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“The Great Whale” follows Michael Fishbach in his lone quest to save the blue whale, the largest species ever to exist on planet Earth.
“The Great Whale” follows Michael Fishbach in his lone quest to save the blue whale, the largest species ever to exist on planet Earth.
190 backers pledged $30,852 to help bring this project to life.

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$30,852

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All monetary support is tax-deductible, this film is sponsored by the Oceanic Preservation Society. 

The Great Whale Story

The blue whale is the largest animal to have ever existed on Earth. In the early 20th century, humans killed almost 99.9% of their population. An estimated 10,000 blue whales roam our oceans, and today, large ships cross blue whale feeding grounds, often colliding with the whales as they move goods around the world.  Ship traffic tripled between 1992-2012, and while international trade continues to grow, left unchecked, ship strikes will decimate the blue whales’ already low number. 

Michael Fishbach became an environmental activist and whale conservationist over 25 years ago when he had the opportunity to study whales in Quebec and developed a passion for the amazing species. He is currently lobbying to amend shipping lanes in Chile, Sri Lanka, and Southern California to make small changes in their shipping patterns to move away from blue whale feeding grounds and greatly decrease the risk of ships striking whales and killing them. If successful, Michael’s work will serve as a model for other global retailers and governments – and lead to uninterrupted whale feeding, mating, and migration. We’ll see the handshakes, the boardroom presentations, and the unending optimism Michael posses. We’ll also see blue whales, their mouths fill with living-room-sized gulps of sea water from a drone, and look into their sentient eyes through underwater cinematography. 

Our oceans cover 70% of the world’s surface. They are responsible for 50% of the oxygen on Earth and the rains that water our crops and forests. Whales are not only an integral species in maintaining a healthy ecosystem, but they are also creatures that inhabit mythical places in our culture and history. This story seeks to not only to educate the public about a specific issue, but also evoke empathy and stir hope in a human story about activism and passion. “The Great Whale” portrays a regular man pushed to activism from his passion for the blue whale and his dreams for the world his children will inherit. 

Why Chile? 

I pursued this story before I fully knew that I would want to create a documentary. I've completely self-funded this project up until now. Our trip to Chile is the first plot point in telling the story of Michael amending shipping lanes. How these meetings turn out could be pivotal in the success of Michael's next year as he continues to lobby to save the blue whales. 

adolescent blue whale killed by a ship strike, photo by Bradley Cox
adolescent blue whale killed by a ship strike, photo by Bradley Cox

 What are the funds for?  

The money raised will go directly to our trip to Chile this October. Catherine, my cinematographer and I plan to spend two weeks following Michael as he meets with government and port officials. We're also working with an awesome producer in Chile, Francisca Costamaillere, who is helping us gain connections with local people that have insight into Chilean culture and their relationship with blue whales.

We also want to interview and spend time with biologists and conservationists that live and work in theses areas. All left over funds will help us move onto our next production locations. In the spring we plan to travel to Sri Lanka to meet with more biologists and government officials, but we also intend to film blue whales underwater as Sri Lanka has the clearest water to capture blue whales in their environment. These funds will support the small crew of myself, a director of photography, and a producer, and our travel, gear, and insurance. I have applied for film grants and plan to use grant money to finish production on the film through early 2020. 

4% of funds received will go to the Oceanic Preservation Society, and 5-10% of funds will go to Kickstarter and their processing fees! 

Meet the team:

Kelly Teacher - director

Kelly Teacher began her career directing music videos and working behind the camera and in the edit room on two feature documentaries: “Austin to Boston” and “No Cameras Allowed.” Her work in music documentaries culminated with directing a commissioned documentary following artist Ron Pope as he assembles his dream band, The Nighthawks. The documentary, “One Way Ticket” explores the challenges inherent in being a completely independent artist in today's uncertain music industry.

In February 2016, she joined Teen Vogue to launch their video production division. Two years later, they were a team of 4 who had created over 150 digital videos featuring the likes of Hillary Clinton, Chance the Rapper, and Ashley Judd. As of January 2018, she has returned to freelance filmmaking with a strong passion for telling underrepresented stories hoping to make the world a better, more compassionate place.

Catherine Aeppel - cinematographer

Catherine is an adventure cinematographer based in Colorado. Her work has been featured by National Geographic Adventure and her awards include first place in the GoPro Mountain Click Photo Competition at the 2016 & 2014 GoPro Mountain Games. She has shot projects for the US Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) and the Sierra Club highlighting the importance of their respective conservation work. Her personal short film project, "My Desolate Eden," won Best Cinematography during its premiere at No Man's Land Film Festival.

Sloane Klevin - consulting producer

Sloane Klevin, A.C.E., has been an editor of narrative and documentary films, television, commercials, music videos and trailers for nearly 30 years. She has won two Emmy awards, the first for her work as editor and co-producer of the 2008 Oscar-winning documentary “Taxi to the Dark Side,” and her second for the 2013 HBO documentary “Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God.” Sloane is a partner and editor at Union Editorial, a commercial post-production company and the recently-formed Union Productions. She has edited at the Sundance Narrative Filmmaker’s Lab and was also a 2015 mentor in the TFI/A&E Indiefilms Story Lab. In 2016, she won a Silver Lion at the Cannes Advertising festival for the Microsoft “Make What’s Next” campaign, encouraging young girls to study Science, Math and Technology.

