Saturday, March 17, 2012


There is a house in Mississippi that is deeply connected to my past.

The longer I walk down the path of discovering who and what whales are, the more convinced I am that they can provide us with a greater understanding of who we are, where we came from, and new and beneficial ways to invent our future.

This gradual appreciation from my work with whales triggered the need to better understand my own origins. My mother had told me about Travelers Rest, the plantation where her father, Richard Wright, was born in 1908. His grand father was a slave on that plantation, and the family stayed on as share croppers, as far as I understand, after slavery ended. That is how baby Richard came to enter this world on that plantation, and went on to rock the world with his autobiographical story Black Boy – most people’s first genuine notion of what it was really like to grow up and become a black man in a deeply racist, exploitative and intellectually stagnant environment.

I sometimes thought about Travelers Rest the way people tend to think about making a family tree… a passing curiosity with very little to connect it with the more pressing concerns and interests of the moment.

But Whale Like Me changed this. In strange and synergistic ways that all came to spell the same message: the time had come to find Travelers Rest.

The first connection came from a dim but growing awareness that the aspect of whales that resonates so strongly in me is that, though they possess the characteristics of persons: self-awareness, complex and subtle social behavior, culture, abstract thought, etc… they are not recognized or treated as persons by human beings. Their official place in our system remains that of a resource, to be exploited in various ways. Yes, conserved and protected to a certain extent, but not in a way that recognizes their actual nature. The protection we confer to them is of the kind we might extend to a possession, rather than to a person.

When the awareness bloomed into its full picture: I saw as clear as day that because many of my own ancestors had been treated in this way, an unconscious bond with whales existed. Unconscious until that moment.

Not only the Africans taken from West Africa to become slaves in the Southern states of the USA, ancestors through my mother’s father… but my father’s ancestors, Africans who endured the colonial era in West Africa; my mother’s mother’s family, Polish Jews who endured the Holocaust; and my grandfather’s grandmother’s family, Native Americans who endured the theft of their land and the eradication of their culture.

If slavery had not been abolished, what would my life be like today? To who do I owe the chance I have been given at a relatively charmed existence complete with freedom, food, respect, a roof over my head, education? Complete with rights and the inherent recognition of my personhood: the value of my individual essence as a valuable component of the greater society?

The answer can be a long one if we were to trace the thousand – perhaps millions – of people of all colors and creeds who in various ways helped weigh against slavery and segregation. Even longer should we include all those who saved their families from, and fought and resisted against Nazi Germany. Even longer if we consider those Native Americans who found ways to survive in the New World forced upon them, and the people who extended a hand of friendship to them.

There is a shorter, more direct answer if we remain focused on the heritage I identify most with and the core elements of that thread: my grandfather, and before him the people who started the process that culminated in recognizing the personhood and rights of Africans in the USA.

Abolition has its roots in a philosophical question: one that might sound quaint to us today. The question was: do Africans have souls? The people who questioned the ‘common sense’ of the time started a ball rolling that has culminated in the relatively enlightened state of play today. I owe those thinkers a debt of recognition for their forward thinking and the courage to speak out against the absurd 'wisdom' of their times.

More personally, I owe my grandfather the legacy of education, truth-seeking, and risk-taking in pursuit of that truth. These things were more important than anything to him, and made him one of the most celebrated American authors of all time, at home and overseas. His words have profoundly affected the history of his country, and the lives of countless people for whom his experience resonated strongly.

The moment I fully realized the connection between my curiosity about whales and my own family history was a moment of powerful gratitude, to all my ancestors, and all the truth-seekers who helped my ancestors survive their trials… and in the same moment, I knew this was something that had to be paid forward. I had to follow in the footsteps of those to whom I owe so much, and give to another that which had been given to me.

Today, the modern equivalent of the question “do Africans have souls?” is “are whales persons?” It is the same question about the essence of beings that are very different, and yet essentially the same as us. It is the same attempt to properly define the relationship with that Other, as we begin to see the reflection of our own essence in its existence.

