Film-maker and naturalist Craig Foster, over the course of a year, follows a wild common octopus in a South Africa kelp forest.
By tracking her movements daily, Foster develops a deeper understanding of the sea creature and her environment and relays the impact of this experience on his life.
Washington Post film critic Ann Hornaday spoke with My Octopus Teacher directors Pippa Ehrlich and Jim Reed.
Uncovering undersea mysteries in My Octopus Teacher
Netflix’s My Octopus Teacher, a nature documentary chronicling the incredible friendship between a filmmaker and an octopus, charmed audiences across the globe. The insightful and fascinating film brought people together last year during an unprecedented and uncertain time. The film has won multiple awards this season, including the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature, ACE Eddie Award for Best Edited Documentary (Feature), and BAFTA Award for Best Documentary.
Watch the Untold Story from Oscar and Bafta Award-winning My Octopus Teacher
On WaterBear, watch an exclusive interview with Oscar winners Ellen Windemuth and Craig Foster. Find out more about the untold story of My Octopus Teacher. Craig and Ellen reflect on their 20 years of friendship - from how they met to the projects they worked on together, culminating with the creation of the film.
Jannes Landschoff, Charles Griffiths and Craig Foster in False Bay. Photo Michelle Carpenter.
Science and the making of My Octopus Teacher
The news that My Octopus Teacher had won an Oscar for the Best Documentary at the 93rd Academy Awards was met with elation in the Cape Peninsula’s Deep South where naturalist, film-maker and co-star Craig Foster lives and freedives. But underpinning the film was his relationship with two University of Cape Town (UCT) marine biologists, Foster’s science and marine tracking mentors.
They are friend and fellow seashore explorer Charles Griffiths, now an emeritus professor in the Department of Biological Sciences, and UCT alumnus Dr Jannes Landschoff, who is listed as scientific advisor on My Octopus Teacher.
Some years before Foster encountered his octopus co-star, he’d learned how to track and understand marine life in False Bay’s rich intertidal region in the company of the scientists. Foster is involved in the Sea Change Project, a not-for-profit organisation with a mandate to conserve the oceans and human origin heritage. In an interview with UCT News in 2017, Foster recounted how his job as a wildlife film-maker and advocate for the oceans came from his ability to communicate science in “pictures and stories”.
But it was while he was living and hunting with the San that he realised his access to the ecosystem and its biology was very limited.
“They track with sound, so they can find animals kilometres away. Because their hearing is phenomenal and they speak the languages of animals, birds and insects, I felt I was in a silent world and they were in a world of gigantic symphony.
“But I wasn’t able to speak that science language very well and Charles kindly offered to let me join him and Jannes,” he said.
And with Griffiths’s 50 years of scholarship and big-picture thinking, this was immersion of a different kind. The San also taught him that there were no shortcuts to deep connection.
Swati Thiyagarajan, the environmental journalist and production manager of My Octopus Teacher talks about the Oscar Award-winning documentary, how an octopus helped her husband and the protagonist-producer of the documentary Craig Foster overcome a tough phase in his life.
Directed By Pippa Ehrlich & James Reed
Produced By Craig Foster
Director Of Photography Roger Horrocks & Craig Foster
Executive Producer Ellen Windemuth
Sound Design Barry Donnelly
Original Music Kevin Smuts
Consultant Editor Jinx Godfrey
Editors Pippa Ehrlich & Dan Schwalm
Colorist Kyle Stroebel
Underwater Photography Craig Foster
Topside Photography Warren Smart
Aerial Photography Tom Foster
Additional Photography Pippa Ehrlich & Dave Aenme
Written By Pippa Ehrlich & James Reed
Additional Music Mathew Dennis, Tom Foster & Ronan Skillen
Sound Recording Louw Verwoerd, Hilton Auffray & Tom Foster
Production Manager Swati Thiyagarajan
Scientific Advisers Emeritus Professor Charles Griffiths, Dr Jannes Landschoff & Professor Jennifer Mather
Associate Producers Swati Thiyagarajan, Ross Frylinck & Carina Frankal
Production Assistant Faine Loubser
Production Finance Foster Brothers Film
For Off The Fence
Head Of Production Karen Meehan
Production Manager Stuart Hoole
Production Secretary Charlotte Kingdom
Co-executive Producers Allison Bean & Andrew Zikking
Associate Producers Sam Barton-humphreys & Ludo Dufour
General Counsel Michelle Bruce
Production Finance Marcel Derksen, Menno Fennema
Graphics & Titles Max Phillips
FOR REFINERY POST PRODUCTION
Digital Imaging Producer Jade Kohler
Post Supervisor Lauren Van Rensburg
Mastering Technician Armien Baradien
Conform Editor Danielle Nel
Online Editor Lamees Martin
AUDIO POST PRODUCTION FACILITY
Foley Artist Charl Mostert
Technical Support Lynne Brennan, Michael Brennan, Tom Osborn
ARCHIVAL FOOTAGE & PHOTOS COURTESY OF:
Foster Brothers Film
Sara Edelson, Michael Raimondo, Parker Family, Mapula Trust, Prannoy Roy, Rhadika Roy, Louis Herman, Anthony Mitchell, Brian Bergman, Friedl Le Roux, Yvette Oosthuizen, Deirdre Sims, Michael Sims, Scott Ramsay, Jerry Lemba Lemba, Toren Wing, Jason Boswell, Miguel Oliveira, Aimee Kuhl, Danielle Ehrlich, Lisa Beasley, Mike Duffet, Erik Meijer, Georgia Thompson, Ian Mcallum, Mike Nortje, John Chambers, Monica Rorvick, Craig Fraser, Libby Doyle, Christopher Henshilwood, Colin Bell, Diana Foster, Keith Foster, Natasha Dryden
Since the late 1990s Wildlife-film.com has been the leading source of information for the wildlife filmmaking industry worldwide. For over twenty years the site has been Google's number one ranking site for 'wildlife film' and related searches. Our site is viewed in over 195 countries. Our newsletter, Wildlife Film News, is read every month by thousands of people involved in wildlife filmmaking - from broadcasters and producers, to cameramen - we encourage readers to submit their news. We also serve as an online resource for industry professionals and services. Find producers, editors, presenters and more in our Freelancer section, and find out about festivals, training and conservation in Organisations. We encourage amateur and professional freelancers to join our network and welcome all wildlife-film related organisations to join our team.
Disclaimer: Wildlife-film.com publishes information and opinions as a service to its members and visitors/readers.
The producer does not recommend or endorse any particular method, institution, product, treatment, or theory.
Opinions expressed on Wildlife-film.com are not necessarily those of the producer.