Review: ‘Seas of Green’ by Ellie Marsh

‘Seas of Green’ is a short film by Ellie Marsh, a marine conservationist, PADI Dive Master and Marine Natural History Photography graduate from Falmouth University. It was created as part of the final project in her degree and as the title suggests it focuses on seagrass meadows, and in particular the important ecological role they play and the key issues they face. I first came across this amazing short film whilst attending the Underwater Film Festival in Falmouth last year. I was immediately blown away by the quality of Ellie’s work both in terms of underwater photography and scientific accuracy. It was one of my favourite pieces of the evening and seriously held its own against some of the high profile professionally made films on display. I recently caught up with Ellie to talk to her about her film and the work that went into creating it.

The Cornish seabed meadows featured in ‘Seas of Green’ (by Ellie Marsh)

I began by asking Ellie why she chose seagrass as the subject of her project. She told me that “during my second year of study I became very interested in local seagrasses and volunteered with the Community Seagrass Initiative, taking part in dive surveys and data collection”. This experience sparked something in Ellie as she explained “it became apparent that seagrass ecosystems are not widely known about and I quickly developed a passion for protecting precious seagrass habitats and all the life they support”. This passion to raise awareness about these ‘secret gardens’ is something that resonates strongly throughout her film.

For anyone who is unaware of how important seagrasses are and why we need to protect them Ellie’s film clearly breaks the issues down in an entertaining and easy to understand way. In particular their ability to absorb large amounts of dissolved CO2 , even more per area than rainforests. Ellie told me she views seagrass meadows as “our allies against climate change” and that they are “vital in our present situation”. However the film also reminds us that we are in danger of losing these ‘delicate green carpets’ through human impacts such as boating, coastal developments, dredging, fishing and pollution. Which makes the protection and conservation of seagrasses “imperative”.

Moring line
Mooring lines are a big problem for seagrasses, flattening meadows and preventing new ones from growing (by Ellie Marsh)

“Seagrass is our ally against climate change”

Ellie’s film also does an amazing job at highlighting just how many weird and wonderful marine creatures live in and rely on seagrass meadows. During the film Ellie gets up close and personal with baby cuttlefish, decorated spider crabs, flatfish, anemones, pipefish, sea hares and even catsharks. Not only does this provide the film with a visually stunning images and occasional comedic breaks from its serious topic, but also shows us how important seagrasses are as nursery grounds for marine species. What makes this even more incredible is the fact that all these amazing animals were filmed on location at seagrass meadows in Cornwall, highlighting the amazing array of UK marine life as well.

Pipefish are “delicate fascinating creatures” that rely on seagrass to shelter them from currents (by Ellie Marsh)

Ellie told me that she was “happy that the film presents a diverse range of life that lives in British seagrass”. I asked her which of the featured animals was her personal favourite, to which she replied “pipefish, as they’re such delicate fascinating creatures, I really appreciated having such close encounters with them”. However the one that got away for her was nudibranchs who she described as “amazing little creatures”, but unfortunately conditions made it tough to find and film them.

“I really appreciated having such close encounters with them”

Conversation then turned to the shooting and production of the film. I was surprised to learn that apart from filming equipment provided by the university, a Panasonic GH4 with underwater housing unit and a range of lenses, the rest of the production costs came out of Ellie’s own pocket. This included boat hire, diving equipment and travel. All the amazing shots and sequences featured in the video were filmed on location by Ellie, accompanied by either her friend Lizzie or Dad Pete as a dive buddy.

Helford Passage
The Helford River near Falmouth is where most of the film was shot (by Ellie Marsh)

Filming took place during approximately 30 dives between November 2018 and March 2019 primarily in the Helford River, but also around the Rame Peninsula. Shooting in these locations during winter did pose some big challenges for Ellie. Firstly she lost lots of opportunities to film because “many days were completely written off due to poor visibility or adverse sea conditions” or she was “unable  to coordinate good filming conditions with the availability of a dive buddy”. Certain species were also harder to film during winter and even when conditions were good “several of the sequences were difficult and time consuming to plan and execute”. However despite the challenges Ellie claims to have ‘thoroughly enjoyed’ the experience.

An anemone clings to some seagrass, they rely on the movement of the grass to divert food to them (by Ellie Marsh)

A big bonus for Ellie was getting award-winning documentary filmmaker Nina Constable to narrate the film. Ellie met Nina during a guest lecture at Falmouth University and managed to convince her to read the lines for her. Nina does a fantastic job narrating, tying together the excellent sequences Ellie filmed with the science behind the seagrass meadows. It is the final piece of the puzzle that makes the film appear so professional and entertaining.

Overall ‘Seas of Green’ is a fantastic short film that delivers in its mission to raise awareness of this important ecosystem in an engaging, educational and delightful way. It is surely just the first of many in what should be a long and successful career for Ellie who wants to continue in the wildlife film industry and as she told me “continue using my passion for nature in a productive and positive way”.

A catshark lurks in the seagrass, they also attach their egg casings to blades (by Ellie Marsh)

You can see ‘Seas of Green’ for yourself here via Vimeo!

A big thanks to Ellie for talking to us about her film! If you want to check out more of her awesome work or get in touch with her you can visit her website for more info.

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