Realizing this threw a sudden and compelling perspective on my journey into the world of cetaceans. Everything fell sharply into focus and from that point on, I no longer felt like I was wandering blindly, following clues towards who knows what. The end result remained unknowable, but the path itself had become reassuring and familiar – as the road home from somewhere new does, when the first moments of recognition set in.

So naturally the plantation, where my ancestors had been slaves, jumped from being a passing curiosity to a central piece of the puzzle I was grappling with.

Then there was the plantation’s name. Travelers Rest.

During the production of Whale Like Me, I have been around the world four times, spread my life over three continents, taken so many stratosphere-polluting flights that making the film a game-changer has become a question of karmic balancing just to offset the harm my flying has done. I’ve gone a fair distance towards learning Japanese, spoken and written. Due to budgetary constraints I’ve performed the jobs of nine people at various times, and depending on the size of the actual crew at any given time, on average the jobs of four people simultaneously, for the past 3 years – always ensuring that the end-result met a required standard of quality. And this not only without pay but while draining my own financial resources relentlessly and to breaking point, to make things happen, supplementing the generous but sporadic support of others.

The growing sense that the result of these efforts will be well worth it all cannot create energy and resources indefinitely – there comes a time when the tank really is empty.

By the time I reached Traveler’s Rest three years after starting production on Whale Like Me, I was running on the last fumes available to me. Would I find relief there?

Locating Travelers Rest was a quest in and of itself, and with only 24 hours to spend in Mississippi and no map to the place, the success in finding it ultimately sprung from synchronicities I cannot begin to explain.

Accompanied by M, a dear friend who had recently lost her mother, and J, a cameraman referred to me at the last minute during the couple of days I had in Atlanta before heading south – we drove slowly around the long, circular driveway to the front of the plantation house.

For more, best wait to see the film.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

The Desert

A huge thank you to everyone who cheered me on, and contributed to the desert run fundraiser. The run is over of course, but we’re leaving the fundraiser page up for a while longer in case anyone wants to contribute after the fact.

The Sahara was beyond beautiful, and punishing in the extreme. I don’t suppose it is really possible to imagine what such a run will be like until the experience arrives – likewise, it might be pointless to try to describe it, but I can try.

The terrain varied from hard packed dirt, to hard packed sand, to varying textures and composition of sand, soft and hard, as we progressed into the desert. The dunes, when we reached them, were majestic and sensual in their shape against the sky. Depending on the place and angle to the blue above, the yellow sand took on tinges of green, pink, white, greys and blue. They offered no shade but their mere presence was refreshing compared to stretches of endless flat.

In many places, 40 million year old fossilized shells carpeted the sand under foot.

And of course there was the heat. Everyone tried to cover as much ground before the heat really got going around 10am. For the better athletes, this was almost enough time to finish the entire distance for the day (between 38 and 43 kilometers). This meant that on top of their physical advantage, they escaped most of the biggest hardship of the event – the crippling heat. For the others (me included), the days invariably turned into a crawl through the swelter. Typically 42 or 43 degrees Celsius, without a cloud in the sky or any landscape features to seek shelter under – it was just us, our packs, and the furnace. Regular sips of water and electrolytes were the only weapon against dangerous dehydration.

On that front, I did really well. Constant sipping allowed me to stay on par with the rate at which water and minerals were vaporizing from my body. Many times I felt light headed and a little nauseous but the scales never tipped beyond return. Others were not so lucky and had to receive IV fluids after fits of vomiting and collapse.

I only made it part way through day 3 of 7, however. My weakness turned out to be my knees: by mid afternoon of day two, they were in agony. The right knee screamed upon impact with the ground, but the left one suffered the opposite problem and burned during the lifting of the right foot.

One finds ways of negotiating with the pain: a rhythm and manner that works around the injuries to an extent - but the problem is these strategies are highly dependent on the terrain in order to work. In most places, the resistance of the sand was unpredictable: what looked like a firm area could easily cave in, and what appeared soft could often be much firmer. The pain management postures would backfire horribly upon such misjudgments – and anticipation of such mistakes made every step a roll of the dice.

