Dolphin Tale 2 Producer Speaks about Clearwater and working at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium
It’s not everyday that a major motion picture is filmed in Pinellas County. Bob Engelman, Executive Producer of Dolphin Tale, has made two such movies, both set in Clearwater at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium. He was in town recently and took some time to answer a few questions that Pamela Settle, editor of GoodLiving magazine, had about working on the Dolphin Tale movies.
Q: We’re really excited to have had a major film made right here in Clearwater, and now its sequel. What do you think of the Clearwater/St. Petersburg as a film making location? Do you think more producers should make movies here and why?
BE: I found Clearwater to be a wonderful location for filming and I encourage other producers to film here. The natural beauty and the tropical settings give a rich and very vibrant look that is extremely photographic. They make it a fabulous visual backdrop for filming. The best part of shooting here in Clearwater was the cooperation we received from the local community. Great people, great crews and a beach location that is attractive to cast.
Q: In this case, life really did imitate art when it comes to the CMA. Winter’s story and Dolphin Tale movies have invigorated the CMA to the point of hopefully building a new facility that will be a true shining star in this community for generations. How do you feel about your role in that?
BE: I feel very proud to have helped CMA expand and increase its role to educate the public. This planet and all our lives are enriched by these animals and it is all of our responsibility to do what we can to protect them. I have adopted CMA’s higher calling in their mission of rescue, rehabilitate, release and inspire. Especially inspire! CMA is now reaching millions of people who would not have known anything about these animals otherwise. The more CMA grows and expands, the more people they inspire.
Q: They say working with kids and animals is a challenge. How was it to work with dolphins? What’s your favorite story about working with Winter?
BE: You are right. It is a challenge and, it was worth it. Kids and animals…you never know what magic you will discover. There is an unpredictability which can lead to very exciting results. One story I will never forget occurred when a child from the Make A Wish Foundation came to visit. Meeting Winter was her last request. For the first time in my career we stopped filming completely for a personal request. The entire crew watched the interaction. There was not a dry eye in the house. Watching how Winter affected this entire crew of adults just showed me again the wonderful power Winter has to touch us all.
Q: Both Dolphin Tale movies are family friendly and inspirational entertainment with a deeper message. We appreciate those kinds of films because they seem so few and far between. What do you hope people take away from your work on the Dolphin Tale movies in the larger scope of life?
BE: There is a place for lots of different types of movies but thank God the world still appreciates movies like Dolphin Tale. Movies like this not only move us, but get us in touch with our humanity. Hopefully people will take away this feeling and try to make a difference in their personal world, no matter how small the task. When a film is this good, successful producers and studios will be encouraged to follow our lead and make more films like this. Whoo hoo!!!
Q: Have you had the opportunity to personally witness children or disabled veterans who come to the CMA to bond with Winter? What is that like to see a spiritual connection occur with a dolphin, a moment that has been life changing for some?
BE: I am very involved in the special needs world, being the father of a child with mild special needs. I have personally witnessed many encounters where vets, special needs kids and normal children interact with Winter and Hope. I cannot think of another situation that has consistently moved me to tears. Seeing these kids’ joy when interacting with these animals is a moving and spiritual event that has enriched my life as well as theirs. I heard from many parents who claimed that their child seldom smiled or came out of their shell until they interacted with Winter and Hope. Seeing these parents cry as they saw their children open up was incredibly moving.
Q: Winter seems to have a greater purpose. So do you think she is a star in our world, or are we stars in her world?
BE: I would say both. Most of us would have zero contact with dolphins if it wasn’t for places like CMA. This up-close and personal experience not only touches us but makes us aware of these magnificent animals. Our worlds are connected and Winter promotes this. We are all better off for this relationship. She has become an ambassador for helping people and touching them in unique ways. Everyone who encounters Winter leaves feeling a spiritual connection and feels enriched by the experience.