We reached out to our festival filmmakers to ask them five questions about the experience of making their films.
Trailer for Jago: A Life Underwater
What inspired you to make this film?
James Reed: “A life long love for the ocean, diving and the Bajau people. But most significantly meeting James Morgan and Johnny Langenheim whose experience and access helped make a film, on a very unique Bajau man, a reality.”
James Morgan: “I've been photographing the Bajau and other marine nomads since 2009. When James R. suggested collaborating on Jago, I jumped at the opportunity. Spearfishing and free diving are innately cinematic, but there's also a bigger, more important story: the use of marine resources and the effect of wider changes on indigenous communities.”
Were there any particularly meaningful moments or experiences in the process?
James Reed: “Finding Rohani (the star of Jago) for the second time in Sulawesi. We discovered him two years earlier but we had no idea whether we'd find him again when we came back to make the film. He has no phone and travels in his little sailboat a lot. We were so excited to find him but he was pretty calm and said he'd been expecting us. Aside from that, winning the Grand Teton at Jackson Hole was genuinely the most moving and meaningful experience of the whole thing.”
James Morgan: “Listening to Pak Rohani's life story slowly emerge over the course of a series of interviews was particularly satisfying. It's always an honour when someone entrusts you with their story in that way. Especially when you're dramatising reenactments.”
Describe some of the challenges?
James Reed: “Shooting the whole film in 19 days, nobody getting paid and all expenses going on my credit card! These things cause a bit of stress but the team was exceptional and somehow the fact that none of us were earning from it made us focus on doing the absolute best we could. We had nothing to gain from it other than to do something we were proud of.”
James Morgan: “Shooting at sea and in boats is always complicated, lots of hanging over the side of boats and coordinating boat movements. There is one sequence that involved standing on the front of a boat with a gimbal as it approaches Rohani's hut and then jumping off through his doorway, whilst trying to keep the shot smooth.”
What are you working on now?
James Reed: “I'm working at Keo Films in Bristol. It's a smaller branch of a big London based company. They do some fantastic films, of all different kinds, and I'm really enjoying it.”
James Morgan: “I'm making a new drama set in the Arctic circle with the support of the BFI. It looks at some complicated issues, has some incredible landscapes and should be released later this year.”
Anything else you would like people to know?
James Reed: “Jago was a genuinely independent project. It had no financing from anywhere when we went to Indonesia to shoot. Being independent was a massive team effort and it would've been nothing without every person (in every role) falling in love with it, going the extra mile and making it the best it could be. Jago has faults, of course, but I still look at it today and think we did the best we could. I'm very proud of it and everyone involved.”
James Morgan: “You can find more information about what I’m up to on my website! www.jamesmorgan.co.uk”
James Morgan (b.1986) is a multi award-winning film director and photojournalist. His in-depth photographic features have appeared in National Geographic, The Guardian, BBC, Sunday Times and many others. His images regularly lead campaigns for the World Wildlife Fund and USAID and are published and exhibited around the world. James’ film work spans features, documentaries, commercials and music videos with clients ranging from Sony and Adidas to Vice and Mercedes Benz. Having worked in over 60 countries, James is comfortable in any environment and can speak English, Malaysian, Spanish, Indonesian and Icelandic. James is represented by both Panos Pictures and Getty Images in London and is a Fellow of the International League of Conservation Photographers.
James Reed has taken audiences on breathtaking journeys with films such as Disneynature’s Chimpanzees, Bears and Monkey Kingdom, as well as programs Nature Shock and Shark. Reed’s impressive portfolio of series and films, which span topics such as nature, wildlife and natural history, have aired internationally on BBC, Discovery and National Geographic.