By Ludovic savariello

Interview of Rene Heuzey, one of the Underwater Photography Director of the movie Oceans by Jacques Perrin ( producer of”Microcosmos, Le Peuple de l Herbe”et director of”Le Peuple Migrateur”) and Jacques Cluzaud.


Ludovic Savariello : René what was the goal of shooting te movie Oceans?

René Heuzey: Jacques Perrin is a really passionnate by oceans and extremely sensitive to the threat of commercial fishing and pollution. Therefore, he wanted to make a movie dedicated to nature and really engaged towrds the preservation of that environment. Oceans goal was to show the beauty but also the fragility of this endangered marine world.

LS : How long did it take ?

RH : The shooting itself took 4 years with two years of preparation. We went to 20 differents seas and oceans. We had 4 underwater photography  crews and 4 others for exteriors shhotings. We were more than 150 people for the movie.

LS: What was the biggest technical challenge in order to obtain a movie with breathtaking natural images?

RH: Jacques Perrin being a movie maker, he wanted to shoot it in 35 mm. The problem with 35 mm is that it requires a huge amount of images. In order to have been at the right place at the right time, we would have to make a huge amount of dives and stay hours and hours under the water. Unlike his two other movies, the scenes have been shot in real life situations and the camera had to adapt  animal behaviours. The storage capacity of a 35mm camera was therefore no suitable for such. We used HD cameras but with a real movie rendition not a documentary as the one we are use to see in animal shows. J P also wanted to created a new kind of dynamic in the movie with neverseen ways of shooting animals. For example, we used cameras attached to torpedos, we dragged a floating camera with a boat…which enabled us to have images pf dolphins from the front and from the sides as if we were swimming amongst them.

LS: How did you deal with the problematic of 3D shooting?

RH: As the shooting on land was made with 35 mm cameras we had to have the same image sensitivity under water as on land. all of that with a movie rendition and not a television one. In order to obtain such result, we ve had to manage technical problems linked to underwater shooting as well as those created by HD shooting as for example underwater shooting with low light. We made it thanks to a full week of work in Marseille prior to the shooting with the HD specialist in Europe.  This enabled us to have cameras having 50 minutes films with a 3 hours power autonomy. Thanks to dives made with rebreathers, we were able to shoot scenes for more than 4 hours. With all of that we were able to be on sites to shoot exceptional underwater images.

LS: What was the job of the underwater photography director during the shooting?

RH: Specifically for this shooting, the director of underwater photography had full delegation of authority from the movie director. As we had 4 different underwater crews, the directors could not be present with each one of them, often separated by thousands of kilometers. We had rent a satellite beacon in order to send every night our day work in Paris and have immediate returns from the directors. At last with such a delegation of authority we were able to propose new sequences according to the opportunities encountered during the shootings.

LS: How did you chose the different locations?

RH : The movie was shot with a team of 20 scientists, as for example Francois Sarano( formerly scientific manager of Cousteau team) All of those gave us the locations and dates for all the different species we wanted to shoot.

LS : Having cruised 20 different oceans and seas, might be helpful to realize on site the disappearing or the rarefaction of certain endangered species.

RH : You are right, here are to obvious examples. First Red Tuna in the mediterraneen. This specie is highly endangered. Few years ago fishermen were catching them only when they were entering the mediterranean sea by Gibraltar straight, around the middle of may. Nowadays, with the increase of technology in fishing means ( boats with higher capacity of storage, fish tracking by air…) the quantity fished every year are considerably increasing. The Japanese demand always increasing, the offer adapted the market. Tunas are caught when entering the sea then placed in farms, as for example in Malta. Thanks to this tunas are loaded every other month on japanese boats and shipped to Japan In the same vein, The menace gliding over sharks is evident. The Fining, or fins fishing being the main reason.

LS : At last and to conclude, what has been your most emotional encounter during the shooting?

RH : I have two magical souvenirs on this shooting. First of all, the one with a Pseudorca, with which I played for more than 10 minutes in New Zealand. In fact he did mitate me durin the entire encounter. When I was going up, so did he, when I was nodding yes with my head he was nodding too, when i was letting bubbls out he did too….To me it was really one of those magical moments. It was the first time i was with a Pseudorca and he had probably never seen any human being in such the such remote place we had chosen. My second big emotion was when I was next to Melbourne, Australia, shooting the yearly migration of crabs. You have to imagine the size of a football pitch entire covered with about a meter of crabs! Exceptionnal vision. When editing the movie some scientists told me they had never seen such a concentration.

Pseudorca :the Pseudorca family has only one member, Pseudorca Crassidens, also know as fake orca, or fake orca whale> As orcas, it is a fearless predator, mainnprays are tuna and bonito but it also can attack dolphins, sharks and even young whales.