By the time the sun was getting low in the sky of day two, I had started chanting a spontaneous, wordless song, much like the songs my Choctaw Native American ancestors may have sung. The tones created continuity for my mind to support itself with. The willing of the sound aided the willing of the forward motion, and gave a sort of timeless context to the pain, softening its jagged edges. I would not have been capable of imagining how this could possibly help before the moment I started the hum and song, and before that moment, I had no idea I was going to do it. The sound gave birth to itself as an answer to the hardship, and the hardship welcomed it and responded positively. I really had little to do with it – I was a kind of bemused middleman, mediating the conversation between pain and song.

I arrived into camp perhaps half an hour before cut off time that evening, but without a watch, I couldn’t know I was going to make it: the twilight dumped adrenaline into me and my 2-3 km/h limp turned into a semi-run for the last stretch, which happened to be the scaling of an immense, soft dune, followed by an equally big descent and a succession of smaller dunes on up to the finish.

Adrenaline masks the pain for a moment, but the damage to already injured tissue is still happening whether it is felt or not. Once in the tent, I lay down and when I finally realized food was necessary before sleep, getting to my feet again was almost impossible.

I saw others limping around the camp that evening and imagined that like me, they were hoping for a miracle to happen during the night: to wake up reconstituted and pain-free.

It is amazing what the human body can do with a night’s sleep but there are limits. I was able to stand easily enough the next morning, but the pain was still very much present. So I continued to hope that somehow, I would find a way to negotiate with my poor condition: some new posture and gait that had eluded me the day before.

The desert progressed into full-blown dunes that morning: magnificent contours etched with light and shadow by the early light. Sheer faces dropping into sinkholes. Dune slopes rippled with microcosmic dunes of their own: sand echoing its patterns on and on, probably in ways my human mind could not perceive. The thought of the alliance of so many grains of sand to form such a masterpiece makes the mind become still with appreciation. But it doesn’t heal busted knees.

I monitored my pace. This first couple of hours would be my fastest, with the air still relatively cool and my knees at their best. Things would inevitably only get worse as the sun angled into the best position to scorch this part of the earth, and my knees losing what small relief the night had given them and slipping further with the renewed abuse.

By the end of the first 8 km stage, I knew I would not make the cut off time. In order to do so I would have to maintain the current pace all day, without stopping to rest, and despite the increasing difficulty of the terrain lying ahead. The nerve channels from my knees conjured a recurring memory of Jim Morrisson’s musing on being ‘lost in a romance, wilderness of pain’. That was what lay ahead of me – superimposed on the physical wilderness: hour after hour of trying to bargain with a wilderness of pain. It brought to mind tales of how people try to bargain with the devil, despite his infinite advantages in the realm of cunning.

The choice became either stopping there and then, or continuing on and risking permanent damage. I opted to ‘live to fight another day’.

That afternoon in the tent, Dan – who would go on to win the race – showed me exercises to foster proper alignment of the knees. Movements you want to do alone really – to protect your street cred.

I know I can fix this liability with the proper training. My mind is strong enough for the event, and so is my stamina. I never lost my sense of humor, not even in the moments of greatest pain, and lack of physical strength never threatened to end the show. One year to correct my posture and gait so that my knees don’t flare up – and I think I have a chance of finishing the full 250 kms.

In other words Sahara: I’ll be back.

The Valley of the Whales is intimately linked with the Declaration of Cetacean Rights in my mind, and I will return there reaffirming my commitment time after time.

In those 56 hours in the desert, I covered 88 kms – an average of roughly 40 kms per day. Before the event, the most ground I had ever covered in a day was 25 kms, with a much lighter pack, on far easier terrain and in far gentler weather.

I returned to Cairo weighing a full kilo and a half less. I was crippled for days but felt strangely free – my body more at ease than it had ever felt since childhood. The only way I could describe it would be a sense of infinite space within the body – joints open to the world, all currents flowing. My body was singing.

