Behind the Scenes: Cathedral in the Sea (continued)
by Mark Conlin, cinematographer
Another of my favorite critters in Cathedrals in the Sea was the mantis shrimp. The story I'll tell about these creatures is not so much how we filmed them, but about what goes on when the cameras are not rolling. A show's success always comes down to the people. One of the things we do on each production is hire a good local marine biologist. Dr. Jack Engle probably knows more about the creatures that live in the waters of Southern California than anyone.
Jack was reviewing Howard's latest script and asked if he had considered filming on the sand slopes of Catalina Island. Howard, never one to turn down a challenge, booked the boat and we were off. When we arrived at the site it looked bleak. Just sand, a little mud and poor visibility. At one time or another, we all had swum through these areas. Never to stop and look, since it was just muddy sand, but to swim over on the way to the next reef. We knew things lived there, but just not exciting things. So, we followed Jack into the water with a severe lack of enthusiasm. He motioned for us to lay still on the bottom and watch. Soon one pair of stalked eyes appeared from its burrow. Another shrimp, farther away, left his burrow and began to feed. Stopping to look, we realized the entire sand flat was alive with activity. Howard's eyes began to light up.
For several days we filmed the mantis shrimp's daily chores and rituals. But Jack's lesson has stuck with me. An environment does not require lush coral reefs to be filled with amazing animals. Even the drab and boring environments in the ocean contain animals, wild and wonderful, that need our protection. A few people have come up to me and said, "Hey, I have never even seen a mantis shrimp before!" For me, that makes it all worthwhile.
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