Plastic Free Schools and Surfers Against Sewage helped organise a petition about the Ocean Emergency. Here Now Films were on hand to record the event at Downing Street. Ed Smit explains how they filmed it
How do you get the most powerful people in the United Kingdom to accept they’re in an Ocean Emergency? You get 10 ten-year-olds from local plastic-free schools to turn up at their front door with over 50,000 signatures on a petition declaring that yes, we are here, and yes… we care about the Ocean Emergency. This is exactly what Surfers Against Sewage did and we were there to film it along the way.
Background to the Film
Surfers Against Sewage are a Cornish superpower. They’ve been around for more than 20 years and are a go to as our shared voice against the pollution of our oceans and landscape. Their stunts have made them headline favourites, whether taking a jar full of human faeces into parliament or setting up installations in some of the UK’s most well-known landmarks. Today, they’re still on the trail shouting the same message, louder now, than ever before. In the build up to COP 26 SAS wanted to make a stand that this is not just an Earth Emergency, it’s in fact an Ocean Emergency more than anything else. Our oceans create half of the air we breathe and mediates our global weather systems. You mess with the ocean, you mess with us all. To do this they partnered with two of their schools on the SAS Plastic Free Schools initiative.
The day would be simple, meet the schools outside Westminster tube station at 09:00 and follow them to the gate of No.10. What could possibly go wrong?
Film Approach – Tips & Tricks.
Surfers Against Sewage like many charities spend as much money as they can on actually doing the good stuff they preach instead of just talking. We needed to be smart with how we captured the footage, we couldn’t afford reshoots, or staged scenes…. After all we were filming ten-year-olds, in busy London.
One of the ideas we used for this film was to get each school to self film their journey to the point at which we met. We did this for three major reasons:
- This gave a real activist vibe to the piece. Think back to the days where all you had was an old school VCR machiece making skate films in your back garden.
- The simple self filmed nature would reflect the age and innocence of the subjects we were filming.
- It gave us a different breadth to the type of footage we were able to capture. The home shot footage would contrast with our footage from the high quality cameras we’re using which gives a feeling of different chapters. When we’re only given a day to make a film it’s key to focus on a small number of key features for the piece, especially on an uncontrollable shoot like this one.
Note: using this technique is harder than it seems. Remember to give your subjects very tight shooting guidelines. Think landscape vs portrait, when they film, what to say… spell it out. The other issue we found with this was we had to wait for footage to be sent back to us before we could finish the edit… we all know teachers have too much on their plates already to remember sending a random film crew footage.
Run & Gun
Lots of you in the film world will know the term Run & Gun… it’s a term that originates from the documentary world. It basically means ‘make a plan and capture everything on and off the plan’. On a shoot where you can’t control a thing, you have to be agile and capture everything. This is what we did! Shooting on a Sony A7 Mrk3 S we kept things small and light… this meant we could move fast and not intrude too much on the real feel of the piece. This was especially true when the crew made their way through the high security of No.10 Downing Street… don’t think you’re getting a big cine camera in there easily.
How it went…
Actually very very well. The schools found us on time and the hand in was a breeze. The thing that really struck us was the bravery and confidence of the young people we’re there to film. At ten years old we’d have found it terrifying walking past people with military-grade assault rifles to hand in what’s in essence a very important petition. This just shows how aware these young people are about the crisis the climate and natural world are in. After all, this is the world they are growing up in.
After the hand in we found our way to a local monument outside The Houses of Parliament where each school had prepared a performance. The brief for the performance was… “what ever you like”. To our surprise, each school put way more effort in than we could have possibly imagined.
School 1 had created a fantastic banner (big gold start to the art teacher) and did a little theatre piece around the natural world and plastic pollution.
School 2, they opted for the “can you hear us” approach. Standing at the base of parliament they shouted with all their might a song/chant calling for more attention to be given to the crisis.
The day was a huge success. After a quick trip around the surrounding landmarks to capture b-roll (footage we use to fill out the film around the key parts) we were ready to make our way back down to Cornwall. The film was shown to hundreds of young people during the Climate Youth Summit put on by Surfers Against Sewage.
Bring on the next one.
Check out the film here…
images courtesy of Tin and Copper
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