Happy 4th of July!

Happy 4th of July to our American friends and viewers! We’re excited to share the upcoming Hell Below line up for U.S.  The six-episode series premieres Sunday, July 17 at 9 p.m. ET/PT on the Smithsonian Channel.

Set in the Atlantic and in the Pacific, Hell Below charts the stealthy game of undersea warfare in World War II. We’ll be sharing some classic American submarine stories: the revolutionary Dudley “Mush” Morton, commander of the USS Wahoo, and Commander Sam Dealey and his daring missions aboard USS Harder and Richard O’Kane commanding the legendary USS Tang.   We’re also profiling the forgotten sacrifices of American Merchant Mariners when the U-Boat war came to US shores in the episode: Hitler’s Revenge.

Complete Episode Listing:

Sunday July 17The Wolfpack

The series kicks off in March 1941, when Hitler’s mastermind of submarines, Karl Dönitz, deploys his U-Boat Aces in a deadly new tactic. But the Allies have armed themselves with new anti-submarine technology. The resulting battle changes the course of the Battle of the Atlantic.

Production still from "Hell Below" television series (c) 2015 Parallax Film Productions Inc. 1-604-531-2244 Photo by Sean F. White

Sunday July 24Hitler’s Revenge

In December of 1941, five Nazi U-Boats set out on a secret mission to attack Allied shipping off the shores of the United States in an attempt to thwart the American war effort. The orders to the U-Boat commanders are simple: sink as many ships as possible.

Production Still from Hell Below: Hitler's Revenge

Sunday July 31 – America Fights Back

A look at Dudley “Mush” Morton, the Commander of USS Wahoo and his brash new tactics in submarine warfare. On this his patrol in command, the new skipper decides to take on an entire Japanese convoy. If he succeeds, he will be the first American submarine commander to claim such a prize.

Production Still from HellBelow: America Fights Bak (c) 2016 Parallax Film Productions Inc.

Sunday August 7 – Atlantic Showdown

Two convoys leave North America bound for Britain, carrying vital food and raw materials for the Allied war effort. For three days, the ships are mercilessly attacked by the Nazi U-Boat Wolfpacks, resulting in the largest convoy battle of World War II.

Production Still from HellBelow: Atlantic Showdown (c) 2016 Parallax Film Productions Inc.

Sunday August 14 – Destroyer Killer.

Commander Sam Dealey and the crew of USS Harder ply through enemy waters on a daring rescue mission while facing dozens of Japanese warships.

Production Still from HellBelow: Destroyer Killer (c) 2016 Parallax Film Productions Inc.

Sunday August 21 – Fatal Voyage.

Commander Dick O’Kane and the USS Tang sail into Formosa Strait, possibly the most dangerous region in the Pacific, with the mission to sink Japanese ships. Nearing the end of their patrol, O’Kane fires his last torpedo. But it turns against him and his crew must fight to survive aboard a sinking submarine.

Production Still from HellBelow: Fatal Voyage (c) 2016 Parallax Film Productions Inc.

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Filming the Hell for Hell Below

Last year, Hell Below filmed its principal dramatic re-enactments on board two museum ships: USS Cod, a Gato-class submarine in Cleveland, Ohio and U-995, a Type VII U-boat in Laboe, Germany.

USS Cod in Cleveland, OH
USS Cod in Cleveland, OH

Both locations provided the production with fantastic opportunities to capture an authentic look and feel for the show. A typical day on either set would see 15-25 cast and crew on board. That’s a half to a third of what you might expect to have on a WWII vessel. Needless to say, these spaces are very cramped and make logistics challenging. All camera and lighting equipment had to be hauled on the sets each day and staged in various compartments. It was tough for our small production crew so we can only imagine the logistical realities for the men living and fighting for long periods of time on board.

Sean F. White on Location Aboard HMCS Sackville
Sean F. White on Location Aboard HMCS Sackville

We’re always throwing Director of Photography Sean F. White into challenging and foreign environments. Shooting on WWII submarines would prove no different. Our Production Co-Ordintator, Dalila Jovanovic, caught up with Sean and they chatted about some of the demands and rewards of the shoot.

