DirectorInterview

JoanEmbrey

Advisor : Dr. Michael Hager
Chief Executive Officer, San Diego Natural History Museum

Q. How long has Turtle Reef 3D been playing at your 3D theater?

A. It has been playing now for a little more than 10 months. We originally scheduled it for 6 months, but then extended the lease.

Q. How have your audiences responded to Turtle Reef 3D?

A. Very well indeed – in fact, it is particularly appealing to young families. Turtles make a terrific film subject. In 3D they literally fly through the theater. Turtle Reef 3D develops the story about a day in the life of a turtle revealing aspects of nature that few people know about. The film attracts good audiences who seem to like the development of the characters featured in the film. Our theater draws about 75% of all the people who come to the museum. Turtle Reef 3D has had a full schedule.

Q. Does Turtle Reef 3D fulfill the roles you expect of a giant screen film?

A. We look for films that are entertaining and educational, and Turtle Reef 3D is both. The film is also inspirational because it demonstrates how we can do the right thing by conserving the Hawaiian green turtle. Conservation is an important message that our museum strives to emphasize in all its exhibits. Film is an excellent tool for this as it provides the essential emotional component. Turtle Reef 3D also contributes directly to the work of the Sea Turtle Conservancy and so our patrons are contributing directly to turtle conservation. It fits well with our mission and encourages people to get involved.

Q. You acted as an advisor on Turtle Reef 3D. What did that entail?

A. Summerhays Films invited me to work with them again on this project. I thoroughly enjoyed working with Soames Summerhays before on our giant screen film Ocean Oasis. He is one of those rare individuals whose skill and experience as a naturalist can accurately translate a complex science story into an entertaining and educational film. As one of the three advisors on Turtle Reef 3D my role was to help ensure accuracy and make the film appealing to our audiences.

Q. When you renovated the San Diego Natural History Museum 10 years ago, you made the giant screen theater an integral part of your visitor’s experience. What role does the theater play?

A. We designed our theater to be an integral part of our patron’s museum experience. We wanted the films to relate directly to our other exhibits so as to enrich the educational experience. For example, Turtle Reef 3D was introduced with an exhibit that showcased reptiles. In addition, the theater offers a break for our visitors - a moment for them to sit down, relax and discover new things in a different and entertaining way.

Q. You recently upgraded your giant screen theater to digital projection – and from 2D to 3D. Why was that?

A. Going from 2D to 3D was a big attraction for us because most people we surveyed prefer a 3D experience. Our museum visitation increased substantially because of the added 3D experience. In addition to that, digital projection makes our theater much more versatile enabling us to change programs quickly, access a variety of content and to use the theater also in the evenings for digital feeds or lectures.

Q. How do you find the special programs to meet the needs of your museum?

A. We’ve been fortunate to work closely with Giant Screen Films and D3D in the installation of our new, digital theater. They have been wonderfully responsive to our needs and are great partners in providing us the kind of content we need - such as Turtle Reef 3D.

Q. You were the Executive Producer for Ocean Oasis – your own film designed for Imax™ and other Giant Screen theaters. Tell me something about that experience.

A. Making Ocean Oasis was one of my proudest professional accomplishments. Soames Summerhays was Producer and Director who came to me with a film he wanted to make about the Sea of Cortés. At the time I wanted to make a film about the Baja Peninsula. We ended up making Ocean Oasis, which is a film about the interrelationship between the two–making it the best of all worlds.  It was a wonderful collaboration. Ocean Oasis played a major role in catalyzing the creation of the Gulf of California as a World Heritage site. It directly influenced the local fishermen in Bahia de los Angeles to form a Marine Park. It played a vital role in Mexico establishing Biosphere Reserves in the Gulf of California. It facilitated the purchase of Isla Espiritu Santo by private individuals who gifted it to the Mexican Government as a National Park. Our Ocean Oasis educational program has been used worldwide and was disseminated in the four states surrounding the Gulf of California. Up to now, we have trained 1,841 Mexican schoolteachers in the region to use the Ocean Oasis program. They in turn teach this program to approximately 86,000 school children each year. Ocean Oasis has had a huge impact in catalyzing conservation efforts in the region.

Q. What is it like making a film of this kind?

A. Making a giant screen film is one of the most complex and creative endeavors one can possibly imagine. Every tiny detail in the film matters. For example, the title has to be appealing; the script and story has to be right: the personalities must be engaging, the cinematography beautiful and the music pleasing. There are countless parts that have to come together to form the complete experience. Ocean Oasis has been honored with some of the most coveted awards in documentary filmmaking. I found it particularly satisfying for our peers to recognize it’s excellence. Even today Ocean Oasis, our signature film, continues to attract people to the San Diego Natural History Museum.

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