Ray: A Life Underwater


Written by Olivia Patt
25 Sunday 25th September 2011

Ray: A Life Underwater from Danny Cooke on Vimeo.

How did this project come about?

Amanda: It was a commission from a company called Yacht Haven Marina and the managing director, Dylan Kalis, knows Ray and had kept his collection of memorabilia in the marina in Plymouth.  Dylan thought that Ray’s collection and the story of Ray’s life was a story worth telling. He was looking for a filmmaker and approached me.

Danny: Amanda saw several of my last documentaries and she liked my style of filmmaking, cinematography and editing, and wanted me on board to help document Ray. After meeting him and seeing his container at the Plymouth Yacht Haven, I was extremely amazed at his life story and was excited to begin the project.

What did you feel about Ray’s story? What stood out for you?

A: Well Ray is quite an eccentric and a very lovable man. What’s striking about him is his humility. He thinks that the life he’s led is entirely ordinary and unremarkable; but actually, when you look at what he’s done over the course of his career – he was at the cutting edge of diving technology, he pioneered a lot of diving techniques with other people in the seventies, he took a lot of risks, as many people did in the diving world, and along the way collected the most incredible collection of deep sea salvage which he just tinkers with! He’s 75, likes to potter, tinker with his collection, and chat to people.

D: Ray has many stories to tell but it’s his character and on-screen presence that really meant more to me than anything else. A filmmaker needs to really be enthusiastic about what he or she is filming, otherwise it is obvious in the final result.

What from his collection really impressed you?

A: He has some real stand out items in his collection, and amongst them are gold and silver coins. Also, which weren’t featured in the film, are reindeer hides from the 17-- wreck, The Katarina. All sorts of things were preserved in the mud, and there was a stash of reindeer hides from Denmark which was en route to London to be made into luxury leather goods. He also has a cannon and cannonballs. I think visually what really stood for me was his Siebe-Gorman copper helmet in his diving collection; which he still dives in at the age of 75.

What were your expectations going into the project?

A: My hope for the project was to make a really high quality art house documentary, quite sumptuous, and a really high standard of visual aesthetic, as well as a really good soundtrack. I was fortunate in that the team around me and the generosity of the people that worked with us meant that it became a really great thing. I’m very proud of what we’ve done.

Danny, before you began the project, did you have any set ideas of how you wanted to shoot it? Did the end product turn out how you wanted it to?

D: After visiting Ray several times, Amanda and I bounced ideas off each other. We were very clear on how we wanted the film to feel. Ray has a lot to tell, but we had to pick the best parts of his story and craft a film around what we think would have been the most interesting to the viewer. I couldn’t be more pleased with how many good responses the film has received worldwide.

Danny, what are your favourite shots or scenes from the film?

D: When filming and planning out shots, I like to give the viewer plenty of time to take the visuals in. For me there is one stand out shot, and that is when Ray opens his container door. The light floods in, and when he switches on the light, the viewer is presented with the treasure.

Amanda, what do you want viewers to take away from it when they see it?

A: I’d like viewers to be touched and moved by Ray’s story, and feel entirely immersed for fifteen minutes in a world away from their own stress and anxieties, and to be properly submerged in Ray’s underwater world. 

To see more of Amanda's work, visit her website here. You can see more of Danny's work here

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