What was the most challenging part of filming at the USS Cod?

“The Conning Tower was the smallest space in the submarine.” recalls White. “We had three days worth of shooting in there. Not only is it a small space but there are plenty of protrusions – the two periscopes, equipment, etc. The bulk of the character filming took place there because that’s where they battled. In addition, heat rises and it all collected there. There was barely enough room to move a meter in any direction with a camera on your shoulder. Lots of dangers to yourself physically but also to the expensive equipment you’re working with, not just our cameras but also the Cod’s fragile museum pieces. Lots at stake and lots to work with.”

In the Conning Tower during the Destroyer Killer Episode

“When we did our depth charging sequences, it was full on. It was noisy and cramped, people are bouncing around. Your intensity level is peaked out. What I find amazing is how cool-headed the actual crew of these submarines must have been, working under these extreme situations in the same cramped, confined spaces. I mean it was challenging enough just filming in there but they had real life and death situations, and the ship would be moving and travelling. I wouldn’t want to do it.”

White continues about his crew, “We are a very tight, small crew that works very well as a unit. Some of the compartments were so tight that we had to stage cast and crew in other rooms. Sometimes the Director, Ian Herring, would be wedged up in the corner of the room on top of an apple crate, watching the scene. It’s far from your feature film scenario with huge tents and cables running everywhere and people sitting down in chairs looking at monitors. This is guerrilla style work but we were all united in the vision of how to achieve it.

What about the set of U-995? How did the U-boat differ from the American submarine? Were there any particular challenges there?

“Well the U-boat was smaller, so there was even less space than the US submarine.” White elaborates, “The US sub by contrast was luxurious – wider spaces for the crew, wider and taller corridors, bigger doors. The U-boat was more condensed. At this point, our crew was more accustomed to submarine the environments. But I think most of my injuries were sustained on the U-boat. We also spent a lot of filming on the deck. The nature of the design for the U-boat made it very difficult to film. We had to strap ladders on the deck and weigh them down. We literally harnessed ourselves on to the side of the submarine to get our shots of the bridge watch. We were about 40 feet off of the ground and spraying water, wind, and smoke.

Production still from "Hell Below" television series (c) 2015 Parallax Film Productions Inc. 1-604-531-2244 Photo by Sean F. White
Production still from “Hell Below” television series (c) 2015 Parallax Film Productions Inc. 1-604-531-2244 Photo by Sean F. White

Was there a particularly fun scene to shoot on set?

White laughs. “Well there was a lot of fun things to shoot. I think that’s what attracted us all to the project, the opportunity to shoot on these very cool subs. One of the highlights from the German U-995 shoot was out on the deck. We actually had the local fire department show up and they brought in these huge hoses and set them up on top of the deck. We had guys re-enacting the Atlantic storms. In some cases, German U-boat crew would actually be swept off the bridge and so they were often harnessed in, like us. We did it in a safe manner and it was very fun. The whole town came out and watched these actors in period pieces just get plastered by these firefighters. Of course, we all got soaked but no one minds getting wet and dirty if you know you’re getting good stuff.”

“Some of the running scenes were really fun to shoot. If there was an emergency on the sub, they would dive and all free men would race to the bow of the sub to help it reach depth faster. We did a bunch of cool scenes where the crew would be running through these various corridors. Following people through these tight spaces really gives you a sense of the submarine. You feel like you’re travelling.”

Hell Below also shot scenes on the HMCS Sackville to represent the British sailors aboard Atlantic convoys and created a Special Effects submarine in Langley, BC, for some of the more action-packed sequences.

Aboard HMCS Sackville in Halifax during the filming of Hell Below
Aboard HMCS Sackville in Halifax during the filming of Hell Below

The dramatic re-enactments are a huge part of the series and bring a real sense of authenticity to the visuals. The crew of Hell Below had a small taste of what submarine life might have been like for the young sailors of the Second World War and were fortunate to walk away with some stunning imagery, plenty of stories, and only a few bumps and bruises.

Hell Below is currently airing on Tuesdays on Smithsonian Channel in Canada. The episodes are available for Canadian viewers online for a limited time after broadcast here.

We look forward to announcing more worldwide broadcast dates shortly. Stay tuned!

How to Dress a Submariner

Hell Below was filmed aboard two Second World War era submarines, the USS Cod in Cleveland, Ohio and U-995 in Laboe, Germany. We had great sets, an incredibly talented crew and a wealth of performers to work with.  In order to really bring the visuals to life, we needed to be as authentic as possible with the period costuming.  Our talented Production Coordinator and Designer Dalila Jovanovic tells us how to dress a submariner.

At first, the insignia, ranking systems, and even the hue of the uniforms, was daunting.  After many hours of research, I breathed a sigh of relief as both the American and German submarine uniform requirements were much less rigid once sailors left port.  The men would pack away their best clothing for their return to base.  On board, they were able to wear whatever made them most comfortable.  For the Americans, this usually meant khakis, t-shirts, undershirts, etc.  Aboard German U-Boats, it would appear that they usually dressed down their battledress.

Sam Dealey and his Crew Aboard USS Harder
Sam Dealey and his Crew Aboard USS Harder

The American costumes were easy enough to replicate.  Our friend Paul Farace at the USS Cod provided us with many of the American khakis seen in the show.  In our Destroyer Killer episode, we borrowed authentic battledress from one of our re-enactors to replicate what a group of Australian commandos might have worn for a rescue mission.   All in all, Cleveland was good to us.

The real challenges came with our German episodes.  While the Kriegsmarine active duty wear was “casual”, we still had to replicate their battledress and source the proper caps for a number of Commanders.  Luftwaffe and SS Officer uniforms are fairly accessible but the U-boat costumes are a truly niche market.  After many sketchy website visits, we started building costumes by U-boat compartment.

There were a number of looks that needed to be replicated.  The Deck Watch crew might wear one of two options.  The first a sleek, grey leather reefer style jacket.  The second being foul-weather wear, consisting of sea-boots, black over-trousers, large waterproof black coats, balaclavas and sou’westers.  This was designed to help crew brave the Atlantic weather on the deck.  Crew below deck often wore sweaters or a “Canadian lumberjack”/ plaid civilian shirt.  The Commander of the U-boat would wear his white peaked cap to show his status.

Production Still from HellBelow: The Wolfpack
Production Still from HellBelow: The Wolfpack

In the end, the Kriegsmarine battledress uniforms were a patchwork of hipster flannel shirts, Dickie’s grey trousers, U-Boat war badges ordered from memorabilia websites, caps hand-sown with various rankings, and custom made battledress ordered from international suppliers.  The deck crew costumes were a medley of strange Ebay purchases from London to Texas, white towels, dollar store balaclavas and Helly Hansen pants and sou’westers.

And it worked.

The power of the German uniform, even at it’s most Kriegsmarine casual, didn’t really hit me until we marched our re-enactors from holding base to our set at U-995.  Heads turned.  Lights came on in the hotel rooms as people stood-by watching.  Something in the air changed. For a few hours each day, we were able to really imagine and feel the weight of it all.

Production Still from Hell Below: Hitler's Revenge
Production Still from Hell Below: Hitler’s Revenge

Hell Below is currently airing on Tuesdays on Smithsonian Channel in Canada. The episodes are available for Canadian viewers online for a limited time after broadcast here.

We look forward to announcing more worldwide broadcast dates shortly. Stay tuned!



The War Took Them to Hell Below

It was an exciting week at our Parallax offices. After months of hard work, the first episode of our news series, Hell Below was broadcast in Canada on Smithsonian Channel Canada. We started production last May in Cleveland, OH aboard the USS Cod, a vintage, World War II era submarine that is now a Museum. It was a thrill to climb down through the hatch and down the ladder, listening to the metal echo with each step. The smell of hydraulic fluids and diesel infuses your clothes if you spend enough time there. To serve abroad the sub with a crew of more than eighty men seems incomprehensible. Visiting is an experience we’d recommend for everyone.

