‘We’re telling the story of the deep ocean, because it can’t speak for itself’: An inside look into Emotive’s major pro-bono campaign with Deep Rising

This week, the team behind the award-winning Deep Rising documentary and indie creative agency Emotive revealed a major campaign to take action against deep sea mining.

Simon Joyce, CEO of Emotive, and Deep Rising’s director and producer, Matthieu Rytz, and head of impact, Laura Clarke, sat down with Mumbrella’s Lauren McNamara to share why they’ve taken on such a big project and what the end goals are.

In Emotive’s first major pro-bono campaign, the agency has this week launched a call-to-arms to the media and marketing industry, in an effort to prevent ecological destruction from happening, before it even takes place. 

The campaign calls on the industry to donate ad space, editorial or broadcast support, to raise awareness and take action against deep sea mining and the dangers it poses to the world’s ecosystem. 

The Deep Rising film explores the secrets of the deep ocean and how the fate of one of the planet’s last untouched ecosystems is under threat as a secretive organisation plans to allow massive extraction of seabed metals they claim are needed to address the world’s energy crisis. 

The film gained momentum when actor Jason Momoa came on board as narrator and executive producer, in what Rytz describes as a lengthy, but interesting experience.

“I had no previous connection with him, but I did know that Jason had a strong voice when it came to defending our planet,” he says.

“After reaching out to his agent online, I wrote a heartfelt letter directly to him as a native Hawaiian and a Pacific Islander to ask if he’d been willing to lend his voice to this important cause.”

The straightforward letter, where Rytz went into detail about the potential catastrophic impact of deep sea mining, and explained that the area of the ocean expected to be mined first is in the Pacific, off the coast of Hawaii – an area that holds great significance for Jason given his Hawaiian roots.

The letter seemed to do the trick, as Momoa then publicly spoke about the film in front of the UN’s Secretary General at a UNEP (United Nations Environment Programme) event where Momoa was announced as UNEP’s Advocate for Life Below Water.

“When someone asked him ‘what’s next for you’, out of the blue he started talking about Deep Rising, and I was watching the event live and I go ‘holy shit, this is the best’,” Rytz says.

“From there things moved quickly.”

Clarke says Momoa has been an incredible partner throughout the whole process.

“Our relationship with him, especially Matthieu’s, has grown, and he’s grown in that relationship with us. In fact, when we premiered Deep Rising at Sundance, Jason said this was the most important film he’s ever made.

“He knows who we are in our hearts – he knows where we’re coming from, and he’s been amazing to work with. We couldn’t be prouder of all the things that he has done, he’s really gone above and beyond.”

Jason Momoa at an event for Deep Rising with director Matthieu Rytz (right)

The Deep Rising team approached Emotive as their creative agency partner for the project, and Clarke explains that decision was simply down to trust. A media agency partner will be announced in due course too. 

“Going to Emotive made sense, Deep Rising’s co-executive producer, Paul Sharp, is a creative at Emotive and we knew we could trust the team. This is a delicate subject, it’s a big, complex project,” she says.

“I’ve worked with a lot of different agencies over the course of my career, and I’ve learnt you really need someone that’s going to love [the project] internally just as much as you love it, because it’s a partnership, it’s a collaboration. Knowing Paul was there, and knowing Simon personally, we all felt very reassured walking into Emotive that we would have the support we needed to get this done.”

Joyce explains that as an agency, you want to give back and show the power of creativity for good, but when trying to balance the capacity of your team who are focusing on client campaigns and commercial outcomes with the desire to give back, it can be difficult to do so.

He says Emotive, which is nine years old now, felt it was finally in a position to work on a pro-bono passion project at scale, and truly give back to its community.

“There’s a sense of momentum, we’ve got a wonderful client base,” he tells Mumbrella. “There’s a feeling of maturity around the business and how it’s performing, so we, as a team, went ‘yes, we’d love to find a cause that resonates’.

“And this sort of work strengthens our creative culture that we all believe in, whilst providing a powerful demonstration of our purpose, big ideas that change the way people feel.”

He explains the “natural link” Emotive has to a cause like preventing deep sea mining: “We’re an agency by the ocean, and we’ve got this chance to potentially stop something before it starts…It just felt right for so many reasons.”

Emotive’s office building features a mural by Reg Mombassa

While the team couldn’t share specific details about the impact campaign publicly just yet, but will do so in due course after the second phase of the campaign kicks off in June, Rytz was grateful for the strides they have taken so far, and the way they have risen above challenges.

“Deep Rising has been an amazing but very challenging project. It’s a difficult and complex subject. But we have some incredible partners, experts and funders who work very closely with our team,” he says.

“Without them, Deep Rising and our impact campaign wouldn’t have been possible, so we are really grateful for their support.”

Clarke says there is something bigger guiding the film and the storytelling, that will hopefully lead them to the ideal outcome. 

“We’re telling the story of the deep ocean, because it can’t speak for itself,” she explains. 

“Somehow we have had lots of luck come our way. We’ve had lots of challenges, I mean, this has been the most challenging, but most rewarding, project of my career. Like Matthieu said, it’s actually a miracle that we’ve come to this point and we still have all the right people to be able to do this and let the public know what’s going on,” she adds. 

“But basically, the outcome is to stop the deep seabed mining before it starts. Put simply, that’s all it is.”

She references the processes currently taking place by global corporations hoping to mine the seabed, and hypothetically asks, ‘Why did these decisions get made by a small group of powerful men behind closed doors?’. 

“We want to stop those processes before they start, and we want to democratise them and blow open those doors to power.”

Joyce says the agency feels privileged to be working with the Deep Rising team.

“We are incredibly inspired by Matthieu and Laura’s vision and proud to be spearheading the campaign.

“Together, I know we can make some real noise that will give the ocean the voice it deserves. The entire team, led by Michael Hogg, Pia McMorran, Matt Holmes and Paul Sharp are really passionate about this, and we truly believe this campaign will make a difference to the future of the deep sea,” he exclaims.

Parties interested in lending their support and donating media should contact simonjoyce@emotive.com.au or michaelhogg@emotive.com.au.


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