POTENTIAL NEW SQUID/OCTOPUS DOCUMENTARY

Discussion in 'Physiology and Biology' started by Steve O'Shea, Feb 15, 2008.

  1. Steve O'Shea

    Steve O'Shea Colossal Squid Supporter

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    Many years ago we started a similar thread, and received some valuable input from folk in the cephalopod community here on TONMO.com. I take this opportunity again to call for ideas for a new squid/octopus documentary.

    We are not talking an expedition-based documentary, searching for either giant or colossal squids, or any other (prohibitively expensive) documentary involving sea time. We have the opportunity to scope out a new documentary that utilises existing footage, knowledge and personnel.

    Has anyone any ideas what they'd like to see produced? We're after a 1-page concept dealing with these animals, their life cycles/histories, biology, behaviour ... I am not interested in any Animal Face Off (AFO) style proposals.

    Please feel free to post your ideas here. Your input would be greatly appreciated. We've basically got a week to get these ideas across, starting from now.

    The clock is ticking.
     
  2. monty

    monty Colossal Squid Staff Member Supporter

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    What if Euprymna scolopes got in a smackdown fight with Tyranosaurous rex in the dressing room at American Idol?

    Documentaries I'd love to see:

    * cephalopod diversity with emphasis on Vampyroteuthis, Spirula, Argonauta, and Nautilus.
    * brains, behaviors, vision, locomotion and camouflage in cephalopods
    * evolutionary implications of cephalopod diversity, with emphasis on what convergent evolution shows us in comparing how cephalopods "solve" survival problems relative to how vertebrates do
    * diversity of cephalopod lifestyles: compare squids, cuttles, octos, and the shallow versus midwater vs. deep water cephs.
    * including some of the hobby animal aspects might be good, but might attract a lot of cranks, I'm not sure if this is a good or bad idea
    * A detailed report on ceph chromatophore (etc) use showing the camouflage intra- and inter- species communication, polarization use, and so forth, and maybe the debate between Moynihan followers asserting language in Sepioteuthis and Hanlon's skeptical take on that.

    Most documentaries barely cover the differences between squid, octo, and cuttle, let alone show the diversity within each of those groups (and the kooky outliers like nautilus and Spirula) them or compare them to vertebrates or look at their evolutionary history

    Also life cycles and reproduction and how they very between cephs.

    Or habitats and ecology.
     
  3. Nancy

    Nancy Titanites Staff Member Moderator

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    There is an enormous interest in octopuses and octopus behavior. You might inverview Roland Anderson and find out some of the latest things he's doing (like feeding hot dogs to his GPOs for enrichment!). Jar opening and other "tricks" are popular, but problem solving as a topic could be very interesting. Octopus play - we've certainly seen a lot of that on ceph care.

    Can an octopus recognize individuals?(we all know they can because we've seen instances)

    I know you'd have to set this up, but how about an octopus escaping? O. vulgaris are known to escape - even better, escape and go over to another tank for fish. Jean had an example of this.

    Octopuses are friendly. You might include an octopus with divers. There are some TV segments that suggest they're attacking divers when it's clear that isn't happeneing.

    Bits and pieces of this have been done, but with High Definition tV taking off over here, animal programs are increasingly popular.

    I'm sure this is just one of many possibilities. Anolther might be squid and octopus around NZ. Just make it colorful and use your sense of humor.

    Nancy
     
  4. Steve O'Shea

    Steve O'Shea Colossal Squid Supporter

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    Thanks Mark, Nancy

    It would be nice if a series were to develop from something like this, perhaps "Amazing lives: Cephalopods". A pitch could certainly be made. I'll direct the company straight to this thread.

    I like the cradle to the grave theme; and past, present and future of the cephalopod (would dearly love to see something done on fossils, reconstructing their life histories, phylogeny and morphology).

    How would you feel about the following, as a preliminary pitch, for a series should something eventuate:

    1) Cephalopod phylogeny (fossil to recent, and crystal-ball gazing). If one doco then all 3 could be covered, 20, 20 and ~ 7 minutes each. If a series, you would cover extinct to extant only, but dwell largely on the extinct, 42 minutes and 5 minutes respectively.

