Michele Gomes and Jenny Ting were standing on a beach on Cape Cod on a wet and cold November day, looking for stranded sea turtles, with a looming nor’easter on the horizon. The coordinator had told them that it was unlikely they would find any that day—most volunteers never come across one. But fairly early into their shift, the pair found their first cold-stunned turtle. And then another. And another. By the end of the day, they had rescued 21 hypothermic turtles and even ran out of space in their car, with Jenny forced to carry two on her lap.
This extraordinary day was the crux of why they spent several wintery weeks in coastal New England. As the duo behind InterChange Media Art Productions, Jenny and Michele were in the process of documenting an increasingly common phenomenon: juvenile Kemp’s ridley sea turtles (the smallest and most endangered sea turtles) getting trapped by the hook of Cape Cod in the early winter months. While an average of 90 turtles wash up each year, the rate has been swiftly accelerating, with 413 in 2013 and over 1,200 in 2014. The BP oil spill severely affected their breeding grounds, and climate change is causing dangerous shifts in their migratory patterns.
What started as a short news story has turned into a passion project with vital significance to the survival of an entire species. With the turtles falling (or rather, placed carefully) right into their laps, it was a story that they just couldn’t walk away from.
So InterChange’s Emmy-winning crew is creating Saving Sea Turtles: Rescuing the Rare Kemp’s Ridley to highlight the critical threat to this species and how whole communities up and down the Atlantic Coast are working together to save them.
But Jenny and Michele never thought that they would be making documentary about sea turtles. In fact, Jenny says that she only started making films as a joke. Her interest quickly turned serious when she found success with the award-winning Straight Into Gay America, which followed a straight pastor unicycling from Vermont to Washington, DC, in support of LGBT rights. She reached out to Michele, an established fine art dealer and curator of multimedia exhibits in downtown Seattle, and they decided to create a production company.
“We wanted to put the eye of the camera on life-saving values,” says Michele. “It’s so important to align your business with your values.” Their clients have been primarily women-owned businesses, LGBT people, people of color and organizations such as Tabor 100, Fuel Coffee and Pinchot University. InterChange Media has also produced videos for GSBA’s gala events, beautifully conveying the scholars’ stories and helping raise over $200,000 for the GSBA Scholarship Fund.
Their passion for environmental issues is an “essential core value” of their business. They have documented the Beacon Food Forest, and their series The Legend of Mick Dodge (about an ex-Marine living in the Hoh Rainforest) aired for three seasons on the National Geographic Channel.
Right now Michele and Jenny are working on completing postproduction on Saving Sea Turtles, with the goal of releasing it in the first quarter of 2016. They are about to launch a Kickstarter campaign
to help finish the animations, graphics, titling, narration, score and translations.
About the project, Michele says, “We don’t want to live in a world where the extinction of an entire species is seen as the norm. We want to take a stand.”
Learn more about Jenny & Michele’s work at www.interchangemedia.com and how to support their documentary at www.savingseaturtlesmovie.com.