Commander Dudley Morton and Executive Officer Richard O'Kane Play Cribbage Aboard USS Wahoo
Commander Dudley Morton and Executive Officer Richard O’Kane Play Cribbage Aboard USS Wahoo

It was amazing to be there as we filmed the dramatic recreations for our shows. The young men in uniforms, crowded into the Conning Tower, raising and lowering the periscopes. The Museum maintained its regular operations while we filmed and the patrons also seemed bemused by our “sailors”.

“Make a hole and make it wide!” someone would yell to let the groups pass our cast and camera crew. We sat at the Ward Room table in what you’d consider the Officers Mess planning scenes and brainstorming shots. A faint shiver went up my spine when we turned on the record player and we dropped on an album imagining the crew doing the same thousands of miles from home and far out at sea.

Over the summer our crew also travelled to Laboe, Germany which is home to U-995 a rare example of a serving U-Boat, which we were also lucky enough to film aboard.

U-995 in Laboe, Germany
U-995 in Laboe, Germany

Smaller than its American counterpart, the Type VII’s were the most widely produced submarine just before and through World War II. Life aboard the U-Boats was definitely more austere. Their fresh water was essentially only used for drinking. Shaving, showering and laundry waited until the crew was ashore after their 60+ day patrols. Halfway through the submarine Commander would have the sheets turned over for the return trip home.

Each of the episodes of Hell Below tells the story of a different submarine patrol or in the case of one episode, a convoy battle. We join the adventures of USS Wahoo in our episode America Fights Back, USS Tang in Fatal Voyage, USS Harder in Destroyer Killer, U-99 in The Wolfpack, U-123 in Hitler’s Revenge and the attacks on Convoy HX-229 in Atlantic Showdown. You can check our the series title sequence below:

Hell Below is currently airing on Tuesdays on Smithsonian Channel in Canada. The episodes are available for Canadian viewers online for a limited time after broadcast here.

We look forward to announcing more worldwide broadcast dates shortly. Stay tuned!

BahamaBlueTV: Diving with Sharks at Night

Interview with Mark Rackley cameraman and freediver/shark diver

As one of the most extreme underwater cameraman in the world, Mark Rackley, an experienced freediver, can hold his breath for over five minutes to depths of up to 150ft! Rackley likes to get up close and personal with his favourite underwater subject: the shark. Rackley is not only a fearless shark diver, he is also their advocate, and wants to dispel the misconceptions surrounding this misunderstood sea ‘monster’.  Mark worked underwater for Bahama Blue filming reef sharks and reveals what it was like to interact with these ancient creatures in the depths of the Bahamian ocean, after dark.

What was it like diving with sharks at night?

It was great! An unbelievable experience to have all those Caribbeans (sharks) around. Any time you are working with wild animals, it gets crazy, there are all kinds of different scenarios you go through. It’s definitely more challenging at night because they can see you but you can’t see them.  It’s basically pitch black at night and you just have your personal lighting. You can only see the creatures that enter into the dome of the light, everything else is shadowed.

Nightime Shark

What role did the local Bahamian community play?

They were a great help and indispensable to have with us. We worked with a local charter, Stuart’s Cove.  It was a challenging shoot but so much fun being in the water and the whole crew was helpful.  That makes it a lot easier when everybody is putting their heads together to solve problems as we surfaced.

Were there any surprises during the shoot?

The big Black Groupers! 60 pounds plus! They were getting cleaned at a cleaning station. That was probably the most exciting event. I am a spear fisherman, but you don’t often see that.  To get up close just see how beautiful they can be…wow!

The grouper fish lives in the drop offs in the Bahamas. It was amazing to see sharks and groupers swimming together.

Grouper New

Why do you like shark diving?

I have done this my whole life and will continue. I like the excitement. There is something new and different every day. People enjoy watching the footage I take and I like watching it too!

It’s a great way to connect with the environment and this unique ecosystem.

What are the major misconceptions people have about sharks?

Some people are afraid to jump in the water because they think a shark is just going to bite them. But that isn’t the case at all. They are after food, not because they have a malicious intent to kill a human. That is the biggest misconception.

They each also have their own personalities, some are definitely friendlier than others.

What fascinates you about sharks?