    2) Recent diversity (an expose on the diversity of extant species of octopus, squid, cuttles, vampyromorphs and nautiloids). This might focus largely on the bizarre morphology of these species, using stock footage and narration. It probably couldn't dwell too much on behaviour (the subject of a separate documentary).

    3) Life cycles of cephalopods (an expose on the known and hypothetical life cycles of cephalopods), from birth to death (death including predation; charismatic megafauna like whales, sharks etc). This could include: coastal, bathyal and abyssal taxa; diurnal vertical migration; seasonal spatial migration; the bizarre sexual behaviours of some of these species (that are known); egg type (octopus, squid, nautiloids, vamps), brooding, egg deposition on the sea bed, free-floating egg masses); life span; and mortality (post spawning, fisheries, predation).

    4) Cephalopod bevaviour: this would, I would imagine, focus largely on intelligence (presumed), quirky mannerisms (bottle openings, mazes), habitat, defensive (or offence), recognition, chromatophores/camouflage, vision and locomotion, and deal largely with coastal species of octopus and cuttlefish (better studied and more easy to document on film).

    Anyone have any more suggestions? It would be very hard to pitch a conservation-oriented programme, although a few pointed statements could be made during each and all - lessons learnt in the past and present, and what this might mean for the future (should global warming, as one topical example, lead to increased numbers (and larger individuals) of warmer-water species, a demise of cold-water and deep-sea species, and cascading effects through food chains [effects on cetaceans for one]).

    When a few more ideas are posted I'll start a poll up, so people can vote for whatever they'd like to see first (prioritised).
     
  5. OB

    OB Colossal Squid Staff Member Moderator

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    I'll give this some serious thought...
     
  6. DWhatley

    DWhatley Cthulhu Staff Member Moderator

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    Door #3 has my vote


    I have been amazed at some of the comments made by very young (6-10 years old) children when they find out I have an octopus or seahorse. Some kids actually watch educational TV. I have also met people who are terrified of the ocean but have found the films wonderful. If you can display good pictures from egg to brooding, I think the interest would considerable.
     
  7. gjbarord

    gjbarord Sepia elegans Staff Member Moderator

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    I for one like this idea especially with some of the larger cephalopods as they often times have the smallest larvae. I also agree that a focus on merely conservation would be difficult because there really is not any information on the subject but using life cycles as a base, you would be able to throw in some important things going on right now, such as the protection of Sepia apama breeding grounds. You could also tie in how important cephalopods are to the food chain considering they are consumed by pretty much everything and slowly, and without force, offer conservation issues that may be taken up in the future.

    I do not care for documentaries that show human interaction (without scientific merit) in the wild, positive or negative. I think that this sends the wrong message to the naive viewer that "hey octopuses are not mean, I will go down and play with that one". To me, seeing cephalopods, or any marine creature, in the wild without a diver in the way is so much better. This type of documentary can be done but it is so difficult. Why I just watched a show on great whites where people were diving with it, in open water, mainly to just be the first female photographer or what have you. While exciting I am sure, these kinds of actions do not have the effect that is wanted.

    Who is the audience??

    Greg
     
  8. Architeuthoceras

    Architeuthoceras Architeuthis Staff Member Moderator

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    Four or five 42 min. segments on the extinct would be great, but there might not be that large of an audience. :sad:
     
  9. robyn

    robyn Vampyroteuthis Supporter

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    I would love to see something on phylogenies too, particularly focusing on the extinct forms and how they evolved to what we have now, but I honestly think more people are into stuff like watching octopuses open jars.

    Maybe something that actually relates all that sort of stuff to behaviour in the wild might be a new angle on it. It seems like there is a ton of footage of octopuses slithering over perspex maze walls and untwisting jar lids etc., but no real interpretation of why they are so 'intelligent' and why plastic behaviour might actually help them gain an advantage in the wild. That could be used as a jumping off point for looking at different types of behaviours by octos, cuttles, squids and nautiluses, and how 'intelligence' might be of use to each in its natural environment. That would be cool. I would watch it, at least!
     