I thought about the tens of hundreds of thousands of generations of whales that span the time divide between Archeoceti and the whales I have met in this modern world. I thought about how whales briefly walked the earth before returning to the sea. The memory of the deepest, richest blue of the waters surrounding the Cook Islands painted such a contrast to the perfectly arid world I had just crawled through. The curious, playful intelligence of the humpback whales I met in the bluest of worlds now exists in my mind alongside the mute, fossilized remains of their ancestors, defying the eons in the dry vastness of the desert.

My body sang, and I thought these thoughts… and felt to be the richest man alive.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Three days to the Sahara run

I’ve been in Egypt for a week now.

We completed an underwater shoot in the Red Sea – and I have had a direct taste of the desert conditions that will be prevalent during the race. The heat is merciless in the Sahara. Just looking at the place makes you thirsty, and under exertion, the mouth and throat dry out within minutes. The Valley of the Whales is an exception: shade can be found beneath the rock formations... but I think 90 percent of the race will go through areas where there is no shade at all.

The Valley of the Whales is incredible. I got the distinct impression that it is a place I will return to many times… not just because I knew I’d be running through it again just a week later, but because the place will draw me back many times in the years to come. It is objectively stunning – charismatic and majestic in its dry silence, gentle curves and timelessness, but it could be that it resonates particularly strongly with my own goals for whales’ rights.

Thank you endlessly for the donations already made – Ocean Alliance and Whale Like Me are very grateful! I’m hoping everyone who reads this will be able to make a contribution. Beyond the funds themselves and the powerful work you are enabling, you’ll be helping me feel that my ordeal is meaningful. I’d like to feel I’m generating more awareness and funds running 250 kms through the 45 degree desert heat… than I would by standing in the street with a tin can and some fliers!

The environment will only gain effective protection once it is recognized as having intrinsic rights of its own, and whales offer us a natural starting point. We’re at an incredibly exciting time: as a species, we’re finally on the verge of considering that life forms beyond our own should have intrinsic legal rights. It is a moment that will echo far into our future, the first step to LEGALLY defining our place in nature in a way that maintains balance.

But for now, though scientific evidence is accumulating, the notion of whales and dolphins as 'non-human persons' is still new and we have our work cut out for us.

So please donate, share this blog page, and the link to the fundraising page:

You can also join our mailing list.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Twelve days to the Sahara

The question most of my friends have is: have you been training?

It's a sore subject, one I try to turn to laughter – but inside I know I’m in for it.

Yes, I’ve been training – as much as I possibly could while devoting more energy than I thought I had to Whale Like Me. In other words – I haven’t been training nearly enough. Probably just enough to maintain a basic level of fitness, but each run shows me my abilities do not extend far enough to imagine I might be able to complete the Sahara race.

What I don’t tell my friends, because it would defeat the need to laugh it off, is that the longest run I have completed so far is 10 kilometers, with about half the weight I’ll have on my back at the start of the real thing. On a couple of occasions those 10 k runs have resulted in injury. Makes 35 kms per day, for seven days, seem unreasonable. And then there is the glaring fact that I have never covered 35 kilometers in a single day, walking or running.

But here is where I find strength. I plan to walk the first day. Perhaps even the second day. To get a feel of what 35 kilometers are. To get a feel for this desert - its terrain, heat, and character. Danger of serious injury, I am hoping, is greatest on the first couple of days, should I rush into things. On day three, I can start sprinkling in some runs and hopefully build upon them as the pack gets lighter.

My mind is strong – I have tested it in the wilderness before, digging deeper and deeper for resources and focus in times of great exhaustion and solitude.

My body, though unfit by marathon standards, has responded well to the training I have been able to complete. I’ve lost 6kg (that much less to drag around the desert) since I started training in March. My tendons and muscles feel healthy – certainly far healthier than they have been during the 14 years I’ve spent seated in dark rooms, working on computer generated imagery.

Most of all, there is the X factor. The whales. The Sperm whales of my dream 5 years ago. The Baird’s Beaked whales of the Sea of Japan: the sight of their death still seared in my mind. The humpback whales of the Cook Islands and how time stood still as we contemplated each other for over three hours. And the whales I will be running towards: 40 million year old whales whose bones attracted me to the Sahara in the first place.

