|Written by Paul Mahoney|
|Wednesday, 08 July 2009 07:31|
Name: Alan Pleass – Back To The Planet
Where are you based?
Spike Island, Bristol, UK
What kind of films do you make?
Back To The Planet is an ethical video production company that produces videos and films for charities, NGOs, companies and broadcast documentaries. Basically working with businesses and organisations that want to market or educate their clients about ethical and sustainable products and services. We recently produced a series of short films about The Galapagos Isles, focusing on the local people and their everyday problems in surviving island life and the tourist trade, alongside making a promotional DVD for St Monica Trust, a Bristol based charity, promoting their new dementia care village in Sandford, North Somerset.
How would you describe what you do?
As director of a production company I have many roles from marketing, developing ideas, camera work and editing to making the tea. And they are all just as rewarding as each other. (I do love a cup of tea!) As a small company we find that the diversity of roles helps us to understand the complete process of producing a video or film, whether for a business, charity or broadcast documentary.
Who or what inspired you to work with film and why cover nature and conservation issues?
The obvious is David Attenborough but after working at Virginia Mckenna’s (actress in the film Born Free that led her to start up the charity Born Free) house many years ago (as an electrician) she inspired me to move into the world of conservation and ultimately film-making.
What is the favourite film you’ve worked on?
I will have to say that working on the series of short films based on the people that live in the Galapagos Islands is my favourite so far. Not only did I get to know the local people very well but I also spent a great deal of time working with the scientists from the Charles Darwin Foundation. They are all doing a fantastic job working on the Galapagos ecosystems and I felt it was all very inspiring and a joy to taste a small part of what they do.
What has been your biggest challenge filming in the field?
I would normally say that it was working abroad, eg. The Galapagos as it’s a foreign country and many miles away from home, but the more I think about it the more I feel that working on Springwatch for 6-8 weeks in the field, before, during and after the live show, was up there as one of the most testing times. Not only were the hours long, we were working on a live show, with a huge number of people in the overall production team but focused down in our camera team, all living and working together 24/7. It was a big challenge both mentally and physically but it was a great success at the same time.
How has technology changed your job? Has it hindered or enhanced telling the conservation story?
To be able to film a story in natural history and allow just a few friends to watch it on either your camera or Youtube, or having millions of people around the globe watching blue chip documentaries in a variety of different formats is, for me, the best way to get a message out to the greatest number of people. Digital formats have revolutionised film-making to such a degree that anyone can have a go at making a film and everyone can watch it. Broadband internet has again changed the way we watch films so we can share videos from one end of the globe to the other without ever leaving your office. It’s pretty amazing when you think about where television was 30 odd years ago.
What is your favourite place in nature?
The Sea, the ocean, the water. The space is so special and calming yet it’s a place that nature can be at its most dangerous. It is spectacular with colour and diversity of species and we still don’t completely understand how it works and have yet to visit everywhere under the surface. It’s a place for adventure, for pleasure and amazement or you can just splash about in the shallows on a hot day. There are so many ways to enjoy being in and around water and yet it is still so unpredictable it can catch you out in an instance. The power and unpredictability is nature at it’s best!
From your field experience, what is your biggest concern when it comes to the environment?
The miss treatment of the oceans; from pouring in waste products, to over fishing, to the warming of the seas, to shark finning, to a general misunderstanding that the ocean is a place to treasure and not just used as a huge dumping ground. Mass tourism, if not regulated is a cause for concern and factory fishing needs to be addresses before it’s too late! Basically, general ignorance.
How do you think the media industry should be addressing environment and conservation issues?
I think that it’s doing a good job at present highlighting as many problems as it can. As ever you have to be careful not to over do it otherwise people are just put off and rebel. We should always be thinking of new ways to get the message across, making it more interesting and fun for people that aren’t into the conservation ways. Encouraging children from a young age is a great way of educating their families who may have missed out. The kids teaching the adults…sounds familiar?!
If you could give one message to G8 leaders on climate change, what would it be?
If we have to be radical to combat climate change then lets put the plans into action and just do it. Actually I’ll stop there otherwise I will end up going into a rant.
What are you working on at the moment?
We are working on a number of wildlife tours based around the Scottish Western Isles and a documentary about permaculture in Ethiopia.
Where are you going next?
That depends on commissions but probably to the Western Isles
What would you like to be remembered for?
For creating something that sticks to its ethical roots and doesn’t get swayed and twisted by the constraints of the media industry