behave that means in entrance of a human.
Each now and again, if we would have liked a shot of an octopus’ eye or a closeup of a sucker, there is perhaps one other octopus concerned.
How do you guard towards anthropomorphism? That appears virtually inevitable after we see animal habits on display screen, as a result of we view every part via our personal lens and we are able to’t actually know what animals are considering.
It’s a query that we requested ourselves the entire means via. This can be a very subjective story, and we had been open about that. We sat Craig down at his kitchen desk and requested him to inform us what he skilled. We’re not making an goal nature movie – for probably the most half, that is Craig sharing his experiences for what he felt and what it meant for him. If there’s some anthropomorphism, you need to forgive a person human for sharing his expertise as he skilled it.
And we didn’t title the octopus – that was the very first thing we determined, as a result of we knew that anthropomorphism might be an issue. We wished to offer her as a lot octopus-ness as attainable.
We additionally introduced Professor Jennifer Mather out from Canada, and she or he is an octopus psychologist. She watched each single scene with us, mentioned Craig’s interpretation and helped us get contained in the thoughts of an octopus as a lot as she might. She was capable of assist us perceive that an octopus is a snail that has misplaced its shell — it’s a really, very clever creature that’s additionally very susceptible. She informed us an octopus’ major expertise of the world is the strain between concern and curiosity.
What had been the opposite explicit challenges of this movie?
A part of it was simply getting every part we would have liked. Generally you need to wait a month to get the shot you’re ready for. We had been extremely lucky that it was all taking place on our doorstep.
One other massive problem is the truth that you’re so immersed within the story and so immersed within the surroundings. By the point I began engaged on the movie, I’d been diving each day for six months. I suppose you will get so deeply inside it which you could’t see the wooden for the bushes. That’s why it meant a lot that they introduced in James Reed, who was an enormous assist in determining inform the story.
However past that, I’d by no means completed directed earlier than. And we began as a really small workforce – Craig and I with a pile of exhausting drives and an edit suite in his attic. You begin off making a small movie and it looks as if every part’s beneath management. However there have been had been instances I used to be carrying the movie myself, and I felt vastly intimidated and means out of my depth. (Laughs) Delivering to Netflix in your first movie is sort of an expertise, I’ll inform you. It was an enormous of a baptism of fireplace.
This story was drawn from an interview with Pippa Erhlich that was completed for the upcoming Right down to the Wire problem of TheWrap’s Oscar journal.