First of all, all of the animals in the water are fascinating, but yeah sharks are so precise at what it does, and interesting looking. The way it swims through the water is just a beautiful!

How did you feel swimming in the dark with sharks?

It’s a whole different feeling. You kind of get beside yourself and ask, “Is this for real?”  I don’t take doing this for granted, not one day. There are consequences and dangers every time I get in the water.

How can people learn to respect sharks?

By enjoying the stuff that Bahama Blue is doing, this visual documenting the Bahamas makes it real for people. That helps.

Swarm of Thimble Jellyfish present clearly against darker nighttime waters
Swarm of Thimble Jellyfish presents clearly against darker nighttime waters

Thanks Mark! More about Mark Rackley@ www.markrackleyproductions.com

Experience day and night on a CORAL reef colony, and find out who is best hidden away when the sun goes down and the come sharks out!

Bahama Blue is a six-part documentary series created by award-winning producers Ian Herring and Maija Leivo of Parallax Film Productions. Bahama Blue airs in Canada May on the Love Nature channel and also on Animal Planet around the world.

Interview with Andy Casagrande for World Oceans Day

Andy Casagrande on set of Bahama Blue
Andy Casagrande on set of Bahama Blue

In the lead up to World Oceans Day on June 8, we spoke with award winning cinematographer Andy Casagrande. Andy specializes in wildlife and natural history documentaries around the world.

Andy’s vision is to inspire people to care about our planet and its vanishing wildlife. For Bahama Blue, Andy filmed numerous underwater sequences with animals like Sperm Whales, Blainville’s Beaked Whales, Manatees, Octopuses and Sharks.

People are always curious about his experiences with the last. Here are Andy’s thoughts about diving with this often misunderstood creature, the shark:

Diving with sharks can be a rather dangerous activity for obvious reasons. Sharks are wild predators that specialize in hunting and feeding on prey that sometimes resembles the same shape & size as a human. Thus, it’s not hard to understand why diving with sharks can be a bit daunting. However, on most occasions, if you use common sense and don’t dive in murky water, don’t dive with bait, avoid contact with the sharks and simply don’t freak out, you can enjoy these surreal underwater encounters with these living sea monsters.

When I say sea monsters, I’m not saying sharks are monsters, quite the contrary. Sharks are simply marine predators that have been around millions of years hunting their food to survive. They are not malicious and menacing, they are merely existing.

I have been diving with ‘dangerous’ sharks worldwide for the past 15 years, with my specialty being Great White Sharks, and luckily, I have never been bitten by a shark. I say ‘luckily’ because yes, luck does play a factor. The bottom line is that every single shark out there is an individual and they all have unique and vastly different personalities. If you are diving with a friendly shark, life is good and you can peacefully share the same liquid space with a majestic top predator. However, If you are swimming with a not-so-friendly-shark or perhaps a hungry or territorial shark, then you should make your safest and calmest exit from the water and stick to watching Bahama Blue instead!

Bahama Blue (c) 2014 Parallax Film Productions Inc.

Every year thousands of people flock to the Bahamas for a relaxing vacation on the beach. Other folks want to add some adventure to their travel. How do you remain safe if you decide to go on a Shark Dive?

Andy has some Ocean Awareness tips for these travelers:

Five Tips for Safe & Successful Shark Dive

1)  Avoid diving in murky water with sharks as this can lead to sharks mistaking you for food.

2)  Dive with experienced shark guides and dive operators and always dive with a reliable dive buddy.

3)  Don’t get too close to the bait – or you just might become the bait yourself 😉

4)  Bring a camera or a small stick to act as a prod, in case the sharks get a bit too “friendly”.

5)  Avoid touching the sharks and use common sense to stay safe and have fun!

Thanks Andy!

World Oceans Day is June 8. This year’s theme is Healthy oceans, Healthy planet.

Saturday May 23rd is the World Oceans Day Tweet Chat with Andy Casagrande. Send us your questions via www.twitter.com/BahamaBlueTV or to our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/BahamaBlue

Bahama Blue is a six-part nature series produced by Parallax Film and broadcast on the Love Nature channel in Canada.

