WASHINGTON–(COMMERCIAL THREAD) – National Geographic Documentary Films today announced the acquisition of the feature documentary Playing with sharks, by two-time Emmy-nominated director Sally Aitken, WildBear Entertainment and Dogwoof. The film documents the life of Australian icon, environmentalist and filmmaker Valerie Taylor.
Called “visually stunning,” “spellbinding” and “gorgeous” by critics after its Sundance premiere on Friday night, Playing with Sharks captures the life of a woman ahead of her time – a true trailblazer in underwater cinema. and shark research, whose life’s work has become the basis of much of what we know about sharks today. Through remarkable underwater archive footage, as well as interviews with Valérie herself, the film follows the trajectory of this daring ocean explorer, from spearfishing champion to passionate shark protector. From the birth of cage diving to Jaws hysteria, at the dawn of cage-free diving with sharks, Valérie has become a pioneering advocate for the ocean’s most maligned and misunderstood creatures.
As a young woman in Australia in the 1950s, Valerie Taylor challenged the status quo by becoming a champion of spearfishing in a male-dominated sport. She quickly traded her spear for a camera, documenting the underwater world like never before. With her husband Ron behind the camera and Valerie’s desire to get close to the creatures of the deep, the team quickly gained attention as pioneering world-class underwater filmmakers. The first to film a large white submarine, their shark footage eventually became the inspiration for a new novel and future blockbuster hit – Jaws – with Valerie and Ron having to shoot all the underwater shark scenes live.
The rest is history – Jaws has become a cultural phenomenon, breaking box office records and forever changing the film industry. Corn Jaws had other unintended consequences, solidifying sharks in the collective mentality as an underwater monster to fear and hunt. Valérie would spend the rest of her life working to set the record straight, dispel terrible misconceptions about the predator, and advocate for the protection and preservation of marine habitats such as the Great Barrier Reef.
“We couldn’t be happier to partner with Nat Geo Doc Films. It is the perfect home for Playing with sharks and we know Nat Geo will embrace and promote his important themes of shark conservation and pioneer women, ”said producer Bettina Dalton of WildBear Entertainment. “Dogwoof has been with us throughout the process as sales agents and investors; they are on the journey with us from my first pitch to Anna Godas at Sundance 2019 until the final deal, which they negotiated and concluded with great finesse. ”
“It was love at first sight when Bettina introduced us to Valerie’s story two years ago at Sundance and we decided to get involved as funders through TDog Productions (Dogwoof’s production fund),” added Anna Godas, CEO of Dogwoof. “It was the most incredible journey to see this film come to life. We couldn’t be prouder to have helped bring this project to fruition and we couldn’t have asked for a better team to design it.
“I can’t think of a more perfect film premiering at Sundance this year for our Nat Geo Docs Film banner than Playing with sharksSaid Carolyn Bernstein EVP, Global Scripted Content & Documentary Films for National Geographic. “We see it as a kind of homecoming for Valerie, after her first appearance on the cover of National Geographic magazine in June 1973. Valerie’s thirst for adventure and love for marine life leaps onto the screen. – hers is a truly unique and ambitious story and one that we look forward to sharing with audiences around the world.
Playing with sharks is created and produced by Bettina Dalton, WildBear Entertainment, and written and directed by Sally Aitken. It is produced by Alan Eson for WildBear; Anna Godas and Oli Harbottle for TDog; and Paul Wiegard for Madman Entertainment. A production of WildBear Entertainment, with the primary investment in production and development support from Screen Australia, it is developed and funded with assistance from Screen NSW.
National Geographic Documentary Films has already released director Ron Howard’s film Rebuild paradise; the Oscar-nominated and Emmy-winning feature documentary The cave; the Oscar, BAFTA and seven-time Emmy award-winning film Free solo; the winner of the Sundance Audience Award Science fair; Emmy Winners LA 92 and Jeanne, who were both included in the 15 best documentaries considered for an Oscar in 2017; and winner of the Dupont Prize Hell on Earth: The Fall of Syria and the Rise of ISIS.
About National Geographic Documentaries
National Geographic Documentary Films is committed to delivering world-class documentary feature films that cover topical, provocative and globally relevant stories from the world’s best documentary makers. National Geographic Documentary Films is a division of National Geographic Partners, a joint venture between National Geographic and 21st Century Fox. Advancing knowledge and understanding of our world has been National Geographic’s primary focus for 133 years, and now we’re committed to going deeper, pushing boundaries, going deeper for our consumers … and reaching more. 730 million people worldwide in 172 countries and 43 languages every month as we do. NGP donates 27% of our proceeds to the nonprofit National Geographic Society to fund work in science, exploration, conservation and education. For more information visit natgeotv.com Where nationalgeographic.com, or find us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Youtube, LinkedIn and Pinterest.
Founded in 2003 by Andy Whittaker, Dogwoof is a London-based documentary film company integrating production, sales and theatrical distribution in the UK. Dogwoof has released 26 Oscar-nominated documentaries so far, with four wins and three more BAFTA winners; notable titles include Oscar® and BAFTA Free solo (UK’s highest grossing documentary of 2018), BAFTA nominee Three identical strangers, nominated for an Oscar® RBG, winner of the BAFTA The act of killing and Black fish. Recent releases include double Oscar® nominations Honey country, nominated for an Oscar® The cave, and nominated for the BAFTA Apollo 11, which was the UK’s highest-grossing documentary of 2019. Dogwoof will feature six projects at Sundance 2021: Playing with sharks (a Dogwoof production), Sabaya, Philly DA, Captains of Zaatari, Seeds of deception and Ailey. Dogwoof’s TDog production investment fund currently has five feature films and two series in production; the fund focuses on feature documentaries, documentary series and remake rights, preparing the company for vertical integration.
About WildBear Entertainment
WildBear combines the skills and experience of respected creative producers Bettina Dalton, Veronica Fury, Serge Ou, Alan Eerson and Michael Tear. An integrated factual entertainment company, WildBear Entertainment works in television, theater, corporate, educational and government communications.
WildBear has been commissioned by leading international platforms such as BBC, National Geographic, Discovery, Netflix, Universal Pictures, Madman Entertainment, PBS, ZDF / Arte, CCTV, NTV, France Télévisions, Mediawan, Viasat and Australian broadcasters Nine, Seven, Ten, ABC, SBS and Foxtel.
With offices in three Australian capitals and a comprehensive catalog of completed projects, WildBear is an ideal co-production partner. WildBear also owns Content Mint (formerly Absolutely Wild Visuals), an internationally renowned archive footage library. The library contains thousands of hours of HD, 35mm, S16mm and other premium video footage focused on travel, places in the world, wildlife and nature.