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The Power of Movies To Build an Audience

Aileen Torres-Bennett,
Managing Editor,
Sea Technology Magazine

I love movies. They entertain, can lift your spirits, and help solve problems by proxy. Perhaps most significantly, by appealing to the imagination, they can expand your intellectual world. Therein lies their power: the ability to capture hearts and minds; to fascinate with possibilities and make you think.

This power of appeal is what our industry can use to its advantage, not only to stoke the next generation of professionals, but to create an ever-growing audience interested in what we do.

Maritime industries affect people’s daily lives worldwide, but this pervasive influence is generally not known. More than 90 percent of the world’s trade is transported via the oceans, according to the IMO, which means we have maritime technology to thank for stocking our grocery store shelves, among a whole lot of other things.

Trade is, of course, not the only thing maritime technology is good for. If you’re a regular Sea Tech reader, you’ll know that each issue has a monthly theme that touches on the wide variety of sectors involving ocean technologies, from science to offshore to maritime defense and everything in between.

We’re a trade publication, and proud to be one. Our articles are written by highly intelligent individuals, and we’re glad to be a platform for their research and ideas. But we acknowledge we’re a niche platform. We primarily preach to the choir, although we try to entice new readers with a few pop culture-relevant items, particularly on our social media outlets: twitter.com/seatechnology and www.facebook.com/seatechnologymag.

Our challenge is indicative of a larger industry challenge: how to build a bigger audience. Which brings us back to the power of movies. Younger generations need to have a spark lit for what we do, and Hollywood can play a big role in creating that spark.

The most prominent director riding the line between science/tech and pop culture is James Cameron, a physics major and son of an engineer. He brought the world such classic films as “The Terminator”, “Aliens”, and “Avatar”. His fascination with the deep sea is clear in his work via the classic films “The Abyss” and “Titanic”, both set in the deep ocean. He also brought us the underwater cave-diving thriller “Sanctum”, which features technical diving. Cameron also has a lot of experience piloting a submersible; he explored the wreckage of the Titanic and did a solo dive to the Challenger Deep in the Marianas Trench.

Movies set in the ocean are typically adventure films, some of them playing to the fear of the unknown, and marine technologies have a prominent role. Jacques-Yves Cousteau’s 1956 documentary “The Silent World”, co-directed by the great French director Louis Malle, introduced the undersea world to a general audience with diving equipment and underwater cameras, and the fascination with this largely unexplored world has continued through the decades. James Bond exploded into cinema in the 1960s, including the 1965 film “Thunderball”, featuring, for the time, cutting-edge underwater action scenes with scuba divers. The 1970s saw adventure films and thrillers such as “The Treasure of Jamaica Reef”, a 1975 film that follows a group of young divers looking for the treasure of a sunken Spanish galleon, and “The Poseidon Adventure”, a classic disaster-at-sea thriller from 1972. In the 1980s, there was “The Big Blue” (1988), a free-diving classic; “Leviathan” (1989), a horror-thriller set against the backdrop of deep-sea mining; and Cameron’s “The Abyss” (1989), also a horror-thriller set in the deep sea. More recently, “Into the Blue” was a popcorn movie of 2005 about youngsters diving after a dream of sunken treasure. “Black Sea”, released last year, was another treasure-seeking film, this time, in search of gold buried in a sub. “In the Heart of the Sea” opens this month, an adventure-thriller about the stranded crew of a whaling ship. “The Finest Hours” will open in January, about a rescue attempt off Cape Cod during a blizzard.

Ocean films play to our desire to explore a new world. It’s this desire that, when kindled at a young age, can grow into a lifelong fascination with solving the problems of the ocean; how to build the tools that will bridge the divide between our current capabilities and greater future possibilities.

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Sea Technology is read worldwide in more than 110 countries by management, engineers, scientists and technical personnel working in industry, government and educational research institutions. Readers are involved with oceanographic research, fisheries management, offshore oil and gas exploration and production, undersea defense including antisubmarine warfare, ocean mining and commercial diving.