(This blog was originally posted on July 5, 2016)
After the screening I got to meet several of the former SeaWorld trainers featured
in Blackfish: Dean Gomersall (left), me, Samantha Berg and Carol Ray
Photo by Lisa McDougald
Many people who know me are aware that I am passionate about animal conservation--especially ending captivity of orcas (killer whales). On Friday, July 1, 2016 I enjoyed the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to attend the premiere screening of Blackfish Live at the Montalbán theater in Hollywood. I had already seen the film several times, including once in the cinema and many viewings on CNN and DVD. However, this event was extra-special because Jeff Beal, who composed the movie’s fabulous score, conducted the Hollywood Chamber Orchestra as they played the soundtrack to accompany the film. In addition, four of the former SeaWorld trainers featured in Blackfish attended the screening and were on-hand to discuss the film’s impact since its debut at the Sundance Film Festival in 2013.
I didn’t even expect to be able to attend the event when I first heard about it a couple weeks ago. While I always wanted to go, by the time I got around to investigating availability of a ticket I doubted there would be any seats left. Then Dean Gomersall posted a cheery “Hope to see you all there tomorrow evening” comment with the event’s link on Facebook. Of course, I “liked” the post. I knew it was now or never to get a seat, so I asked if he knew whether any tickets were still available. Long story short, Mr. Gomersall sent me a message and comped two tickets to the event for me. You could have blown me over with a feather at his generosity. We had never even met before, beyond Facebook!
The next afternoon, one of my dear friends and I braved the pre-holiday traffic on the 405 and 101 freeways driving to Hollywood to attend the screening. In addition to being excited about finally being able to meet him and several of the other SeaWorld trainers featured in the movie, we were thrilled to be able to see and hear the Blackfish score performed live. I had bought and downloaded the soundtrack off iTunes as soon as it was available last year, and I often listen to it driving in my car or participating in social media in the evenings. Two of the pieces—“Orca in the Wild” and “Blackfish”—always give me goose-bumps, and I couldn’t wait to hear the music played live. (Needless to say, I have also had the soundtrack booming out of my iPod a lot since last weekend.)
Lisa and I were happy to see that the theater was packed. Before the movie, concertmaster Mark Robertson asked the audience who had seen Blackfish before that night. Many people, including my friend, had never seen the movie before. The rest of the audience (including me) had watched it many times. This dichotomy said a lot about the staying power and enduring influence that Blackfish has had on the public. When the film came out, director/writer/producer Gabriela Cowperthwaite said her original intention in making the movie was to explore why Tilikum, a SeaWorld orca, killed trainer Dawn Brancheau during a show. The rest is history, as marine biologists and former orca and marine mammal trainers stepped forward to provide a darker picture about what captive cetaceans endure at marine parks.
As evidenced last Friday evening, the power of the movie’s message of compassion for the plight of these magnificent mammals continues to move people. It has even inspired a worldwide, popular anti-captivity movement dubbed “The Blackfish Effect.” According to the post-movie video featuring personal testimonials from several of the former trainers featured in the movie and live commentary from Samantha Berg, Mr. Gomersall, Carol Ray and Dr. Jeff Ventre, this phenomenon shows no sign of fading away anytime soon. Without the courage of these and other trainers and marine-mammal experts who daily share their experiences and observations to raise awareness about the plight of captive orcas, these animals would probably continue to suffer in silence and darkness.
Thank you so much, Mr. Gommersal, for inviting us to experience Blackfish: Live!
Sara R. Fogan, C.Ht. is a certified hypnotherapist based in Southern California. She graduated with honors from the Hypnosis Motivation Institute in 2005. For more information about Calminsense Hypnotherapy®, please visit http://www.calminsensehypnotherapy.com/