Monday, July 21, 2008

Crocodile defence

It's rather chilly in Alice Springs at this time of year. I know that because I'm here right now, in an airport waiting lounge where staff keep flinging the outside doors wide open, letting in an icy blast of air that just isn't fit to be allowed inside any building. I'm waiting for my connecting flight to Sydney, where I hear it's so cold that penguins have taken up residence on the harbour bridge. I'm not sure if that's accurate, I'm sure I read it somewhere.

I hate waiting in airport lounges, especially when you look up and realise that the board informing you of your flight departure time is suddenly replaced with the time of a completely different flight. Oh no, have I missed it? Did they change it? Can I be bothered to get up from my slightly warm seat to go and investigate the main flight information board that is always placed in such a way that you have to walk over to read it? I'd better finish this blog post first.

I'm going to Sydney to defend the saltwater crocodile. It's another documentary dealing with a crocodile attack, and it's apparently my job to describe the motivations behind the attack from the crocodile's perspective. The victim is Jeff Tanswell, a fine bloke who we met last year in Darwin, introducing him to a crocodile for the first time since one bit him on the head while he was snorkelling off Thursday Island. I get the impression that Jeff quite likes crocodiles, except when they bite him on the head. So, the show in question wishes to reconstruct the attack (again) and it's my job to ensure that they represent what happened accurately. And that means defending the crocodile, because the natural assumption is that the crocodile had some kind of evil intent in its attack. Jeff realises that this wasn't the case, so let's hope that I can convince the production company. I don't think that should be difficult, because the concept that a crocodile is "just human" (if you'll forgive the extremely suspect analogy) and was only being "a crocodile" (to contradict my own analogy within the same sentence!) should be and - indeed - is more interesting than the notion that it's simply a toothy killing machine interested only in biting heads.

But ultimately I have very little control over the finished product. I can only hope that my interview and Jeff's detailed account are both integrated into the final reconstruction. It is not always the case with these things. Having done a lot of reconstructions for various production companies over the years, there is a tendency to push things towards the dramatic at the expense of the accurate. Now I'm all for getting people to watch and learn through devious means, but I strongly believe it can be done without compromising the facts. When it comes to crocodile attacks, we owe it to the victims - and the crocodiles - to get the facts right.

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