We're raising money to make a documentary about an ancient cypress forest discovered in the Gulf of Mexico off the Alabama coast. Our team discovered the forest, and produced the photos and videos of the site that have gone viral on the internet. But so far, the public has only seen a fraction of what we've shot out there, and what the scientists we are working with have discovered. We'll visit them in the lab as they examine ancient pollen under an electron microscope, complete uranium dating of the stumps, and analyze the trees themselves for hints about the past.
Diving the forest is like stepping back in time. Thousands of stumps dot the seafloor, carpeted with anemones and providing homes to fish, crabs and octopi. Some of the trees are more than 10 feet in diameter, relics from the prehistoric woods before people lived in America, when the Gulf Coast was covered in trees the size of redwoods. They contain invaluable information about the prehistoric climate, when sea levels were 60 feet lower. Swim over the ancient river channel that meanders through the site and you are instantly transported to a strange, fairylike world. It is among the most magical spots in the sea.
Since our discovery, salvage companies have contacted us and attempted to purchase the coordinates for the site. The companies want to pull the ancient logs up from the seafloor and turn them into 50,000 year old coffee tables and trinkets. We've turned them down and kept the location secret because we think its cooler to have an ancient forest than a bunch of coffee tables.
Two members of our small crew, Ben Raines and Eric Lowe, wrote and filmed a 2013 documentary titled America's Amazon on the incredible diversity seen in a remote pocket of Alabama, and the threats facing the area. You can watch the documentary and see the kind of work we aspire to deliver here.
Costs us about $1,000 a day to shoot offshore
We've been shooting at the forest for about a year, funded out of our own pockets on our own boats. We hope to generate enough money through Kickstarter to produce a first class film on the forest. But we need more days at sea.
We've had support in the form of scuba gear from ScubaPro, and lights from Ikelight. The incredible band Galactic has agreed to create an original soundtrack for the film. Now we're trying to raise enough money to spend a few more weeks shooting this spring and then cover the editing and post-production costs.
How Kickstarter works
The way Kickstarter works, we only get funded if we meet our $15,000 goal within the time limit. If we raise $14,500, we get nothing. We could definitely use more than $15,000, but we know we can get a film finished for that. Any extra money raised will be used to pay for digital graphics showing sea level rise and more days at sea filming. Every time we make it out there, we see something else fascinating, from whale sharks to octopi.
Risks and challenges
The biggest challenge facing our project is the Gulf of Mexico. The weather is unpredictable, and shooting becomes dangerous once the waves kick up a little. We have to choose our days carefully. Coordinating with our scientists is always tough, given their busy schedules, but everyone is committed. This project is different than most documentaries, because we can't just decide to go to the location and shoot for a week and be finished. We have to work with Mother Nature and take advantage of the shooting windows as they come.
One of our key team members owns the Underwater Works Dive Shop in Fairhope, Alabama. Chas was the first person to ever lay eyes on the forest and instantly knew it was special. He handles all the critical life support issues that come with shooting underwater.
We will finish our project no matter what. We've been chased by sharks, stung by jellyfish swarms, and dodged tropical storms. But we all love the forest, and relish the chance to bring it to the world.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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