Raising the Titanic01/09/2014
Nearly 25 years after the Titanic shipwreck is discovered, the steward and sole salvager of the Titanic, RMS Titanic Incorporated, is holding a private auction, in which they will sell over 5,000 artifacts from the wreck site in a winner takes all auction. The collection has been appraised at over 189 million dollars and is regarded as one of the biggest auctions in history. The line between archaeology and pillaging is blurred by these events, and brings into question humanity’s unfailing interest in the past.
Raising the Titanic was an official selection of NFFTY 2013 and was screened in the category of Closing Night. The film also claimed the award of Best Documentary.
About the director:
By the time Alex graduated high school, he had already won 1st place at the Palm Beach International Film Festival in the short film/commercial category and received the Sarah Fuller Scholarship his senior year for his dedication to the art of filmmaking. He was then accepted to the FSU Film School in Tallahassee, Florida where he learned the art of storytelling and cinematography under the school’s faculty and Amy Vincent A.S.C.
During his time at school, Alex shot and directed several short films and documentaries that have since then screened world-wide. One of these films, Raising the Titanic, screened at the American Pavilion at Cannes Film Festival this past summer as well as several other international film festivals.
Alex currently lives in Los Angeles, California as a freelance AC and cinematographer. When he is not working on set you can find him hiking the trails and looking for his next inspiration.
Alex is a huge fan of Titanic. NFFTY talks to him to find out more about his journey in gathering materials for this documentary.
Q: How did you come into contact with the topic and what made you decide to go into it?
When I was a student at the FSU Film School in Tallahassee, Florida, I got the opportunity to see the Titanic Exhibition at my local museum. I’ve always been a fan of the Titanic since I was a young kid and this was the first time I’ve ever seen the artifacts from the wreckage in person. Needless to say, it was inspiring to see and practically touch these once lost relics that brought to life all the stories of the Titanic. At the end of the tour, I read a panel on the ship and was surprised to learn that due to iron eating microbes on the floor of the Atlantic and the pressure down there, the ship would not be there in 50 years.
A couple of weeks later my mother showed me an article in my local newspaper about the auction at Guernsey’s for the sale of the Titanic Exhibition artifacts. Interested, I began digging and found out that the auction was actually unpopular amongst the fans in the Titanic community and Nautical Museums. I called the exhibition owner, Premier Exhibitions, in an initial attempt to do a story on just the auction itself, but they wouldn’t answer my questions, so I dug deeper. Through my research, I had the privilege of interviewing museum owners, relatives of the Titanic, archaeologists and even an actor who went down to the wreck-site, and found a much more compelling story: why we want these objects preserved, not just what, and the pros and cons of documenting one of the hardest to reach archaeological sites on the earth.
Q: How was the filming process like? Was it difficult to acquire the materials?
Filming was relatively simple. I was able to find the bulk of my interviewees in Tallahassee, Florida, and we also traveled down to Pinellas, Florida for a weekend to interview Mr. Lowell Lytle, the actor that was able to dive down to the wreckage itself. It was wonderful to meet him and hear his story. I think it had an amazing impact on the documentary. Getting the rights to the footage we used was the hardest part of the project. Since Premier Exhibitions owned most of the rights to the video footage of the Titanic, I had to go around them to get my b-roll. I was able to get in contact with Robert Ballard’s team, who originally discovered the Titanic and has gathered plenty of footage off the wreck site, and they agreed to let me use their footage along with an interview he had done on the Colbert Report. Lowell Lytle was also gracious enough to let me use footage that a 3rd party had gathered of the Titanic as well, including his own personal video camera footage that he took when he went down to the wreck site.
Q: Has participation in NFFTY helped to pave a way for your career in the filmmaking industry?
I unfortunately was not able to accept my award at NFFTY this past year, but I wear the award with pride, and it will surely look great on my resume. I eventually aim to work for Discovery Channel as a cameraman one day and the recognition and support of NFFTY will help all the more in me reaching my goal.
Find out more about Alex and his endeavors from his website here.
From NFFTY desk:
NFFTY welcomes documentaries submission. If you made a documentary and would like it showcased, submit to NFFTY for selection. Find out more on our submission page.