We’re celebrating the launch of the 52 Kickstarter with Q&A’s from some of the project's key players. In this interview the film’s co-producer Lucy Cooper discusses her connection with the ocean, her issues with social media, and her environmental concerns.
How did you become involved in this project?
I ran into Josh filming b-roll in my neighborhood early one Sunday morning. He’s an old friend, we’d worked together on independent films and commercials over the years, and he made a great documentary called “Cropsey,” which I love. Anyway, he told me he was making a film about loneliness, and the plight of 52 Hertz - the “loneliest whale in the world,” who calls out at the “wrong” frequency, a frequency no other whale can understand. And I was so moved. He sent me some materials the next day, and we met up after that, and that was it.
I grew up at the beach in Sydney, Australia. I swam every day and always had a huge affinity with the ocean, like anyone who grows up along side it I suppose. It’s definitely a big part of who I am. When I moved to New York nearly fifteen years ago, the biggest adjustment I had to make was not getting in the water every day.
I really connected with loneliness idea too. It’s an affliction that touches everybody right? People are very isolated I think, despite how “connected” we all convince ourselves we are. I’m fascinated by that because I feel both inside and outside of it - I’ve never had a Facebook account or an Instagram account for example, I just don’t feel personally drawn to social media, though I think it's phenomenal. I guess because of my job as a producer I spend a lot of time at my laptop, so I was always trying to have less time staring at screens.
But I’m also a partner in a digital agency. I don’t think social media is the problem necessarily, but I think people need to be aware of what they’re engaging in, and not engaging in, when they’re on it. I wanted to look into that more. And I also felt there was an opportunity with this film to make it bigger than than the doc itself – that we could use social media to unify people and bring them together for a cause, we could all become friends of 52 in a way. And he’s an amazing hero character that people can relate to personally – and it provides a forum for conversation about the ocean in general, which has been so neglected to this point, and is in a very critical moment. Especially the idea of trying to communicate acoustically in the ocean, with the ever increasing cacophony of ocean noise pollution.
How long ago was this Sunday morning?
About 18 months ago now.
February 10th is the Kickstarter launch day. You’re hoping to collect 300K.
Yes hopefully! The Kickstarter campaign is really to fund the expedition to find 52. We have a brilliant scientific team working with us lead by John Hildebrand, at the Scripps whale acoustic lab. We think 52 may be a hybrid whale, a cross between a blue and a fin whale perhaps. Hybrids are a phenomenon we know almost nothing about. Very few, if any, have ever been tracked in the wild. And there is a possibility that ocean noise pollution is leading to an increase in hybrids, as migration patterns, feeding grounds and communications shift with the increasing noise levels. Making contact with 52 is really important.
What are the biggest challenges for this expedition, and for the whole project?
The expedition itself is big. I think one scientist described it as looking for a needle in the world’s biggest haystack, the ocean. There is a lot of technology in place to make sure we have a shot at finding 52, but the biggest obstacle to overcome is the sheer vastness of the ocean. And anything on water is just inherently complicated – you’re dealing with mother nature and the elements. There are no guarantees.
And then on the other side of all that, we’re making an independent film. There are always a lot of ups and downs that go along with these kinds of projects. At one point last year we were fully funded, the financiers announced the project at Cannes, and then pulled out amidst some unrelated internal strife. So it was back to the grind, that’s how it goes. It’s always a bit of a battle to get the money together, and the right team together. Another old friend, Adrian Grenier, came on board as a producer about a year ago. He has been the hugest champion of 52 and the film. He’s been a long time ambassador for Oceana and other ocean-related causes, as well as being a very respected filmmaker in his own right. So we really have a fantastic team. But it’s still hard to make a great film. It takes passion and fortitude on all sides.
What’s most rewarding for you about making this documentary?
There are a few things. Firstly, finding the 52 Hertz whale would be a dream – to make contact with him and let him know he has a friend – actually thousands of them! To make a film that might function as the centerpiece to a larger ground-swell movement, a conversation about the ocean and underwater noise pollution, that would be incredible. Having my company Alldayeveryday apply learnings from our digital campaigns for brands like Nike and American Express, to blowing out a message about animal welfare and conservation, that’s so exciting to me. I haven’t really seen anything like that before. The need to protect the ocean has been so overlooked historically, and now it feels it’s finally coming to the fore. So hopefully we can contribute to progress in that area. That would be the most rewarding outcome of all.