International Broadcast Dates Announced for Bahama Blue

Bahama Blue

As many of you know, Bahama Blue is currently airing in Canada on Love Nature on Wednesdays at 10 pm.  You can also catch up from Canada via their online videos.

Much of Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Africa are also seeing Bahama Blue on their Animal Planet or Discovery Channel television schedules.  Here are some sample broadcast schedules:

Estonia   Poland   Finland

We’ve learned that Focus Italy will begin their broadcast run this Sunday, May 24.  Click here for details.

In Asia we have premiere dates and other information for the following territories:

India – premieres daily at 8pm from Jun 1-8.  We have more details here.

Taiwan – every Mon at 10 pm, starting Jun 8
Australia and New Zealand – every Friday at 7.30 pm, starting Jun 19. Learn more here.
Southeast Asia – every Fri at 9 pm, starting Jun 26
Japan – first episode on Jul 13, 11 pm

If you spot a Bahama Blue listing, let us know on Facebook or Twitter!




Natural History Discovery Made During Bahama Blue Production

This week’s blog post comes from Dr. Elizabeth (Betsy) Stoner who provided loads of information and logistical support to our latest project.  She made an amazing natural history discovery during the production of Bahama Blue and we asked her to tell us what happened.

Betsy reports:

One of the greatest thrills a scientist can have is discovering something “new” in the natural world, such as stumbling across an undocumented species, or witnessing a never-before-seen animal behavior. Though this rarely occurs, I had the fortune to make a discovery regarding two unpopular animals: jellyfish, and venomous worms.

The Upside-down Jellyfish (Cassiopea spp.)
The Upside-down Jellyfish (Cassiopea spp.)

During the filming of “Bahama Blue”, the Parallax team and I were documenting the mangrove jellyfish (Cassiopea spp.), also known as the upside-down jellyfish due to its unique life history orientation.

Although these jellyfish are important animals in mangrove ecosystems, human disturbances can cause these jellyfish to bloom, or increase in abundance, potentially harming other marine animals and plants. A predator could help keep Cassiopea densities in check, but to date, no animal had been recorded killing these jellyfish!  However, during filming in April 2014, as I observed the behavior of a Cassiopea that had settled to the bottom of a mangrove-lined tidal creek on Abaco Island, The Bahamas, an extremely large bristle worm appeared out of the crevices of the coral bedrock and proceeded to devour the jellyfish.

Over the course of the next twenty minutes, several more massive worms appeared and joined the feast, leaving no trace of the jellyfish. This remarkable and dramatic event was captured on film by the Bahama Blue team, which I subsequently documented in following months during a jellyfish feeding experiment.  One theory as to why the worms eat the jellyfish? The worms may incorporate venom from stinging cells found inside the bodies of jellyfish into their own tissues as a defense against their predators. This discovery and the follow-up experimental work was recently featured in the May 2015 Volume of Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment.

Here at Parallax Films we couldn’t be prouder of Betsy and her exciting new research discoveries.  We wish her every success in her future work.  You can learn more about Betsy on her website.

Dr. Elizabeth (Betsy) Stoner is a marine ecologist and jellyfish expert. Her research broadly focuses on human-driven benthic jellyfish blooms and how they influence other animals and plants in coastal marine ecosystems.  Most of her research takes place in The Bahamas, where she is happily nestled in mangrove forests and seagrass beds on a regular basis. When she isn’t getting stung by jellyfish or handling venomous bristle worms, she can be found working in the urban jungle of Miami, FL, helping students who are underrepresented in the sciences pursue their dreams of becoming professional scientists.  

Behind the Magical Moments: Capturing Bahama Blue


For most people the word Bahamas conjures up images of white sand beaches, rum drinks and great sunsets.  But for documentary director Ian Herring, his perspective changed when he visited in 1996 to film lemon sharks.  “We were standing in a Mangrove swamp,” he explains. “There were full-grown sharks over two meters long in this really shallow water.  It was such a contradiction to see them in this way.  I think coming back, to film again, was to reconcile what I thought I knew with what I witnessed.”

