ACE Marine Images Documentaries
Introduction and Aims
After more than 12 years hard work, ACE Marine Images are well on our way to reaching some of the goals which, not so long ago seemed as far away as other galaxies from the Milky Way!
Operating out of Koh Tao, which has only recently got itself on the tourists' route, it sometimes felt like an impossible task to get ourselves noticed. We refused to bend our beliefs, instead we focussed on patiently improving our abilities, perfecting the training of new crews and polishing our current crew's camera and diving techniques.
Finally all the hard work appears to be paying off, and we hope that everyone benefits, the entire world, the environment and all her species as the overwhelming messages in all our films are education and conservation, we are trying to create a new angle on documentary making in order to reach out to all walks of life, particularly those in power and, more importantly, all of our children!
Working With Other Production Companies
Making your own documentaries is an enormous and daunting task, particularly when your standards and goals are as high as ours. We would be lying if we said we had got to the point where we are now on our own. In fact the greatest leaps we have made have been at the behest of others.
Ten years ago we were asked to shoot underwater film in Thailand for Channel 4 in the UK, a modest series called Bangkok Bound about expats living in Thailand. The series was a smash hit and the next thing we new they wanted more, this time for rockumentaries, that is musical films, no narration, 3 more episodes called Bangkok Beats!
Then came Thai television, Panorama and ITV; they whisked us off to the Similan Islands on a five star yacht to shoot a low budget production to help promote Thailand; one of the biggest learning curves of all, learning to value our own abilities.
Everybody wants something for nothing and when you are getting started in the television industry, no matter how valuable your speciality, it is easy to be taken for granted and much harder to stand your ground and retain your beliefs; we all say "if I can just get my foot in the door?", but that, my friends, is nonsense, if you take anything from reading this article it should be this, make sure you get paid, and make sure you get paid well, you can bet that everyone else is and nobody wants to share their piece of the pie with the rookies. There will always be excuses when you are getting started like, "but you got a free liveaboard", blah, "and some wonderful free diving", double blah. We've all gotta eat, full stop, end of story!
Clearly, it has not always been roses on our climb up the ladder, and we still have a long way to go and lots to learn, probably with many more crocodile infested swamps to cross! Fear not though, it's not all bad, one of our most pleasant dealings while trying to get the world's attention was dealing with Wild Aid while on their valiant fight against shark finning and the shark fin soup industry. We are proud to have provided them with various films and spectacular whale shark footage that has been used to educate thousands.
Then came the MV Trident with their discovery of the USS Lagarto. The crew of the Trident got us trained up and kitted out for deep technical diving and the next thing we knew we were filming alongside the History Channel's Deep Sea Detectives, John Chatterton and Richie Kohler. More importantly we were shooting high definition video at 70 plus meters in cahoots with Evan Kovacs, one of the world's most amazing and fearless underwater cameramen. This was an American production by the Wisconsin Navy Museum, directed by Harvey Moshman of CBS news, about the USS Lagarto.
Being involved with these guys and working on such a historically important film has been by far the most incredible experience and later lead to our work with Lone Wolf Productions on a film called Underwater Universe for the History Channel.
It's been a hell of a ride so far, mostly good and always educational!
Producing Our Own Documentaries
Having complete creative control from the drawing board to broadcast has always been our main goal and after many incredible years on the roller coaster of frustration and joy we have arrived!
Bharat and The Plymouth to Banjul Rally
At this point we should mention Stuart Sutton, previously part of the ACE Marine Images underwater film crew, and later the brains and motivation, as well as executive producer, cameraman, presenter, and general all around good guy, behind some of our more fun and interesting terrestrial projects!
We took a film crew consisting of Tobias Melunsky, Marcus Cornelius Johannes van Nierop, Stuart Sutton and Chris Clark, across India, in an Ambassador! We drove from the Wagga Border with Pakistan down the world's oldest pilgrimage route, through the Ganges Basin, along the Grand Trunk Road, all the way to Kolkatta on India's East Coast! Some of us made it further than others but we all did our part and really learned the hardships of making a film on the road. It's worth mentioning here that we did all this deliberately before the quaderalateral freeway project, ie the roads were rubbish, sometimes making about 150 km in over ten hours! A true white knuckle ride that culminated in a beautiful 2 part series called Bharat, the Chariot of Knowledge.
Our next mad adventure took us into the Plymouth to Banjul Rally; the rules are simple, buy a crappy car for less than 100 quid and drive across 8 countries including the Sahara Desert and a minefield. We took it one step further, we took a support vehicle known as Betsy, a 1973 VW Combi, the oldest and worst car on the trip, but we made it, and our team in a Peugeot 205 actually won it, if you could win a charity event like that. The point is that this was a great experience and team building exercise. It resulted in a 3 part series, the Plymouth to Banjul Rally which is now the official film given to new participants every year.
Current Projects - Whale Shark's of Thailand and much more...
Right now, possibly our most ambitious project is in post production. We have decided to out source the post of this particular film to a massive studio in Bangkok, called Finito, in order to allow our creative crews to focus on what they do best.
We now aim to be out in the field filming as much as possible but we will still only script and produce the best ideas that make a difference and at the highest possible level of quality. There are several underwater film production companies in Asia and across the world whose aim is to produce as many films as they can and they only sell 10%. This means that some low quality productions reach broadcast level as well which to us is totally unacceptable!
Below is a tiny taster of some of the incredible high definition whale shark footage that will appear in our new film, Shalam Wan, The Gentle Giants of Thailand, to be released soon! The film is about the tracking of whale sharks using photographic identification, a research project that we started here in the Gulf of Thailand. We have reason to believe that we can help in the global protection of whale sharks and are getting closer to unraveling some of their migration and reproductive secrets. The whale shark footage in this film is without a doubt the finest footage ever taken of these wonderful creatures and while shooting the documentary the ACE Marine Images team became the first ever to capture whale sharks underwater at night!!! The film delves into the history of Koh Tao with exclusive interviews with some of the island's elders as we asked them about their whale shark encounters of years gone by. We also talk to the daughter of one of the twin brothers who first laid claim to land on this spectacular island paradise.
While the film has been in post production it has attracted a great deal of attention and we are currently researching and scripting 4 more films about the same area in order to turn it into a 5 part series.
All research has been done by our crews in conjunction with the Marine biology Department of the University of Cape Town (where our founder took his degree), the Mozambique Whale Shark Project, the Natal Sharks Board, Ecocean in Ningaloo Reef amongst others!
We have many projects in the pipeline including a terrestrial television series about Bangkok, another about Koh Tao and a technical diving series in conjunction with the MV Trident about shipwreck exploration, salvage and reef ecology.
For obvious reasons we have to limit the amount of information that we make available here at this time!