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An Interview With

Jeff Kurr, Filmmaker

Jeff Kurr has been filming sharks for longer than almost anyone, and chances are if you’ve ever watched Shark Week, you’ve seen one of his specials. From the “flying” sharks of Air Jaws to the record-breaking giants of his Mega Shark specials, Jeff’s Emmy award-nominated work embodies what we all know and love about Shark Week. In May 2015, we asked Jeff to answer a few questions about his career.

Why do you film sharks — what inspires you?I feel like I’ve been on a 25-year quest of discovery, documenting animals that relatively little is known about. Being the first to capture many shark behaviors and the idea that my films may be inspiring future marine biologists and filmmakers inspires me.

How did you get started as a shark documentary filmmaker?I had a background in TV news, but my love for animals drew me to Shark Week. And luck helped – in 1991, I answered an ad in the local paper to work on a film and didn’t know at the time I would be working on my first of 30-plus shark documentaries.

How has filming with sharks changed since you started working on Shark Week in 1991?One word: technology. The cameras are so much better and easier to use, it’s been a 100% game changer for me.

Of all the innovative filmmaking techniques you’ve employed over the years, what’s the one that you’re most proud of?I think being the first to use super slow-motion to film breaching great whites. This was a technology that was just starting to be used in movies and commercials and I thought, “Let’s modify this camera and use it to shoot sharks jumping!” It was amazing.

How is your work as a filmmaker helping to advance our understanding of sharks?Really, a shark filmmaker is a shark promoter. I feel like my mission is to promote sharks by showcasing their incredible beauty with incredible footage. My hope is that people who watch my films come away with a better understanding of the animals and a better appreciation. The more people we can turn into shark fanatics, the more we can weave sharks into our popular culture, the better the chances they have for long-term survival.

What's been the highlight of your career so far?If I had to narrow down to just one, it would be my ride on the Seal Sled in Air Jaws Apocalypse and having a shark called “Colossus” breach just a few feet away from me… I still get goose bumps thinking about that. And, a close second is filming the first Air Jaws and witnessing my first great white breaching. I remember thinking, “This is going to be big!”

What’s one shark mystery that you’re desperate to solve on a future Shark Week?Well, of course that would be great white sharks mating… Actually filming that activity would be the Holy Grail of shark activities. And, I do have a plan with respect to this, don’t worry!

Sharkopedia : Filming Sharks |

5 Things Jeff Kurr Packs When Shooting Shark Week

1 Sunscreen

"Kids, don't forget the sunscreen!"

2 Gerber Tool

"It’s like a Swiss Army knife. It's invaluable on a boat."

3 Zip Ties

"Zip ties can be used to fix anything from a camera to a seal decoy."

4 Columbia PFD Jacket and Overalls

"We shoot Air Jaws during the South African winter, and at night it's cold! I've worn the same stuff since 2012, and it keeps my teeth from chattering when trying to film."

5 Diet Coke

"I used to be an addict, but I finally kicked the habit a year ago. Now, it's alkaline water."

Sharkopedia : Filming Sharks |

Spotlight On Tech

Jeff Kurr’s 5 Biggest Breakthroughs in Wildlife Filmmaking

From showing what great whites look like in super slow motion to filming breaches in the dead of the night, Jeff Kurr has been using current technology as a means of extraordinary storytelling for years. Here’s what he feels are the biggest recent developments in wildlife filmmaking that have made his job even MORE exciting.

1.  HD, 4K, 6K and Beyond
The increasing resolution of the cameras is breathtaking.  A shark breaching in 6K has so much more detail than regular HD.

2. Slow Motion
Wildlife, especially fast-moving wildlife, looks incredible in slow motion.  A shark breach on a seal normally lasts about 1 second.  Slowing it way down allows you to see every nuance of the attack. I’ve often said when shooting “flying sharks” with Phantom slow-motion cameras you can literally count every tooth in the sharks’ mouths.

3.  Night Cameras
We used to pack it up when the sun set.  Now, we start our “day” at night, which is when things really heat up in the sharks’ world.

4. POV Cameras
The GoPro and other small, self-contained cameras can be put anywhere and in places where larger cameras can’t go.  For sharks, the GoPro has given us new angles we could never get before.

5. Drones
This is an indispensable tool for a wildlife filmmaker because it gives us views of wildlife we couldn’t get before — even if we had a noisy, expensive and potentially risky helicopter.  Drones have been a game changer!

Sharkopedia : Filming Sharks |

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