Filmmaker Interview: Tim Brown on “The Sanctuary”

'The Sanctuary', Photo Credit: Tim Brown
‘The Sanctuary’, Photo Credit: Tim Brown

Join us as we sit down with filmmaker Tim Brown, the visionary behind the compelling film “The Sanctuary”. We delve into the unique journey of Ray Lewis, an unconventional environmentalist whose story unfolds amidst the marine beauty of Ricketts Point Marine Sanctuary. Tim walks us through the creative process, discussing the challenge of capturing Ray’s personal story and the logistical intricacies of filming underwater. 

“The Sanctuary” is about to hit screens as part of the 2024 Ocean Film Fest line up. 

Q: How did you meet Ray?

We met Ray while filming a project for Coastcare Victoria. His passion for the marine environment was immediately obvious and as we learned more about him, we quickly realised there was a real story here.

Q: What was it about his story that you were so drawn to, to create this film?

What drew us to his story was the unconventional path to becoming a dedicated environmentalist, being an Air Force pilot and longtime businessman before developing this passion later in life. We also wanted to highlight the richness of the marine life in the area he has helped to protect – despite its proximity to such a big city.

Q: How many takes did it take to shoot the footage?

The shots of all the marine life were filmed over several sessions. However, all the footage with Ray was captured in a single morning. 

'Ricketts Point Marine Sanctuary', Photo Credit: Tim Brown
‘Ricketts Point Marine Sanctuary’, Photo Credit: Tim Brown

Q: How did you approach the creative process for this film?

We wanted to immerse the viewer in the underwater world of Ricketts Point Marine Sanctuary but from Ray’s perspective. Visually, we follow him through a single session underwater, while the voiceover recounts his life story as it relates to this place.

Q: Were there any unique challenges or creative decisions you made during filming?

Ray is a fantastic storyteller, but when we recorded the interview with him we quickly realised he is quite reluctant to talk about himself. This isn’t ideal when you’re trying to capture someone’s personal story. We managed to get around this by asking him about experiences he had in the water at various stages of his life.

Q: Was the water really cold?

We filmed with Ray during Summer so the water temperature wasn’t too bad. However, some of the wildlife footage was captured in the depths of winter when a hood, booties and gloves are a must.

‘The Sanctuary’, Photo Credit: Tim Brown

Q: Did anything interesting happen on the day/days of shooting? Any funny stories you could share with us?

Due to his age, Ray hadn’t been underwater for several years, and this was potentially going to be his final time (an interesting aspect of this in itself). Therefore, we only had one chance to get the footage of Ray underwater. Visibility often isn’t that great in these waters so we had to make sure we picked a good day to film. We eventually found a day when Ray was available and the forecast looked good. But despite the forecast, when we got out into the water with Ray the visibility was quite poor. Luckily, we were able to find some sections of the reef where the visibility was just good enough to capture the shots we needed.

Q: How many people did it take to create this film from start to end?

Michael (my co-director) and I did everything ourselves, from filming and directing to editing, sound design and colour-grading. 

Q: What is your affinity like with the ocean?

Michael and I are both passionate surfers and divers, so have always had a strong connection with the ocean. 

To see the captivating visual of “The Sanctuary” click HERE to secure your seats and ensure you don’t miss out. 

We’ll see ya there!

To see more of Tim and Michael’s filmmaking magic, click HERE for their instagram Grassland Films


Want to read more filmmaker interviews?

See HERE for our interview with filmmaker Ste Everington and how he shot the film “Hypnotise”.

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