Diving for Gold and Mermaids in 'Ray: A Life Underwater'

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A "modern-day pirate," 75-year-old Ray Ives has been diving for sunken treasure for decades, and even wears an ancient, bronze-helmeted diving suit to search the ocean floor. This gorgeous documentary follows the adventurer via land, sea, and air; filmmaker Amanda Bluglass explains how they did it in interview below.

The Atlantic: How did you discover Ray?

Amanda Bluglass: I was asked by the Managing Director of a British marina company, Yacht Havens, Dylan Kalis, if I would like to make a film about Ray Ives. 

Ray keeps his huge collection of marine salvage in a shipping container at Dylan's marina. Ray is 75 and still dives most days and still picks up anything of interest from the seabed. When I entered Ray's 'museum' of treasure and got to know Ray, I knew I had a sure-fire hit for a film subject on my hands. It was like walking into an Aladdin's cave of artifacts, memorabilia and dive gear. Everywhere you look there is something fascinating, beautiful or just plain weird, and Ray has a lifetime of adventures to tell.

You shoot gorgeous underwater and aerial footage in the piece. How did you tackle the challenges documentary production via land, sea, and air? 

Thank you! The land-based camerawork is down to the great eye of Danny Cooke, a young director of photography just making a name for himself. I'd seen his film David A Smith, Sign Artist, talent-spotted him and asked him to work with me. I wanted slow-moving, immersive, sumptuous shots with plenty of close ups and rack focus using the Canon 7D. The underwater footage was courtesy of dive cameraman Neil Hope using a Canon 5Dmk2 and the aerial footage was shot with helicopter firm Castle Air, so an all-local team from the UK's South West, where I'm based. 

We were very lucky with the notoriously terrible British weather, encountering a heat wave and continuous sunshine in April. Unheard of! Due to budget constraints we only had one shot at both the aerials and underwater photography. 

For me as a producer/director, filming Ray donning his 1900s diving gear at golden hour was a nerve-wracking event. I wanted to sun to be setting over the top of his copper helmet. But asking a 75-year-old to clamber around in a weighted diving suit from the last century was no small request and time and changing light were against us. Thankfully due to the skill of the team and a bit of luck it all came together.

Did anything in the course of shooting surprise you? 

Not during the course of filming, but I have been enormously gratified by the positive attention and generous comments the film is receiving from the filmmaking community online. The Internet really gives filmmakers an instant audience these days and it is wonderful to receive appreciative comments from strangers who really care about moving images.

What’s next for you?

I want to make an ambitious documentary about the grandson of Lt Teddy Evans, who was Scott's of the Antarctic's second-in-command in the race for the South Pole in 1911.

Teddy's grandson Julian is a marvelous composer -- and eccentric -- who plans to install ice 'flutes' in Antarctica as a centenary memorial for the doomed members of the party. The ice flutes, which will be drilled from 100-year-old ice, will whistle with the Antarctic wind and the 'music' will be streamed live over the Internet. 

I'm looking for partners for the film -- so anyone who might be interested, feel free to contact me.

For more films by Amanda Bluglass, visit www.amandabluglass.co.uk.

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Kasia Cieplak-Mayr von Baldegg is the executive producer for video at The AtlanticMore

Cieplak-Mayr von Baldegg joined The Atlantic in 2011 to launch its video channel and, in 2013, create its in-house video production department. She leads the development and production of original documentaries, interviews, and other video content for The Atlantic. Previously, she worked as a producer at Al Gore’s Current TV and as a content strategist and documentary producer in San Francisco. She studied filmmaking and digital media at Harvard University.
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