  10. theShice

    theShice Larval Mass Registered

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    hello everyone. this is my first post, i've just been reading until now, but this thread kinda hit a nerve.

    whatever the specific topic of the planned documentary might be, i'd like to suggest that the commentary should be detailed and complete.
    i enjoy seeing documentaries on any kind of plants or animals, but it annoys me that they hardly ever go into detail when introducing a species. they show some images of a specimen, say something like "the so-and-so also defends its territory aggressively against intruders", and that's it. no information on where the so-and-so lives, how big it is, what it does for the rest of the day... i'd really like to see a program that gives me the impression of understanding something, and not just being told some random information without context.

    also, i believe that the audience can indeed enjoy "dry" scientific topics, like the evolution of the different ceph groups, as long as they are presented in an interesting way.

    the audience is more intelligent than most tv producers think ;)
     
  11. monty

    monty Colossal Squid Staff Member Supporter

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    :welcome: to TONMO.

    I expect most of us here agree with you completely. Unfortunately, by all reports, the companies that pay for and hire filmmakers to film the documentaries appear to be the ones who really need convincing.

    I had an email discussion a few years ago with a science-writer friend who wrote the little descriptions in a few science museums and public aquariums, and mentioned how frustrating it is that there's so little information, and that even if it's as accurate as it can be, just the omissions can effectively make them seem "dumbed down." Her response was that, because they're intended to educate the masses, they've got to take into account that studies have shown that people have a very short attention span, and will stop reading after 2 sentences or one paragraph or something like that. She said that the commonly held belief is that it's necessary to aim the exhibits at these people in order to be effective education. She mentioned that the Exploratorium in San Francisco is the only museum that has tried to be more sophisticated, and while they're very successful, they have a reputation for being weird and unique, and consequently the belief seems to be that there is no point in trying to replicate their style.

    I took issue with this whole point of view, but it seems pretty prevalent. I'm not sure why "they" believe that it's necessary to dumb down the information so completely that it serves only the average apathetic visitor/viewer/reader. Frankly, if apathy, inattention, ignorance, or stupidity is that big a problem for the "masses," documentaries and exhibits don't all have to be aimed just at people with those traits: the number of people who will be transformed into science enthusiasts by one source of information is going to be tiny, and targeting them exclusively doesn't seem necessary. In the museum case, I think there should be a large-print short paragraph about the exhibit, and then a small-print detail page for people who are interested in learning more. I don't know if studies have shown that having small print intimidates dumb people or something, but it seems foolish to declare that interested and enthusiastic smart people who like to think and learn have to be denied just because "Joe and Jane Average" aren't interested in the details.

    One door that's wide open to address this, but seems to have been infected with the same bad attitude, is web sites affiliated with museums and documentaries. The "rule of thumb" seems to be that web sites for documentaries and museums have to be aimed at the lowest-common-denominator general public, and are essentially a combination of advertising and providing the same information at the same 4th-grade-reading-level. Why not have a section on the web site for people who want more detailed, "educated lay people" levels of further reading? These days, people walking around a museum could even read it on their iPhones, and certainly at home the enthusiastic people could get in the habit of firing up their web browsers on their laptops as they watch a TV show... maybe the URL could even be announced at the beginning of the documentary, so they could follow along.

    The attitude that pandering public education to people who are ignorant by cutting down the content until they can learn a tiny bit of new information without feeling bad about their ignorance seems to amount to cutting off one's nose to spite one's face. I suspect people who don't care about science aren't even served by hiding the details: I don't believe that they are only ignorant or apathetic because they're intimidated by the "science is hard, and makes me feel stupid" attitudes, and even if they are, does hiding the (real) complexity get around that in the long term? If they do get interested and want to learn more, is buying into the bad attitude really going to serve to maintain that interest, or is it going to block the interest in the name of keeping the "science education" limited to "infotainment" for people who basically don't care, and are on the verge of switching channels to watch ESPN or E!, or going to Six Flags instead of the public Aquarium?

    (sorry, I guess this turned into the "opinionated rant wall o' text"-- I hope it's the intended thought-provoking rather than :yelling: )
     
  12. Octavarium

    Octavarium Wonderpus Registered

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    Just a simple idea, but focusing in the entire life of maybe one octo from hatching to death. I remember one show on whales I think that kind of documented its entire life and what it encountered at different stages. Something similar to that may be interesting, but too narrow perhaps? I agree with others on examining the divergence of cephalopods also, how they evolved, etc. Also focusing on their brain may be a good idea, any neurological data that they have found... and focusing on octo learning and skills
     
  13. Steve O'Shea

    Steve O'Shea Colossal Squid Supporter

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    Something like this is very interesting indeed, but filling in an entire ~ 45/47 minutes (I'm not sure how long these docos are now, but advertising time cuts into the hour considerably) with information on one species would be difficult. If no budget existed to do research/field work to follow the life of an individual or species (preferably in the wild), there is a danger that any stock footage would be sourced/used and resulting commentary would be rather anthropomorphic (raising hairs on the back of my neck).

    I do agree; looking at one thing in detail is better/more informative than looking at many things in superficial detail. Too many tangents also confuses an audience (I don't know what the target demographic is for this; I'll ask).
     
  14. Phil

    Phil Colossal Squid Supporter Registered

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    Much as I would like to see the documentary deal partly with cephalopod evolution, I am worried that this might involve expensive computer imagery and reconstructions. Although 30 years ago we would be content to see David Attenborough walking along the beach at Lyme Regis during Life on Earth and holding up a card with a drawing of an ammonite on it, todays audiences would expect something along the lines of Walking With... style graphics. I realise that the audience on this website would probably be happy enough with the former style, but would this appeal to todays general audience and TV style with its quick soundbites, fast cutting and flashy imagery?

    The alternative would be, unfortunately, to keep the fossil and evolution section all too brief; unless one can actually film someone working on an ammonite bed somewhere or fly out to Japan to examine Nipponites, stock footage may be an unfortunate necessity.

    Most cephalopod documentaries of recent years have tended to concentrate on a single species; mostly the giants or endless shows about Dosidicus. There have been, to my knowledge, few overviews of the group as a whole.

    I think Incredible Suckers did an excellent job of such an overview, after the introduction it moved from an examination of Nautilus to cuttlefish to squid to octopuses and then to the giant squid and Vampyroteuthis. As a template of a programme it worked masterfully - the programme has always generated extreme respect on this website. Perhaps something along the same pattern but updated perhaps? Believe it or not, the documentary is now thirteen years old and I think it's certainly time that such a programme was attempted.
     
  15. erich orser

    erich orser Architeuthis Supporter Registered

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    I like a number of the suggestions here, particularly cephalopod evolution, but what I always want to see more of is bioluminescence in cephs. Do you have any more footage of that histioteuthis you caught many years back? Also, more footage of the more obscure cephalopods like argonauta or tremoctopus would be aces!
     
  16. Steve O'Shea

    Steve O'Shea Colossal Squid Supporter

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    4 days to go

    Thanks to everyone so far; these are truly valuable suggestions!
     
  17. DWhatley

    DWhatley Cthulhu Staff Member Moderator

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    Steve,
    Would it be viable to film enough of the squid thaw and fix to make one of these documentaries? You already know the interest is there and all of us would love to see the process.
     
  18. Steve O'Shea

    Steve O'Shea Colossal Squid Supporter

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    Yes, we are doing this, but it's only a snippet in a doco, augmenting something we have done already.

    You'd need someone like Kiefer Sutherland and a jolly good plot if you wanted to make an entire doco out of a thaw & fix. Not sure what you'd call it - 72?
     
  19. WhiteKiboko

    WhiteKiboko Colossal Squid Supporter Registered

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    Does it include torturing post-docs until they reveal where they hide the formalin? Roughing up administrators who want you to do paperwork? The occasional explosion (sometimes even not microwave related)?
     
  20. Tintenfisch

    Tintenfisch Architeuthis Staff Member Moderator

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    :goofysca:
     

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