Some days it’s easy to be ‘glass half empty.’ Offshore mornings clouded by our focus on crowded line-ups, offshore lights twinkling in the dark bringing to mind our depleted fish stocks. It’s good to take a step back and re-calibrate. In What The Sea Gives Me filmmakers Pierce and Petra Kavanagh take on a huge subject – our complex relationship with the ocean, and break it down to a human level, looking at the things the sea provides for us on a personal basis.

This film meets those whose destinies are defined by their connection to the big blue; a surf photographer who scours the frigid fringes of our planet to capture unique perspectives, a Great White shark researcher who risks life and limb to find out more about these elusive creatures, a free diver striving to reach new depths – water people and surfers of all persuasions, each with a special relationship to the sea. I recently read a description of Pierce and Petra that sums them up perfectly in just four words – “tireless ambassadors of stoke.” This film reminds us just how lucky we are to be able to interact with the ocean on such an intimate level and the benefits that it brings to us every day.

We caught up with Pierce Michael Kavanagh to find out more about this amazing award winning film. Buy tickets for WTSGM HERE

What was the original concept behind the film?

The concept was celebrating those with a life-long connection with the sea.  WHAT THE SEA GIVES ME came on the heels of our first film MANUFACTURING STOKE, which scrutinised the current state of the surf industry in regards to sustainability. During the production and touring of this film I had ample time to reflect on my own relationship with the ocean and how it has molded me throughout the years.  The ocean is my core, pure and simple, and its well-being has become my focal point.  With this is mind, I set out to find others to share their passion.

How long did it take to pull together and where did your travels take you?

The film took about 2 years from start to finish.  Principal photography took about 18 months with post-production taking another 6 months. Most of individuals we interviewed maintain a rigorous work schedule so in some cases we had to be patient until they were available. We filmed primary interviews in California, Hawaii and New England with accompanying footage from Mexico, South Africa and India.  It truly was a global expedition.

You have an amazing and diverse group of water people in the film. How did you choose the characters you focused on?

Initially, I wanted WTSGM to be more than a surf film. I love riding waves but I wanted the film to contain a wider spectrum of stewards of the sea. We welcomed bodysurfers, surfers, cinematographers, oceanographers, artists, photographers, fishermen, sailors, para-Olympians, and Great White shark researchers into the fold. I pluralized these descriptions simply because I cannot pigeonhole the majority of these individuals into only one category. Most of them actually share many of the aforementioned descriptions and engage in all things aquatic.

What was the hardest part about getting this independent film off the ground and what was the most rewarding part?

Financing, financing and financing. We had major ambitions for WTSGM and combined all of our personal resources with a successful Kickstarter campaign and set off to change the world. 6 months later and with half of the film shot, we were penniless again. When all seemed lost, we had an offer to direct and produce another feature film called RESURF which would raise the needed funds to complete WTSGM. So for a year, we juggled both feature films and did everything we could to make it all happen. It was an extremely arduous experience but bringing the film to the big screen in front of family, friends, supporters and those featured made it all worth it. The overwhelming response to our film made all those trials and tribulations seem a lifetime away. I would do it all over again in a minute.

Is there anything you learnt from making the film that surprised you?

Aside from impactful scenes in the film that I don’t want to divulge, the ocean brings people together like nothing else I have ever experienced. We are a strong community capable of anything and after revealing the ocean’s “health” there are definite concerns raised but I am confident we are up to the task. I understand this is somewhat cryptic, so I guess you just need to watch the film in order to understand. The ocean will save us all.