Joe Romeiro is a self-taught filmmaker who has had a love for the ocean since childhood. As he travels around the world to capture footage of sharks, his mission remains simple: “to protect sharks by educating and dispelling the myths surrounding them through film and through personal interaction.”
In 2007, Joe founded 333 Productions with producer and shark conservationist Bill Fisher. Since then, they have produced four award-winning films and numerous shorts, all featuring beautiful and impressive footage of sharks.
In a break between expeditions, MST caught up with 333 Productions to learn a little more about the filming process and the sharks themselves. Below, Joe talks about what it’s like to work with sharks.
Q- What’s the process like when you go out to film?
Joe explains that there isn’t really a process, except to get a story.
A- I think for me overall it’s getting shots that I feel are the ones I would want to see. When I used to watch nature videos and movies when I was a child, I used to identify with the little musical montages they would do. Mostly because I couldn’t understand English, but that’s what stuck. When I started editing, I would put small things together and just go how I felt to a song. Even through planning stories later and doing films with Bill Fisher and Pete Stacker, it’s amazing how that still sticks with me.
I always want people to just sit and watch and see what I see: how beautiful they are. I love it when I can get the animal to look into the camera, to look at what I am, and then people have to look back. With narration [a story] is easier to tell, but it’s always hard to find the right turn of phrase that will make it beautiful. Bill and Pete are amazing at it.
Q- In videos like The Great Hammerhead and RIPFIN where there is no narration, what reaction do you hope to get out of people?
A- Mostly a reaction, be it a shock or a stare, a reaction of some sort. I love it when I’m at a film showing and some shot comes up and the crowd starts to mumble. It means they reacted to what they saw – like a gasp during a sad spot. It makes you feel like they are seeing it and getting it.
Q- How many hours of footage do you usually capture? Is the challenge finding the shark and getting the footage, or deciding which of it to use?
A- I get hours if I can. I will shoot and shoot usually until I feel like I’ve overdone it by a lot. Half of the time you don’t get enough [footage]. Animals don’t get that you want an image of them. They feel invaded sometimes and very afraid. It is very difficult as a filmmaker and cameraman to look and understand what will make them feel comfortable enough to get close. Sometimes it’s a pass by and neither of you noticed you were right next to each other for a second and by the time you realize it has happened, it’s over.
Q- Do you have a favorite shark?
A- By far the mako shark, but the hammerhead and white shark are right behind them. Makos are just the fastest shark and the most gorgeous in color, I believe. I’ve swam with a ton of them and I still feel that I haven’t gotten enough images of that shark. I have ruined five lenses and I’m willing to sacrifice five more if it means I will get what I finally came for with them. The interaction with a bold one is unparalleled in my opinion. It’s one to watch when filming. It can make a mistake easily and ultimately that mistake will always be your fault, but the shark will pay the price in image and reputation.
Q- In RIPFIN, the shark is covered in scars. What, besides a boat, has the power to do that to such a powerful shark?
A- Ripfin is a warrior; a shark that if his skin could speak it would never stop screaming. He is amazingly bold and figures things out quickly. He has an original personality but he is all that is “great white shark”. I’m not sure if any of his scars are from boats, but I know that most are from fighting and jockeying for position with other sharks. Also, he gets them from things that fight back. Some sharks have a nictitating membrane that covers their eyes when they come into contact with objects and prey. White sharks and makos roll their eyes back in their skulls to protect them. They have all built this for a reason: things don’t like to be eaten so they defend themselves.
Females have thicker skin because during mating males will bite on the females, inflicting huge scars and in some rare instances, even death. But Ripfin is male so his are a different story…one told through his skin and personality.
Watch the following video titled RIPFIN to see this shark in action.
Copyright © 2013 by Marine Science Today, a publication of Marine Science Today LLC.