Francisca Costamaillere  - producer, Chile

Since Francisca was little she was lucky enough to relate closely with nature, this was a gift that motivated her to generate spaces that contribute to the conservation and protection of our planet.  She works in audiovisual media  and I has her own production company www.picafilms.com.

Sammi Kattan - drone & additional cinematography

Sami kattan is a filmmaker committed to spreading the ethic of conservation. He travels the globe documenting stories that matter in an effort to inspire others and help humanity realize a more connected, fulfilled, and sustainable coexistence on our planet.

cinematography help from amazing humans, like Sashwa Burrous - photo by Bradley Cox
cinematography help from amazing humans, like Sashwa Burrous - photo by Bradley Cox

 Sashwa Burrous - additional cinematography

After getting a BAS in Motion Graphic Design he has been focusing on visual storytelling projects by producing and shooting everything from feature-length documentaries, commercials, music videos and fundraising videos for non-profit organizations. Being raised in the hills of Northern California Sashwa is passionate about conservation and creating imagery to inspire people to enjoy and protect the landscapes around them.

Ray Whitehouse - additional cinematography 

Ray Whitehouse is a filmmaker and journalist with an interest in American history, politics and sports. He holds an M.A. in visual journalism from UNC Chapel Hill and a B.S. in journalism from Northwestern University. His previous film, Believers, was recognized by the International Documentary Association and National Press Photographers Association.

crew leaving Pt. Reyes National Seashore - photo by Bradley Cox
crew leaving Pt. Reyes National Seashore - photo by Bradley Cox

You can visit The Great Whale Conservancy to learn more about Michael and his work: http://www.greatwhaleconservancy.org/

or check out our fiscal sponsor, the Oceanic Preservation Society http://www.opsociety.org/ 

Rewards:

Great Whale tote designed by Michelle Fleur, made by Everybody.World and 100% cotton
Great Whale tote designed by Michelle Fleur, made by Everybody.World and 100% cotton
whale watching in Baja with Michael
whale watching in Baja with Michael
stainless steel straw from SeaStraws - you'll receive a 4 pack and a cleaner as reward for $35
stainless steel straw from SeaStraws - you'll receive a 4 pack and a cleaner as reward for $35
hand-carved whale by Philip Crewe
hand-carved whale by Philip Crewe

Risks and challenges

Every documentary carries risks and challenges, "The Great Whale" will take at least 18 months to complete and could take longer if we find there is more to the story or Michael's efforts need a bit more time to come to fruition. These funds will cover much of the first few months of production for this film, however, filmmaking is expensive, gear, travel, insurance, making sure crew gets paid a living wage. This kickstarter is the first step in proving this story has value, but we have many possibilities to receive funding, either through grants, individual donors, or production companies, all of which we have been actively pursuing.

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Support

  1. Select this reward

    Pledge US$ 1 or more About US$ 1.00

    PYGMY RIGHT WHALE - thank you!

    The smallest baleen whale and the smallest donation. Thank you for supporting this project, your reward is the feeling that you helped this story come to life!

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    MINKE WHALE - thank you from Chile

    POST CARD - you'll receive a handwritten thank you note from Chile!

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    Pledge $35 or more About $35

    BRYDE'S WHALE - Stainless Straws

    A 4 pack of your own stainless steel straws from Sea Straws, a NYC-based sustainable straw company.

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    Pledge $50 or more About $50

    GRAY WHALE - Great Whale Tote

    You'll receive a Great Whale Tote bag designed by Michelle Fleur. The bags are made from 100% cotton by Everybody's World.

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    Pledge US$ 100 or more About US$ 100

    RIGHT WHALE - Photographs from Chile

    Exclusive high resolution, print quality download of 5 incredible pictures from our Chile trip this October. Photographs will be of the Chilean wilderness

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    Pledge $150 or more About $150

    Hand-carved whale

    Hand-carved whale, made from driftwood, by Philip Crewe from the Isle of Wight.

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    Pledge US$ 250 or more About US$ 250

    BOWHEAD WHALE - End Credits + Shout Out

    thank you in our END CREDITS + A special hello directly to you in our video diary + high resolution, print quality download of 5 photos from our Chile trip this October

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    Pledge $500 or more About $500

    SEI WHALE - Blue Whale Photograph

    A 25-limited edition printed photograph, on fine art giclee paper, from our travels of a blue whale + tote bag + thank you in our End Credits + access to our video diary

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    Pledge $1,000 or more About $1,000

    FIN WHALE - All of the rewards

    Thank you in our End Credits, Great Whale tote, hand-carved whale made from driftwood, high-res download of 5 photos from our Chile Trip, 1 printed photograph, 4-pack stainless steel straws + cleaner, and a thank you postcard from Chile.

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    Pledge US$ 5,000 or more About US$ 5,000

    BLUE WHALE - Whale watching in Baja

    EXECUTIVE PRODUCER CREDIT + A trip to Chile with Michael in 2019 or 2020 to see blue whales, and many more marine animals (flight not included) + skype call with us in Chile + tote bag + digital download of 5 high res, photo quality images from Chile + access to our video diary

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Funding period

- (30 days)