Humans have a special way of ruining things, even positive shark stories.
In 2014 I spent a week diving with oceanic white tips, duskies, and a few other marine animals at cat island in the Bahamas. While there, the dive guides, Debbie and Vincent Canabel, shared a story with me about how they cut the rope off a dusky shark and likely saved it from death. I asked the tour operators what they thought of me spreading this story, an idea that they loved, so I proceeded to interview them. I combined the interview with my footage of sharks from the trip I was on, shot some additional b roll of the dive operators to support the story, and then contacted a photographer, Lee Arbo, whom they had suggested in order to get some photos of the actual rescue. After receiving full blessings from all parties involved I proceeded to make a short film about the rescue. As an unknown person on YouTube it was nice to see that many viewers enjoyed the happy story and left kind comments about their new appreciation of sharks. The film included (and still does) all credits for video footage, music, and photography, which were the agreed conditions. All involved were pleased with the results.
My original version of the film above
Despite her having nothing to do with the film I made, I was kind enough to appease her ego and release a second version of the film that mentioned her in the credits just to be nice. Perhaps I should have gotten the names of everyone on board that day, maybe even found out who fueled the boat up. Heck, maybe Amanda even did the film editing and composed the music while I wasn’t looking!
A couple of years went by and as the video slowly gained popularity on YouTube I was contacted by Barcroft Media asking if they could run a story about my film. It's not often that the news wants to spread good stories about sharks so I was quite happy for this to take place, but first, I again contacted everyone whose media appeared in the film to get their blessings. Once again I received their blessings and proceeded to give Barcroft access to the Dropbox media folders which were organized with the names of the people who provided the associated media. I reminded Barcroft to be sure to credit everyone accordingly. I repeat, not only was the media in the folders of the people who deserved credit, I reminded Barcroft to credit them.
Below are excerpts from an email I sent March 9th, 2016 after the disastrous publishing by Barcroft
The next day The first thing I saw were messages from my friends saying that someone named Amanda Cotton was bashing me online. I looked at the article which repeatedly describe me as one of the brave rescuers. I was even described as a dive operator. Not only that, but none of the pictures had proper credit - not Debbie and Vinnie’s, not Lee’s, and not mine. Yes, even mine. The video footage was not properly credited, my name was not properly spelled and my company was not properly named. But the icing on the cake was the new version of the video that Barcroft had edited themselves. Their own narrator also described me as a rescuer. That, combined with Barcroft using specific sections of my self-shot interview, and the repeated written description of me as a rescuer and completely misquoting me in the article definitely pointed at me as being there that day.
This was and continues to be a painful lesson for me to be more careful with my words and review my self shot interviews before uploading them. However, never once did I say in my interview or in my written correspondence that I was one of the rescuers. In fact I pointed this out to Barcroft in our emails. How foolish of me to think that they actually watched the video that they contacted me about being interested in, which clearly shows that I was just the filmmaker! Ultimately, you have to believe that I, the guy who made the film about the actual rescuers, decided to try to fool the world into thinking I was a rescuer despite the overwhelming evidence that I wasn’t. Evidence which I provided myself with my own film!
First email with Morgan from Barcroft is below
So instead of enjoying the news clips I spent the next day explaining to people in the comments that I wasn't there. I also spent the day writing emails to Barcroft complaining about the improper credits and their own version of the story which repeatedly misquoted me and called me a rescuer and dive operator. Debbie, Vinnie, and Lee were (and continue to be) included in every email sent. I suggested that the story be taken down if the others involved felt it should should be. The last email on the matter from that year was assurance that Barcroft had resolved the issue with the others involved and was crediting properly.
Seven months went by without incident and I thought this nightmare was finally over. Unfortunately, two weeks ago I was tagged in a post which led me to yet another version of the story. In this version I was a Canadian filmmaker who returned to the island regularly to check on the health of the shark and all of us were scared of sharks and horrified by the encounter. The story also showed a photo of a great white shark, completely irrelevant to the story. At what point to people realize the editors are writing their own versions of this!?! I never said I rescued the shark, I never said I was a dive operator or part of the team, I never said I return to the island regularly, and I never said I was Canadian.
And this time NO ONE was given credit on the photos…Only Barcroft's logo appeared on the images.
And today I wake up to see that Lee Arbo is bashing is me on his Facebook claiming I was stealing his photos, selling his photos, and even altering his photos. Apparently Barcroft has decided to revive this story which has caused this whole stink to be stirred up again. I was kind enough to contact Lee directly and ask hi not to lie about me online, to take down his comments, and to ask Barcroft with me to take down the stories. But Lee seems to think Barcroft is my other secret identity and that I'm responsible for every time the stories pop up. The reality is that I only learn about them after other people tell me about them.
By now I’d had enough headaches from this story and immediately wrote to Barcroft asking them to pull the story and all versions of the story that ultimately Barcroft is apparently letting other news agencies run.
In short, Lee seems to be a confused and disturbed individual trying to blame me for the editing done by Barcroft Media.
Rather than attacking Lee online I asked him to consider what he's saying and kindly remove his words. Instead he insists that he's going to sue me "if I don't stop", once again showing that he seems to think I have my finger on the magic news agency button.
What Lee hasn't shown anyone on his Facebook is all the complaints to Barcroft I've written over the last year on this matter (I've CC'd him on all of them). He hasn’t shared all my requests for them to fix the story and to fix the credits, he doesn't include that I never stole his images but that he sent them to me willingly...MULTIPLE TIMES!
Unlike Lee and Amanda, I don't make money off of sharks or photography. They do. I try to create stories to tell the world a different side of these animals and I don't get paid for it...everything comes out of my pocket. And when Barcroft sent me an email announcing some advertisement revenue that had been made thanks them running the story it sure would have been nice to be rewarded for the film I made that made so many people aware of the happy story. Know what I did? I offered it to everyone else.
You won't hear any of that from Lee. According to an email from Lee “He’s learned everything he needs to know about me from Amanda”…someone I’ve never met. I wonder if Amanda would have been any kinder with her words if she'd seen the interview segment I sent Barcroft where I talk about the shark being named after her son? It wasn't used, like many of the other clips. I guess that's my fault too.
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About the Author
Skyler Thomas is the primary blog contributor, cinematographer, and lead editor at White Shark Video.
White Shark Video