Bahama Blue is a six-part series captured in Ultra High Definition cinematography exploring the diverse ecosystems that are stretched across the chain of limestone islands we know as the Bahamas.  In classical documentary form, Bahama Blue focuses on important actors:  the creatures themselves.  With patience, the team was able to locate and film these animals in their natural habitat.  “Our idea is shift away from the humans and just let the animals and their behaviours reveal the story in a fresh and entertaining way,” says Herring.  “The pressure was on award-winning cinematographers like director of photography Sean White, and underwater camera operators Andy Brandy Casagrande IV and Mark Rackley.  Filming a natural history series like this means managing the three W’s:  Weather, wildlife and water.  It’s never routine.”

This also meant finding a balance with arguably the most famous occupants of the Bahamas: their sharks.  “I understand the obsession,” says Herring.  “Having been in the water with them, you really get a sense of their power and how perfectly adapted they are to the ocean environment.”  With at least forty different types of sharks, the Bahamas has become a world leader in their protection, having fully banned the shark trade in 2011.  “What we learned is that when you protect apex predators like sharks, it benefits the whole ecosystem,” he adds.  “So to focus on the other creatures within this environment was also very attractive to me.”

Bahama Blue (c) 2014 Parallax Film Productions Inc.

How does a filmmaker from Canada navigate such a mysterious and diverse place like the Bahamas?

“The best way is through the researchers and scientists.  They are an amazing network of people who have a specialized knowledge of the Bahamas.  It’s not a large community – everybody knows each other and the research that is going on.  Once you get connected to this network, you discover things you never knew existed.  And someone can tell you exactly where to find them or offer to take you there,” recalls Herring.

This technique resulted in some lucky finds.  “Birds, for example, are hard to film,” he explains.  “They are creatures of the sky and we are creatures of the land.  But coming back from a day of shooting iguanas with wildlife biologist Joe Wasilewski, he pointed out a solitary bird stalking the tidal flats:  the Reddish Egret, a rare white phase type that stands a meter tall.  “My initial reaction to this was a pretty bird standing on the beach, not much more than that,” remembers Herring.  “But Joe pointed out that the egret had a particular way of feeding.  This shy bird would herd the fish in the shallows and get them corralled in a group, then strike and take out a fish.  It sounded amazing, but it seemed really unlikely that it would do so while we were watching.”

“Our director of photography Sean White was filming juvenile lemon sharks from the beach and they had finally arrived.  He said if we want to film the egret we would have to relocate.  It was a classic filmmaker’s dilemma:  a shark in the hand or a bird in the bush, so to speak. My initial response was, ‘No! Don’t move because this bird will never do what you want in front of the camera.’  Within half a minute of me saying this, it suddenly started its hunting behaviour.  Sean made a quick switch and managed to capture its spectacular leaps and corralling.  It was running through the shallows opening its wings, flapping them and herding this group of fish until they were literally bursting out of the water.  It was fantastic! This was a magical moment in the world of documentary filmmaking that required skill but also came down to listening to the local experts and a bit of luck.”


In addition to the wildlife, the geography of the Bahamas also provided amazing opportunities for filming.  The Bahamian caves and blue holes are unknown to most travellers to the Bahamas because only certified cave divers are able to access these subterranean features.  On one hand they are easier to film because they are not going anywhere, unlike creatures who may or may not show up.  But on the other hand, you must bring everything you need to survive with you, including air and light to see and film by.

“So the technical challenges make it quite dangerous to film.  But we are not focusing on that in the program, the human danger, ” explains Herring. “We purposefully focus on the geology and special nature of these formations.”

With spectacular imagery, Bahama Blue is both entertaining and educational, drawing the viewer into the lives of elusive creatures, yet highlighting the fragility of the ocean environment.  In a market dominated by character-based television programming, Herring believes that there is still an appetite for natural history programming.  “There is room in our lives for us to be inspired and filled with wonder.  There really is a value to that.”

Bahama Blue was produced by award-winning Canadian producers Ian Herring and Maija Leivo of Parallax Film Productions.

Bahama Blue premieres in Canada on Wednesday May 6, 2015 on the Love Nature channel.

Check out our Facebook page and Tweet us @BahamaBlueTV.