Vanessa Marshall

venessa 1.jpg Thesis Title: The joining of worlds – Finding the balance of emotions, aesthetics & science in documentary filmmaking, whilst using film as a tool for an inspirational outcome in conservation.


Whales strand every year up and down New Zealand’s jagged coastline and science can reveal many clues to their cause. Humans have a deep fascination with these strandings, though it differs remarkably from the past. I am exploring the power & psychology of aesthetics and the impact this has on our conservation of whales. Solving the problem of strandings, and in general many issues in conservation, is a very tricky and political one. At which point is it about the humans or the whales? Over summer I got to witness and record the psychology of saving whales first hand, while making the film Once A pod of Whales ,“Drawing the line between Life & Death”. It also makes me question: can documentary film join these worlds of aesthetics and science?

Vanessa and Sara Kaltz are working on a film about whale strandings and spent time filming on the northern tip of the South Island of New Zealand – and area well known for these mysterious happenings.

There were many children helping, buckets and sheets lying everywhere. The water we were scooping up was rank to say the least, it was draining down the beach past sick and dead whales pooling in the dug out holes, ready for use I wondered if the whales could sense the death around them, even through the water. I thought about whale transmitted diseases into the cuts I had acquired that day. I also thought what a weird thing it was that humans now helped whales after all those years of slaughter in this country, until relatively recently…”

To learn more about the whale strandings and their film-making experience, visit their blog: