For the love of God’s aquatic masterpiece, I fought my fear of being underwater twice! It was in 2010 when I first tried scuba diving. I was in Boracay and while the rest of my friends were so confident being underwater, I was going gaga fighting the fear of getting drowned and not being able to breathe.
I couldn’t remember the exact number of times from which I immersed myself in and out of the water. I was immensely struggling! Good thing, my dive master was very patient with me (that or he’s been frustrated with me too? Haha). After another try I decided,
“I’m going to see what’s under me – it’s now or never, baby! I’m going explore and I’m going to conquer!”
I turned on my inner Hillsong hits and started singing in my head. Suddenly, I was, well, underwater. It was so serene and beautiful! I wouldn’t be able to experience such beauty and breakthrough if I just gave up!
After a couple of years, my college friend invited us to Portulano Beach Resort in Batangas. There, she encouraged me and another friend to have a PADI Open Water Dive Course. With such audacity, I dared myself again. This time we were trained in the swimming pool first (for confined water dives) and I panicked! I was fighting the same fear again.
I almost drowned when I was a kid when a grown-up man threw me in an indoor pool. Maybe that’s why it’s been a great strive for me to stay long underwater. The wonderful thing is, when it was time for me to do the open water dive, I was more relaxed. I didn’t know what came into me but I was just feeling it, you know? Then a surprise came when we saw a Hawksbill Sea Turtle or Pawikan!
You see scuba diving is more than just being underwater, there are so many things associated with it. For me it lead me to conquer my fear and explore God’s breathtaking underwater work. I think this is why I also get easily inspired with people who do underwater photography and film.
For the love of marine biology, filmmaking, sharks, and all the wonders in this world including love, Marco Biemann found love and more here in the Philippines. And recently, his short film won some stunning awards!
The story of hope after the unforgettable and devastating Typhoon Haiyan (“Yolanda”) was captured beautifully through an impressive combination of scuba diving and filmmaking.
Here’s a story about Marco and his award-winning short documentary “After the Storm: A Shark’s Tail”. Must-see!
When did you start with filmmaking and what made you embark in this kind of business?
In 1999, I was approached by an underwater cameraman to be his light assistant during an underwater shoot. His normal assistant was a friend of mine from university and she recommended me since she was unavailable. From that day onwards I had more and more assisting gigs, learning how to light, sound recording and camera. Then he got a contract for a part of a TV series for German TV for 10 Episodes. He asked me if I wanted to join his team and learn how to produce and direct. I refused at first because I wanted to finish my Marine Biology Degree first. We agreed that I would be able to work on my thesis in my spare time.
What made me consider (documentary) filmmaking, and especially natural history documentary was my hope to be able to share the natural world and wonders with the audience. I strongly believe people only love what they know.
So when I can make people care about nature through my films it’s a much better use of my life than researching in a lab and write scientific papers only a handful of people would read.
What inspired you to do this kind of video about Malapascua?
After Yolanda we all felt helpless. I volunteered myself and a camera kit to all NGO’s and relief organization I had in contact with. It was first a month after that a dear friend of mine launched her private relief operations and I finally was able to go to Tacloban. To our luck we hitched a ride with one of the relief helicopters. Little did I know that the aerial shots we took that day would haunt me for some time.
My mind was hinged on how we could help and bring livelihood back to people who have lost so much. Months after, together with my British friend and underwater camera man Tony Exall started to work on a concept for a documentary.
Tony was in contact with people from Malapascua and he told me, that they were suffering from tourist cancellations. There we were breaking our brains over what we could do to help and 90% of the foreign tourists did exactly the opposite of what we realized was needed most.
So we decided to make a film that, while telling the story of a local dive guide Ronel also shows that of Malapascua’s natural treasure – the illusive Thresher Shark. The sharks are still arriving to their cleaning stations daily, making Malapascua the only place in the world where recreational divers can observe these mythical creatures on a regular basis.
Beautiful story and intention behind your short film!
Speaking of Thresher Sharks, any message to those who are still afraid of sharks and have the same old misconception about them?
Sharks are not cuddle cats or pets – they are wild animals, predators in fact. As apex predators they are on the top of the food chain. They have been evolving into these perfectly adapted creatures since millions of years. They are in fact not more gruesome than dolphins, except dolphins are more intelligent than sharks. Dolphins have been observed mobbing members of their group and they even kill prey for sport.
The TV series “Flipper” played a vital role in giving Dolphins such a positive reputation. The fear for sharks only increased after Hollywood movies like “Jaws” made them out to be blood thirsty monsters. Most of the shark attacks are misjudgments on the side of the shark. That is the reason why so many victims of sharks are alive to tell the tale. When a 5m White Shark by accident charges at you while you paddle on your surf board it’s because for him you just look like a seal. After a White Shark realised his mistake he does not pursue his “prey” further. Unfortunately for anyone being in front of their rows of dagger-sharp teeth – severe blood loss is for many the cause of death.
Instead of fearing them, rather respect the sharks – they play a vital role in the ecosystem of the ocean!
Any line up of future projects or dream films for Biemann Produktion Haus Inc.?
We are currently researching possibilities to highlight other key species of the Philippines, such as the Philippine Eagle, Whale Shark, Tarsier and the Tamaraw.
The marine biologist in me dreams of producing a documentary that can showcase the diversity of the Philippine waters in its entirety, as it is in the middle of the center of marine biodiversity. We also have several feature film projects in development and hope to bring the first one to the silver screen soon.
It seemed like you’ve really fallen in love with our country. What caused you to decide in making the Philippines your home?
I came to this country afraid for my life. After filming in Sudan I did not want to film the underwater scenes for a documentary here. The Philippines had a bad reputation of bomb, kidnappings and corruption in the media. It was first when I actually arrived here I learned that this country is so much more. Yes, there are corrupt people, but there also the others, genuine people with a good heart. I moved to the Philippines in 2007 after falling in love with my local production manager Anne. We got married in 2008 and we still live in Parañaque City. Our Philippine production company was established shortly after.
Oh love! It really makes you move mountains for the one you love… ♡♡♡
(Going back to the video…)
Well, that was definitely one feel good award-winning short film, Marco! Congratulations to you and your team!
I hope there would be more people like you who would showcase the God-given beauty of the Philippines and the strength of its people.
More inspiring films/documentaries for you and your company!
P.S. I enjoyed the last part – the bubble tricks at the end of the video. What do you call it and how do you do it (Ha ha…)?
We call them bubble rings similar to smoke rings just in the water. It’s something the dive guides sometimes do to entertain clients while having an otherwise boring safety stop while diving. I never managed to do it.
Thanks for your time, Marco!
What about you guys? What do you think of this film? Isn’t it just beautiful and inspiring?
A very good documentary that talks more than just the story after the storm and a shark’s tail. Besides a love for scuba diving, marine biology, sharks, and others, our love and passion can bring stories of hope and restoration that inspires people. Bravo!
What other documentaries do you enjoy watching? Any recommendations? Feel free to share inspiring ones like this or even about your first scuba diving experience!