We sat down with Adrian Grenier, Executive Producer of "52: The Search For The Loneliest Whale" - an Alldayeveryday production - to discuss his work on the film and, even further, a better world. Throughout the week, we take a deeper look at his philanthropic missions around protecting the oceans, supporting emerging musical talent, and putting a stop to the war on drugs. Adrian will also introduce us to people who work tirelessly on the topics dearest to his heart. Today, let's hear why he thinks contacting 52 might help to make the world a better place.
How did you become interested in 52?
I’ve known Lucy Cooper, one of the producers of 52 for at least twelve years. In fact, we learned how to scuba dive together and had a very idyllic learning opportunity with a guy who taught us to be extremely respectful and compassionate for the life in the ocean. It was a really special time for us. We both shared in the appreciation for the oceans. I recently revisited the spot we went scuba diving, south of Tulum in Mexico, and it wasn’t the same. There were a lot of tourists, and the diving instructors were a lot less respectful. They seemed to be exploiting the oceans in that area. It was really tragic to me.
It makes sense that Lucy approached me with this particular project. In our culture I feel we tend not to listen to what the oceans are telling us. So she came to me and said: “I know you do a lot of work in the oceans and the environment and documentary film and we’d love for you to look a this project and maybe come on board and help me produce it.” Within two lines of listening to the story, I was immediately hooked on the lonely whale. He has this innate ability to inspire empathy and compassion. Those are the kind of movies I want to make. I think our audience is going to feel the same.
When did you start the project?
I guess it was about a year ago.
Will you be taking part in the scientific expedition?
We’re limited by budget and the size of the boat determines if I’ll have a seat or a bed- I think that's what's needed [laughs]. Right now, we have a very tiny boat with limited crew, limited science, and limited filming opportunity. I don’t think I’m invited, as of now, but I’m hoping that our Kickstarter will do so well that we’ll be able to have extra science equipment and scientists who are doing parallel research to expand the scope of our scientific research- and allow me to join the quest.
What are the greatest challenges and rewards for you in this project?
The greatest challenge so far has been convincing people that they need to not only invest in the film, but also in the scientific research. Because that confuses investors a little bit. They’re like, “Well, m I investing in the science or am I investing in film?” Often investors will invest in one thing, but we think it’s really important that we give scientists an opportunity to just do the research that they’re asking for themselves and then allow us as communicators, as storytellers, to translate that information to the audience. A lot of times you can make up films, you can tell stories but if it doesn’t have the legitimate science to back up the storytelling, then it’s just a story. In this case it’ll be a story with real facts and figures that people can take away with them. This film is also going to advance the understanding and appreciation of sicence on a factual level, not just an emotional one. So, the difficulty is trying to convince financiers that it is a good and important thing to do.
52 is also addressing how noise pollution interferes with the whale's social behavior. Are you afraid that noise pollution will actually interfere with your own sonars to reach the whale?
I’m sure that it will to some degree. I think it’s a pretty common understanding amongst the science communities that are listening to the oceans that the noise is starting to become an increasing problem. I’m pretty sure that it will be and that’s partly why we’re going out- to focus on ocean noise pollution and try to understand the effects on marine wildlife -- particularly whales -- and also try to understand the relationship between ocean noise pollution and hybrids, which are starting to change their call. For example, how whales are becoming disoriented, or beaching themselves. There isn't enough research on this.
Best case scenario you tag 52. What happens next?
That’s the moment when scientists can now really truly begin to study the Lonely Whale and understand his patterns. Hopefully get a glimpse into why he is different and what specifically makes him different, other than his call. I think that’s when the real science begins to get interesting, but a biopsy would be the pinnacle goal.
On the topic of Empathy: We know that whales are social beings and the thought of having a whale alone in the ocean is unbearable? Maybe he’s absolutely fine in the ocean being lonely and not having to deal with his friends. How do you think the empathy started?
We’re telling stories for humans. I don’t know any whales that are going to go out and see our movie, so we’re trying to communicate in the way that humans communicate, through allegory and symbols and ideas. Our lonely whale is a perfect hero protagonist to tell the story, which is that of existential condition of loneliness that we all have to face of our need to connect with one another, need to form bonds and community, particularly when we’re facing our collective issues, one of which is the health of our oceans. To me I think, whether or not the whale is lonely, I don’t know, I think that everyone can decide for himself or herself. But the reality is, we all need connection, we all need to come together to mitigate our own sense of floating through life and also give ourselves some purpose.
There’s also the highly connected social media aspect around the project, which evolves around an animal that’s not connected at all.
When talking about technology and social media and its potential ability to isolate us further from the human interaction, that can be one of the issues. I think ultimately we’ve yet to solve the issue of technology and figure out the best way to utilize it and use it. We’re discovering at least one way that we can come together through our hero, which is Lonely Whale, you use technology to connect on these ideas and that’s a net positive thing for everybody. So if you’re feeling sad, if you’re feeling lonely, if you’re feeling unheard: join our community and connect with others who also want to be heard and also can open their hearts to other people who have the same needs to connect as well as other species who are out there who may not speak the same language as humans, but have needs, they have wants, they have the things that are important to them in their own survival.