Sundance: National Geographic Nabs Doc 'Playing With Sharks' (Exclusive)

Playing with Sharks
Courtesy of Sundance Film Festival

The feature, which premiered in the world doc competition, follows the life of Australian conservationist and filmmaker Valerie Taylor.

National Geographic Documentary Films has acquired the worldwide rights to Sundance doc Playing With Sharks.

The feature, which premiered in the world doc competition, follows the life of iconic Australian conservationist and filmmaker Valerie Taylor, whose life’s work has become the basis for much of what we know about sharks today. Using underwater archival footage, along with interviews with Taylor, the film follows her trajectory from champion spearfisher to passionate shark protector who captured the first-ever footage of a great white shark underwater.

Sally Aitken wrote and directed the movie, which was produced by Bettina Dalton of WildBear Entertainment. Executive producers include Alan Erson for WildBear, Anna Godas and Oli Harbottle for Dogwoof, and Paul Wiegard for Madman Entertainment.

Principal production investment and development support came from Screen Australia, and the doc was developed and financed with the assistance of Screen NSW.

“We couldn’t be happier to partner with Nat Geo Doc Films. It is the perfect home for Playing With Sharks and we know Nat Geo will embrace and promote its important themes of shark conservation and trailblazing women,” said Dalton of WildBear Entertainment. Added Godas, CEO of Dogwoof, which negotiated the deal on behalf of the filmmakers: “It’s been the most incredible journey to see this film come to life. We couldn’t be prouder to have helped make this project happen and couldn’t have asked for a better team to craft it.”

“I can’t think of a more perfect film premiering at Sundance this year for our Nat Geo Docs Film banner than Playing with Sharks. We see it as a coming home of sorts for Valerie, after she first appeared on the cover of National Geographic magazine in June 1973. Valerie’s thirst for adventure and love for marine life jumps off the screen — hers is a truly unique and aspirational story and one we can’t wait to share with audiences worldwide," said Carolyn Bernstein of Nat Geo.

Nat Geo, whose recent doc features include Ron Howard's Rebuilding Paradise, recently announced a feature doc on Dr. Anthony Fauci from producers Dan Cogan and Liz Garbus.