Featured in the 24-hour Climate Reality live-broadcast organized by Al Gore, winner of the Kahuna Award at the Honolulu International Film Festival, and an official selection at a number of conservation film festivals in several countries, Rising Tide (2008) tells the story of climate change in Hawaii’s coastal national parks through the eyes of field scientists, park rangers, and native Hawaiians.
Who hired you to make this film?
I was still a graduate film student at Montana State University, when the National Park Service (NPS) approached me with a grant to make films addressing climate change in National Park ecosystems. I had worked in Hawaii as a marine biologist for six years, so I jumped at the opportunity to help the NPS tell a great story.
What were the primary objectives? What did they want to communicate?
The NPS wanted a film that would prepare people for the potential changes associated with climate change. They also wanted to encourage people to care for the parks they visited, and to be good stewards of their environment. The film accomplishes both objectives, and it gave the people who live and work in these parks a voice and an opportunity to talk about what they are seeing and experiencing. I wanted the film to feel like a conversation and to take the viewer along on a short trip into beautiful places like the cliffs of Kalaupapa, the forests and lava barrens of Volcanoes National Park, and the reefs near the Place of Refuge on the Kona coast of the Big Island.
In documentary filmmaking, you need to be good at logistics and planning, and equally good at troubleshooting on the fly. In Hawai’i especially, with its rugged landscapes and powerful natural features, such as volcanoes, shooting conditions can be unpredictable. In Volcanoes National Park, we had to plan and move quickly to film in areas that weren’t closed as vog (volcanic gas plus fog) swept through one section of the park, and then shifted to another as the wind switched.