Tackling the pro-captivity/anti-captivity debate is a bold venture no matter who you are. It’s especially bold in 22-year old English presenter, Jonny Meah‘s case, as Inside The Tanks is his first ever documentary. It is a project he produced, directed and edited himself.
Inside The Tanks brings both sides of the argument to the table that documentaries such as Blackfish popularized, without attacking either side. The film also brings the point of view from a different part of the world than what we are used to seeing here in the United States. I was fortunate enough to have a little Q&A with Jonny Meah before Inside The Tanks debuts on June 15. You can also listen to my interview with him for my podcast The Conservationist Conservationalist when it goes live tomorrow, June 14.
First off, tell us a little bit about yourself…
My name is Jonny Meah. I’m 22 years old. I’m a presenter – I believe we’re called hosts in the US – and voice-over artist! I’m from just outside of London. I’ve done many different jobs in the presenting world, from hosting at Wembley Arena to presenting a weekly show on Heart radio. However, Inside The Tanks was my first ever documentary. And the first time, on this scale, that I’ve also led the production side of things too!
Inside The Tanks, tackles a subject that has been very prominent lately thanks to documentaries such as Blackfish and The Cove. What inspired you to base your documentary on this subject?
I was inspired to make this documentary and tackle this debate, despite it’s enormity, because I believe one way or another something needs to be done. I truly believe that, in many cases, the issue has become less about animals, and more about personal hatred, whether that’s towards an organization or a particular person – that goes for both sides, too.
I want to bring this back to what matters most; and the reason why people are interested in this topic to begin with – the animals. I think previous pieces on the topic have been really, really interesting, but I personally felt that there was a gap, and a need in one of these pieces for a view from someone in support of captivity as well. So that is where Inside The Tanks comes in.
I wanted to create a piece that gives both sides a chance to have their say, consequently allowing the audience to make their mind up by themselves. On one hand you’ll see The Born Free Foundation, John Hargrove, and Ingrid Visser stating their beliefs, and in Dr. Visser’s case, her observations; and then on the other hand, those beliefs and observations will be addressed to Marineland Antibes’ Zoological Director, Jon Kershaw, who will give his opinion. This isn’t a big Hollywood blockbuster documentary – it’s a documentary with virtually zero budget for production. But I think that’s what also separates this from the rest. You’ll see the raw, untouched views and opinions of these people, without it being dressed up too much, or ‘Hollywood-fied’ (yes, I just made up that word!). Overall, my inspiration comes from wanting the best for these animals. And I think the only way that this can happen is by all sides drawing from their strengths, and working together.
It’s a subject very close to many here in the Pacific Northwest due to our resident pods that frequent Puget Sound. Part of Inside The Tanks takes place at a marine park in France. Were you inspired to see these creatures in the wild or had you experienced that already?
It would be a dream for me to see wild orcas. It’s definitely something I need to do soon. To date, I haven’t had that luxury. I’ve seen dolphins in the wild numerous times though, and all I can say is it’s the most beautiful and overwhelming experience, no matter where you are in the world. It’s just incredible to watch them interacting with each other, and acting in a natural way. It’s hard to describe but it’s almost like there’s a mutual respect.
Without giving too much away, what was the most surprising thing that you came across while filming Inside The Tanks?
Well, that would be telling! But without giving much away, I guess the biggest surprise for me was that on a few occasions, Marineland’s Zoological Director agreed with things that were being said. I was pleasantly surprised to hear both sides, separately saying to me on camera, that they would welcome the opportunity to work with each other in the future. There are, of course, some unbelievable revelations along the way too, and some fantastic footage. It is guaranteed to get you thinking!
What are your plans after you debut Inside The Tanks?
After its debut, I will continue to push the doc as much as possible. That heavily relies on you guys to share it too though – no pressure! But also it’s back to the regular job for me. Back to the radio waves, and back to recording voice-overs etc.
I also hope that I will be given the opportunity to explore this even further with a production company, and potentially commissioned by a TV channel, after they see the interest in the subject. This means that together we will be able to explore even more things surrounding the subject!
Where can people watch?
You can watch it, from wherever you are in the world, on our Official YouTube Channel or just type in “Inside The Tanks” and select channel in the features! You can also keep completely up to date with the documentary over on our Facebook page or catch us on Twitter.
Editor in Chief of Lemonade Magazine