The Valley of the Whales in front of me, the dream whales, hunted whales and Cooks whales behind me – I have a thread leading my way. I may lack in fitness compared to all the other competitors, but I know why I am there and it is for something greater than myself. If I can nudge us closer to the historic moment where we grant rights to whales and recognize them as non-human persons, I’ll marshal all the energy and resilience at my disposal to get to the Valley which lies 5 days into the race… and perhaps beyond, to the finish line.

In any event, there is no turning back. I’m somewhere over the Indian Ocean. The hollow rush of wind over the fuselage and the drone of the engines: that's the sound of the Sahara rushing towards me at 800 kph.


Please sponsor my run, and raise funds for Ocean Alliance's work and Whale Like Me.

Share the page far and wide please - I need all the help I can get!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Got camera, can film

The Whale Like Me Short Film Contest has a new partner! WDCS, Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society. WDCS is international, and focuses its work entirely on the protection of whales and dolphins. We are excited about our work together, both in promoting the contest and making sure your films are distributed to have the most impact on evolving our relationship with cetaceans.

“There is a very special connection between humans and cetaceans – lets explore it! Our environment will never be safe from human abuse until it has its own rights within the legal systems of nations. The Declaration of Cetacean Rights is pioneering the first steps in this all-important direction. With the film contest, Whale Like Me and WDCS aim to allow everyone with a camera to take these first steps with us – this is new, exciting ground and everyone’s view point can help us navigate it successfully”

Malcolm Wright
Director, Whale Like Me


The contest aims to encourage people around the world to think about our relationship with these amazing creatures. Your films can explore how you view our relationship with whales. For instance, should they be protected or used for human consumption? What does whaling mean to you? Are you for or against it and why you feel that way? Are whales like us? In what ways do you feel we are similar? Different?

Grand prize

Two return airfares to New Zealand and a whale watching adventure with world renowned Whale Watch Kaikoura off the coast of New Zealand’s South Island. Should the winner of the grand prize be a New Zealand resident, they will win two return airfares to Japan and a whale watching adventure there.


The contest is already open for entries in the following categories: general public, professional filmmakers, under 16s, film school students, high schools.

Film duration: between 30 seconds and 4 minutes.
Deadline for submissions is 11.59pm April 20th 2012, New Zealand time.
Films can be uploaded to us after you have registered, at:
Or you can send your film as a quicktime movie or .flv burned to DVD. The physical mailing address will be given after you register.


The Whale Like Me Short Film Contest has special categories for film students, high school students, and under 16 year olds. There are awards for each category.
This is an opportunity for students to learn about whales, but also about the art and power of communicating through film-making to influence their world. They will grow from being directly involved in seeking new ways to understand and safeguard our oceans.
For student entries, their teacher should first register their class at:
Students can make individual films, or team up to work together on films. Any student can make more than one film submission, and work on any number of teams.

The march of History

In Helsinki, Finland, on May 22nd 2010, experts in marine biology, philosophy, law, ethics and conservation met and determined that cetaceans qualify as non-human persons. They suggested that, as persons, whales and dolphins should be protected by rights.
The question of inalienable rights for whales is of great historical significance, as we have not yet internationally recognized such rights for a non-human life form before.

Online gallery of contestants

We want the people who highlight this unique crossroads in human history to be remembered: send a photo and short description of what motivates you to make a short film for the Contest. We will give you a place on the ‘Whale of Fame’ online gallery of contestants. Send your photo and note to

Saturday, May 7, 2011

The Valley of the Whales

Jude Ryan got back in touch recently. He is one of my oldest friends from the days when, both nine years old, we met after moving to Paris and confronted learning the French language together in school.

Jude has accumulated an impressive travel record, and amongst those travels, a penchant for endurance events.
He ran an ultra marathon in the Gobi desert, which involved covering roughly 250 kms on foot, in the space of 7 days.

