How Scuba Diving Shaped My Vision for Marketing
Fifteen years ago, I started my film career in Tallahassee. I was working as an executive assistant to an independent distribution executive through the renowned Florida State University College of Motion Picture Arts. I was working hard and meeting people that would help guide me as I found my path in a competitive and—at times—unforgiving industry. I couldn't have known at the time that my career would bring me to all corners of the globe. Filmmaking has been an invigorating journey that has led me to sit down and have conversations with world leaders, produce documentaries on rims of volcanoes, help brands tell their stories celebrating everyday heroes making the world a better place, and collaborate with musicians, from up-and-comers to established entertainers like Sting, Katy Perry and Marc Anthony.
While I have loved every moment (or almost every moment), it is not a secret that when you're in the throes of projects, driven by ambition, it can be hard to carve out time for interests beyond your professional world. But, like many before me, I have found that prioritizing hobbies and "me time" not only keeps me sane, it actually makes me better at my job.
For me, my great escape is being completely disconnected and underwater. I'm a PADI divemaster with 350 logged dives. I have dived for work and for pleasure, always appreciating diving for its wonderful contrast to the pace of production. The underwater world moves at the exact pace it needs to. In many ways, it is a cutoff world, but somehow you feel like you have all you need when you are underwater. A favorite example of this was on one dive when I was helping with a kelp survey, holding a buoy for a National Park diver with 3000+ logged dives (I am a true rookie compared to this guy.) I looked up from the seafloor, about 65 feet deep, and saw a juvenile humpback whale. I tried to get my dive buddy's attention but he was so focused on his work, that by the time I did, the whale's moment with us had passed. The whale didn't linger long, it stayed as long as it needed to, and I felt humbled by the moments it stayed. These kinds of experiences underwater remind you to be present and focused on the current moment. This intentional practice has definitely sharpened my vision for Sound Off Films as an environmental and social justice-oriented enterprise.
Diving is explicitly tied to one critical thing: breathing calmly and consistently! It makes you more aware of problem-solving in critical moments. I've been lucky to be able to apply this problem-solving on film sets. Just stay calm, breathe, and let's figure this out. Diving also offers a meditative reminder of the larger picture concerning our endangered planet. It's a huge motivator concerning the "why" of the work my team performs for clients. We often support cause-based work for corporate clients and I am a firm believer that business can be used for good.
For some, this may seem unexpected, but we have also found a great niche in the branded content and commercial space, working with partners who want to proudly announce and double down on their values. One of my favorite examples is a series of films my company produced for Minecraft that was released alongside an update to the game featuring a mangrove "biome." We created shorts that reinforced the critical importance of mangrove ecosystems while announcing that they had been coded into the game. Not only did this project inspire and educate audiences about an essential ecosystem and give them actionable steps to protect them, but Minecraft partnered with The Nature Conservancy to raise funds to preserve mangroves.
More recently our film "Weightless" dropped, following a group of female veteran volunteers as they completed underwater marine debris removal and climate impact projects in South Florida's national parks in the summer of 2022. The project was commissioned by the National Park Service Submerged Resources Center, Biscayne National Park and Dry Tortugas National Park and made possible by the National Park Foundation.
All of these projects came to fruition—and were more authentic—because they tapped into areas I truly care about. With each project and each dive, I learn something new about myself and the way nature functions so seamlessly. Each creature has its own story to share and I love playing the role of storyteller whenever I can.
With confidence, I can say that having hobbies has helped me grow into a different kind of filmmaker. I specialize in impact-driven documentary storytelling because of the way I see and experience the world. Spending time underwater not only gives me time away from that but helps to define that.
So if you ever consider pursuing a challenging hobby—something your career leaves little room for—consider the possibility that doing so might fuel your creativity and help give you the direction that inspired leaders need.