Behind the scenes with debut director Dana Frankoff and crew
Did the desire to make your own film evolve out of the skills you acquired through your day job in production management at Pixar or was it more a yearning to raise awareness of plastic pollution?
The desire to make Voice Above Water spawned from seeing plastic polution everywhere. I had to do something to help. Since filmmakeing is what I know and I love the ocean, I decided to incorpirate the two and Direct/Produce my first film in hopes of making a difference.
Please tell us how the idea for Voice Above Water came about and how you developed it.
Once I decided to make a documentary about ocean preservation, I started talking to scientists, non-profits organizations and anyone working on the current issues concerning the ocean. An employee at 4Ocean told me about fishermen who were using their boat and net to collect trash from the ocean in hopes that they could fish again. I saw the image of a small boat with a fisherman in the vast sea doing his part and knew this is the story I wanted to tell.
To what extent did you pre-plan the production before going on location? What were the key points you mapped out beforehand to capture the tone and look of the film?
We shot the film in only 2.5 days so there was A LOT of pre-production to make sure we maximized our time with Wayan. The shot list, interview questions, choosing the crew and camera equipment and all the logistics of shooting abroad were mapped out in the 6-8 months leading up to the shoot, while also leaving room for any developments that came up along the way.
How did you come across the charismatic Wayan Nyo?
Our amazing Director of Photography, Romain Calliez, went on a location scout to the island of Nusa Penida in Indonesia. He sent two photos, one was of Wayan and I knew from Wayan’s eyes and the wrinkles in his face that he had a story to tell. He ended up being a total ham for the camera which was also helpful.
The drone shots and intimate close-ups are beautifully filmed – when it came to editing were you ruthless in deciding which footage to keep?
There were definitely shots that stood out, we had such a great camera crew that it was incredible what we were able to get in 2.5 days.
What were the major challenges of the production?
Everyone on the crew did a phenomenal job and luckily the production went even better than planned. One morning when we were shooting during sunrise dolphins even jumped out of the water behind Wayan. I asked Romain if he could get that shot and he said, “this is too much”. He was totally right.
You skillfully reveal not only Wayan Nyo’s response to the devastating changes he’s seen in his local ocean over his lifetime but you also convey the richness of his simple life well lived, with family and community, gratitude and integrity. It’s a timely reminder of what really matters. Was this always your intention?
Yes, there is certainly something to living simply where you are more connected with the land that gives you an intuition about what’s important. It’s clear that Wayan has everything he needs in his village on the island of Nusa Penida. Wayan has his wife, children, grandchildren, his passion for fishing and is always connected to the ocean. I’m glad that we were able to capture his happiness around what is important. My hope is that people all over, who live near the ocean or in urban or landlocked locations, can see Wayan’s passion for taking care of the place he lives and are inspired to do the same.
What will your next documentary be about?
I’m currently working on a documentary about women ocean farmers in Hawaii and the importance underwater sea plants have on our atmosphere, nutrition and land resources.
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
Please reach out to me anytime! My favorite part about filmmaking is the relationships and conversations built around storytelling.
Director: Dana Frankoff
Producers: Dana Frankoff, Omri Ben-Canaan, Eric Ebner
Director of Photography: Romain Cailliez
Underwater DP: Sean Gilhooley
Drone Pilot: Hugo Pes
Edited by: Romain Cailliez