Although far from his level of training, I too have on occasion put my body through some grueling but rewarding adventures. In Tasmania with my partner Kelsi, we carried 30 kg packs for a distance of 34 kilometers in two days, sometimes through mud we would sink mid-thigh deep into AND stopping to film along the way. On a couple of occasions, alone and with Kelsi and others, I carried those same 30 kgs up into a remote region of the Northern Flinders ranges in South Australia, under a relentless sun.

So Jude and I have long been toying with the idea of participating in an endurance event together. I doubt I could keep up with him as he is a runner. I really am not. But I might just make it to the finish line.

The reality is that apart from those anomalous spurts of adventure, I have spent the past 12 years in dark rooms, in front of computers. The only rate I raised was not my heart's, but the speed of renders of computer generated imagery for blockbuster movies.

Jude probably knew he had the perfect hook when he contacted me about the Sahara desert race. Same format as the Gobi desert more or less: 40 kms per day for 6 days, and 10 kms the last day, for a total of 250 kms in 7 days. But the race crosses a place called the Valley of the Whales, and as Jude explained this location to me, I felt the familiar tug of a decision I would many times curse, before ultimately treasuring it for the rest of my life.

In the Valley of the Whales, paleontologists have discovered the fossilized remains, millions of years old, of whales that had only just recently (in evolutionary terms) returned to live in the oceans after an abortive attempt at life on land. The remains had small rear legs which the whale probably trailed behind it as it swam, without much use for them (since they eventually completely disappeared).

The poetry of running an endurance event through such a place to raise awareness and funds for Whale Like Me and the work of the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society was too strong to resist. Somewhere, I would have to find my running legs to make it through the resting place of whale ancestors who had abandoned theirs. A part of the Sahara desert, that once shallow sea is now one of the hottest and driest places on our planet. To run there, and then by night imagine the sound of the sea and the call of whales now dead almost 40 million years...

Training began at the end of March in Bali. I have to work my way up from a pathetic 5 minute run that first day along the Sanur beach front... to being capable of running roughly 2 hours and walking another 5, with a 10 kilo pack, day after day for a week.

Without underestimating the difficulty, I feel I have a chance. Early May, and I am now able to run one hour per day with a 5 kg pack. After a few years of work for the advancement of a new way to relate to whales and dolphins, it feels amazing to be able to do something simple, direct and physical towards that goal along side the usual work with concepts, digital communication and pre-production work on the feature documentary Whale Like Me. The effects of abstract work are long term and during the effort itself, their results are hard to gauge. This requires a sustained act of faith - over the weeks, months and years of hard work - that the vision is worth it all.

Running, in comparison, is pure simplicity. One foot in front of the other. Each step gets you a step further. After so many steps (a quantifiable amount), you reach your goal. Never mind that it hurts like hell. Never mind that this is the type of race seasoned athletes turn to as they seek greater challenges. I have embraced this and I'm grateful to Jude for having opened this door for me, to the Valley of the Whales.

To all my friends, and all those who support Whale Like Me, there is a standing invitation to join us to run through the Valley of the Whales in October 2011. You can also sponsor our run. If you are interested in either, write to

If you have a friend who you think might be 'our kind of crazy', connect us please.

You can find out more about the endurance event at:

Friday, May 6, 2011

You can have two but not three...

Things do not always manifest in the order we expect them to - hence the lack of updates on the short film contest, folks: we're holding off so that we can give all of the pertinent info in one go, and we expect it all to be in place by the end of May!

For now, I'm back in Japan, ramping up for principle photography to start mid June. I'm doing my best to learn as much Japanese as I can cram into my poor brain: a mission of some importance since I'll be spending close to a month on my own in the whaling town and will probably feel isolated and alienated as it is, without even considering the language barrier.

Progress is good: I can write and read hirigana characters (if you give me long enough) and I will learn katakana next week. Vocabulary is expanding and I can recognize a few kanjis. Learning Japanese is a real adventure, with moments of intense love and hate. One day, I hate kanjis: I find them overly complex, with little squiggles that seem arbitrary and annoyingly slow to draw, let alone remember... sometimes representing a word that would take a second to write in hirigana, katakana or romaji. Other days, I love them: I see ones that I recognize on signs in the street and feel this warm glow of understanding, like getting glimpses of a cozy lounge with a fire place from outside in the cold. And they tell me that sometimes kanji can be very economical, using one ideogram to express what would otherwise take several words. I must trust that they do not lie about this.

