Behind the Scenes: "Mountain in the Sea"/"Filming Secrets"
by Mark Conlin, cinematographer

     People always ask me about the big critters. What is it like to swim with dolphins? Isn't it scary to be so close to sharks? The answer I give never seems to satisfy anyone: At the end of a project, the animals I end up loving the most are usually not the big ones, but the little ones.

     The creatures you really get to know are the ones you spend hours and days with. The animals that become your friends are the ones that get really tired of your noise and bubbles and lights, and allow you to become part of their daily lives when they give up trying to chase you.

     My favorite fish by far is the sarcastic fringehead. The name alone is enough to make it my favorite. How can a fish be sarcastic? Well, they are, with a little grumpy and cranky mixed in as well. They live in old, abandoned turban shells with just their heads sticking out. They are the fish equivalent of hermit crabs.

     When you swim up to most fishes they give you a sort of confused look and swim away towards the cover of the reef. By contrast, the sarcastic fringehead seems to say, "Who are you, what do you want, and why don't you leave?" The fringehead has no shortage of attitude, to be sure, and is completely unfazed by the fact you are about 1000 times bigger than it is.

     When two male fringeheads take up residence in nearby shells there is bound to be trouble. Their territorial display is all show, but is still very impressive for such a small fish. Their mouths are huge bullhorns, trumpeting their boundless egos. No one gets hurt, but the loser has to move on to less green pastures. This leaves the king fringehead to reign over all he sees.


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