Killer Whales at SeaWorld are looked at, and the truth about their conditions and abuse, are shown in the new documentary, Blackfish. Director Gabriela Cowperthwaite went inside SeaWorld to show how Orcas turn on their handlers and how the animals suffer from being shipped around the world and treated abusively. It is a striking film that is shared here on BYOD with clips and in-depth discussion.

Watch new episodes of BYOD live each week on Tuesdays at noon on TheLip.TV, or tune in for the archived replay starting here on the following Thursday.

BYOD is hosted by Ondi Timoner, director of “DIG!,” “JOIN US” and “WE LIVE IN PUBLIC,” and has the rare distinction of winning the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance twice. Each week the show explores a different documentary filmmaker or aspect of filmmaking, with special guests and a live Q&A– diving deep into creative process and the business realities of producing and distributing films. Ondi shares her insider views, opinions, and personal stories, welcoming audience participation. BYOD aims to entertain, inform, and elevate documentaries in general by bringing attention to films and film makers that deserve exposure.

Blackfish – Many of us have experienced the excitement and awe of watching 8,000 pound orcas, or “killer whales,” soar out of the water and fly through the air at sea parks, as if in perfect harmony with their trainers. Yet this mighty black and white mammal has many sides – a majestic, friendly giant, seemingly eager to take trainers for a ride around the pool, yet shockingly – and unpredictably – able to turn on them at a moment’s notice. BLACKFISH unravels the complexities of this dichotomy, employing the story of notorious performing whale Tilikum, who – unlike any orca in the wild – has taken the lives of several people while in captivity. So what went wrong?

Shocking, never before seen footage and riveting interviews with trainers and experts manifest the orca’s extraordinary nature, the species’ cruel treatment in captivity over the last four decades and the growing disillusionment of workers who were misled and endangered by the highly profitable sea-park industry. This emotionally wrenching, tautly structured story challenges us to consider our relationship to nature and reveals how little we humans truly know about these highly intelligent, and surprisingly sentient, fellow mammals that we only think we can control.

Gabriela Cowperthwaite is a documentary filmmaker who for more than 12 years has directed, produced and written documentary programs for television networks including ESPN, National Geographic, Animal Planet, Discovery and History.

In 2010, Cowperthwaite completed the award winning feature length documentary, City LAX: An Urban Lacrosse Story. The film chronicles the lives of six 12-year-olds in inner-city Denver, CO, as they and their families struggle through middle school in their gang-ridden neighborhoods. City LAX was acquired by ESPN and DirectTV.

In 2009, Cowperthwaite completed a film for UCLA International Medicine in conjunction with the International Rescue Committee, which focuses on clinics in war-torn regions, with the emphasis on providing ground-breaking medical care for victims of violence. It has been translated into three different languages and will be distributed in eight countries.

Cowperthwaite, who is Los Angeles based, is currently directing a campaign for Supply and Demand, a commercial directing agency based in New York and Los Angeles.


00:01 Welcome to Bring Your Own Doc.
00:25 Introducing Gabriela Cowperthwaite.
01:10 Discussion on how Filmmakers interest gravitated towards making documentary on whales.
06:08 Blackfish, clip.
09:20 Gabriella discusses John Crowe and interviewing him.
12:35 Blackfish clip—John Crowe and capturing Orca whales.
18:51 Blackfish clip—on Orca and family unit
20:00 Gabriella discusses family unit and community of whales.
22:50 OSHA regulates the trainers at Sea World
24:00 Sea world new way of capturing whales.
27:22 Blackfish, clip: Tamary.
35:40 Thanks and Goodbye.

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