The tragic events here are still unfolding. The ground shakes every day in Tokyo, usually only slightly but sometimes with a good jolt - many more aftershocks of various magnitudes are expected. The Fukushima situation 'seems' stable but what do I know: the inner circles of nuclear tinkering don't share their inner-most thoughts with me. With so much controversy over the effects of 'low level radiation' exposure, I've found the most prudent path is to eat very few leafy vegetables, and to stick to bottled water. Though the movement of at-risk produce is supposed to be strictly controlled, there have been a couple of cases of tainted produce making it to market in Tokyo over the past 6 weeks. Likewise with the tap water: current levels of radionuclides are too low to really mention, but should that change following some nightmarish development at Fukushima, who is to tell the information would reach me before I took a long drink from a tall, cool glass of very hot water?

Tokyoites are subdued right now - the national character imposes a general observance of propriety in the face of disaster. It is not appropriate to enjoy oneself too much, to consume too much, whether it be power or food or other goods. This is, in essence, an impressive show of solidarity in the face of hardship and I have great admiration for it. Its definitely preferable to looting, scamming and general selfishness often exhibited in other parts of the world when things go seriously wrong. It is the flip side of the sometimes exasperating respect for authority, protocol and established patterns of behavior, and a powerful reminder that we all have the flaws of our qualities, and the qualities of our flaws.

Whale Like Me will not be the same film it would have been, had we made it before March 11th 2011. The changed face of this nation has influenced our exploration into the stalemate over whaling in a number of ways, and has increased the potent symbolism of a number of events and characters featuring in the film.

Script, breakdown and schedule are being worked on simultaneously and organically, trying to optimize the work so that we are best prepared for the smaller shoots we will be doing before the real schedule in June commences.

The reality on the budget front is grim: we're working with one third of what we need. So grim that even though it took all my energy and processing power to get myself and the gear over here and set things into motion, I am tempted to take up a VFX job offer in Sydney that would take me away from the work here for 3 weeks. It would be very disruptive to the film making process, reducing the amount of Japanese I can learn by perhaps two thirds, and halving the time I get to spend with co-director Hideki for planning and prepping... but the reality is that the money I can earn on this job could end up saving the Japanese shoot if nothing else bears fruit between now and early July.

Its a diabolically imperfect situation, involving not only time working on the film and money to fund it, but my own personal energy which is stretched thin as it is. Carrying out all the pre-production planning for a third of the feature length documentary, script writing, cramming my brain with Japanese lessons, AND training to run an ultra marathon (yes, more on that later) might seem like some sort of hard limit. But flying off to Sydney to work long hours on a VFX job, added to that list, gives a perfect triangle of which I can choose two corners but not three. Enough physical energy to survive, enough money to scrape through the shoot, and enough time to craft the shoot so that it is worth all the effort being put into it.

Fate may have decided for me already as the VFX job remains in limbo. It turns out the Australian company does not yet have a green light for the work, and this may be the best outcome. There is still time for funding to materialize from a couple of sources, but the time I would lose from prep work here with Hideki could never be recuperated.

Also we have been graced by money-saving help from a number of sources. The team is proving to be highly committed, with all core participants willing to work with little or no pay during this period. My dear friend and colleague Dylan Neil is flying himself to Japan in June to join us as second unit DP, complete with his own gear. This, I publicly confess, means I owe him. Big time. Possibly 'my first born' big time. Dylan, would you like my first born?

So we're going to scrape through one way or another. The alchemy of choosing which corners the film can afford to cut while maintaining its quality and core power is one we intend to excel at.

So did I say something about an ultra marathon? I believe I did. Details to come tomorrow.

Lots of love to you all, wherever you are on our magnificent Ocean Planet!

--- Want to contribute to our shooting budget? Come toss us a few coins at here! ---