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HomeLifestyleAward-winning Balgowlah production company joins Paul Rudd and James Cameron to showcase...

Award-winning Balgowlah production company joins Paul Rudd and James Cameron to showcase the octopus

What does Paul Rudd, James Cameron and Balgowlah have in common? The octopus.

That’s right, Paul Rudd, with the help of an award-winning local documentary production company based in Balgowlah, will make you fall in love with octopuses.

He narrates a new National Geographic/Disney+ three-part documentary on the amazing sea creatures in Secrets of the Octopus, which was created, directed and produced by SeaLight Pictures.

“For this series, we set out to do what no one had: spend hours/days/weeks with individual octopuses around the world to reveal new behaviours and science,” says Colette Beaudry, SeaLight’s Managing Director and Executive Producer, and Adam Geiger, Creative Director and Director of Photography.

SeaLight Pictures' owners and founders, Adam Geiger and Colette Beaudry, at the Great Barrier Reef
SeaLight Pictures’ owners and founders, Adam Geiger and Colette Beaudry, at the Great Barrier Reef. Image: supplied.

Adam and his team of specialised underwater cinematographers spent a total of 1,500 hours underwater across two years.

“Ideally, we’ve inspired a whole next generation of marine scientists and filmmakers with passions and curiosities of their own,” they add.

Now, you may recall four years ago when everyone became octopus obsessed with My Octopus Teacher. So, what is it with our fascination with the octopus?

“The world is much more aware that octopuses feel emotions, are curious and interactive — maybe in ways we don’t understand, but that’s changing,” Colette and Adam explain.

“The octopus is about as alien looking as we can imagine, yet they exhibit traits we can relate to. Secrets of the Octopus brings us closer to them than ever before.”

SeaLight Pictures' Colette Beaudry half in half out of the water, Indonesia, with the Aussie Secrets of the Octopus film team and Algae Octopus scientist Dr Chrissy Huffard.
SeaLight Pictures’ Colette Beaudry half in half out of the water, Indonesia, with the Aussie Secrets of the Octopus film team and Algae Octopus scientist Dr Chrissy Huffard. Photo Credit: Annabel Robinson

From the Beaches to Hollywood

James Cameron is an Executive Producer on the series (in case us name-dropping Paul Rudd wasn’t enough).

So, how does a production company from Balgowlah end up producing a documentary that draws such big Hollywood names?

“We have always been fascinated by octopuses, especially here in Sydney,” explain Colette and Adam, who have in the past spent years as filmmakers at Nat Geo in Washington, DC.

Secrets of the Octopus was our concept, which we brought to National Geographic in 2021 for the emerging ‘Secrets Of…’ strand.”

In 2021, Secrets of the Whales was released (which SeaLight had filmed parts of), followed, in 2023, by Secrets of the Elephants.

SeaLight Pictures' Nat Geo_Disney series, Secrets of the Octopus, as promoted in Times Square, New York, and around the US.
SeaLight Pictures’ Nat Geo_Disney series, Secrets of the Octopus, as promoted in Times Square, New York, and around the US. Image: Supplied.

Colette and Adam loved how the series “went all-in” on just one type of animal, and they wanted to do the same for the octopus. In Secrets of the Octopus, they feature eight key octopus species that exemplify octopus intelligence, physical ability, and sociability.

And having someone like Paul Rudd (a.k.a The man who never ages) narrate the series helps make the octopus characters accessible to as wide an audience as possible.

“Of all the places in the world we could live, Balgowlah is a dream; of all the creatures we could feature in a film, the octopus has been a dream; and as for the best natural home for this series, NatGeo/Disney is also a dream. What they and James Cameron stand for brings the right kind of awareness and star power to our amazing marine environment… in Australia, and around the world,” they add.

Local talent

Octopus researcher Dr Alex Schnell, who features in the series, grew up in Sydney. She credits seeing her first octopus in a rock pool at age five as the moment she decided to become a marine biologist.

“We were thrilled when National Geographic was as excited as us to have Alex as the series’ lead scientist and storyteller,” Colette and Adam say.

Just some of the hi-end specialist filming gear SeaLight's team hauls to locations around Australia and the world, for Secrets of the Octopus.
Just some of the hi-end specialist filming gear SeaLight’s team hauls to locations around Australia and the world, for Secrets of the Octopus. Photo Credit: Harriet Spark

Viewers will also notice that a fair bit of the locations in the documentary are Australian: the Great Barrier Reef, Port Phillip Bay, Port Stephens, etc.

“The Indo-Pacific region is a global hotspot for octopus, and Australia has a variety of octopus species and habitats,” Colette explains.

“From tropical reefs up north, to cold, temperate waters in our Southern Ocean, we revealed diverse octopus stories and behaviours new to science.”

For any local snorkelers or divers on the Northern Beaches, you can find the Gloomy octopus (from its colour, not demeanour), and the Blue-Lined octopus (a member of the Blue-ringed octopus clan), as well as the Southern Keeled octopus.

“The octopus is the perfect ambassador to help humans reconnect with the natural world,” Adam says.

SeaLight's Adam Geiger with a friend off Manly, Australia. Photo credit: Bill Gladstone
SeaLight’s Adam Geiger with a sea-friend off Manly, Australia. Photo credit: Bill Gladstone

“Their family tree split from ours over half a billion years ago. They have no teeth, claws or shells to protect them and yet they can use tools, communicate, multi-task, express emotion, and even, perhaps, dream.

“We hope that viewers everywhere will forge a greater connection with the octopus and the world they live in. To appreciate that we are part of a natural world that we are only beginning to re-discover, and respect. What we love, we will protect.”

Secrets of the Octopus was executive produced by SeaLight Pictures, Earthship Productions and Wildstar Films for Nat Geo/Disney. You can stream all 3 episodes on Disney+.

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Manly Observer is an experiment in providing non-sensationalist hyperlocal news on Sydney’s Northern Beaches. We cover the big news across the LGA, but with a hyper focus on the Manly electorate encompassing Balgowlah, Seaforth, Freshwater, Brookvale and Curl Curl up to Dee Why. It is run by those living in the community for the benefit of an informed community. We care about an informed and connected community. That’s it. Simple. Thank you for your support in keeping quality local news alive!

Kim Smee, Editor


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