All Posts By

Carly Wilson

Rubber Jellyfish – a balloon documentary. An update on progress and our final fundraising push.

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Hi folks,

I just wanted to give you all an update on where we are at on this film journey. It has been an incredibly long road getting here. I started making this film when I was pregnant with my daughter who is now 2 and a half and I am now actually expecting a second child. I have learned from speaking with other film makers that a long time line such as this is not unusual. The creator of the fantastically fascinating SBS documentary, Scarlet Road also had two children whilst creating that film.

I can finally say with certainty, though, that we are nearing the finish line. We have a wife-husband editing team in Sydney that are working hard to bring the film to life. They also work in the film industry professionally as a day job and very generously offered to edit Rubber Jellyfish for a bargain basement price on their free time. I am so grateful for them and for everyone else that has contributed time, resources, expertise, photos, videos, and money to this effort. I have a spreadsheet of people to credit in the film and it so far has 126 names on it. For a small, independent film that I have pushed along myself, that number astounds me.

I am also so grateful to the Documentary Australia Foundation who recognise this film as a project worthy of philanthropic support and give it not for profit status and to The Pollination Project who has blessed the project with much needed grant money. We have also raised $2502 through small private donations from all of you which has just been incredibly helpful. We are also thrilled to see that the film is already making an impact. The city of Bainbridge Island, Washington banned balloon release ceremonies after a council member viewed our trailer and I am aware that there are many other cities and councils around the world considering similar bans.
The film has had quite a few delays in post production but I am starting to have a feeling that maybe that all happened for a reason. Now that so many parts of the world are aware of this issue and considering outlawing balloon release ceremonies, perhaps the film will be released at just the right time to help them make their final decision.  At this stage I am thinking we will do our first screenings in July, around the time I am also due to birth my second baby. Interesting how these things can coincide – birthing a child and this major project at the same time. What a busy but exciting time it will be!

We are very lucky to have recently received a $4500 grant (more about this in an upcoming post) which covers the majority of our finishing costs – editing, graphic design, and a flat fee rate media attorney to check over everything prior to release. We are, however, still $2200 short of the full figure we need to pay for all these services. I have been busy applying for grants but wanted to let our supporters know about this in case anyone knows of a business that would like to be featured in the credits as a sponsor. Individuals and families can, of course, also contribute and will also be credited. I will also take note of anyone who contributes $30 or more and will make sure they receive a complimentary download of the film via email once we are ready to release.

All donations over $2 are tax deductible and can be made to our account through the Documentary Australia Foundation.

We also have a donations page on our website that gives a transparent outline of where we have received all of our funding and how much we are still in need of.

Thanks again to everyone for your continued support!


Balloon release ceremonies BANNED on Bainbridge Island!

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I received a link a couple of months back about the town of Bainbridge Island, Washington, and how it was considering a ban on balloon release ceremonies. I was able to find the name of the council member who was pushing for the ban and emailed him to offer support and clarify a few minor points about balloon biodegradeability. He wrote back and stunned me by saying that they actually played the Rubber Jellyfish trailer at the council meeting where the policy change was proposed. He has since written to me again to let me know that the policy has come into effect (despite some noisy opponents) and balloon release ceremonies are officially BANNED in Bainbridge Island, Washington.  

As a side note, this is particularly cool for me because Bainbridge Island is a little town very close to where I grew up. There is in fact a type of rivalry between my home town (Bremerton, Washington) and Bainbridge. Mostly, I think, due to the fact that the the ferries connecting Bainbridge Island to Seattle have always been far superior to ours (which of course made us hate them). At least, that was still the case ten years ago when I was still a Bremertonian, not sure if that is still the case .. but either way I suppose I’ll have to get over that now ..

Balloon release ceremonies have become a common funeral ritual but are known to cause mortalities in ocean and shore wildlife.

This really is a very proud moment for me, not just as a film maker, but as a Washingtonian as well. It is very encouraging to know that my humble little film that I created with no experience and literally filmed with a baby strapped to my back most of the time, is already making practical, measurable change. It is my hope and prayer that once it is complete and released, other cities will follow suit.

Also, as a quick update on my last email about recent setbacks we had experienced because of an editor that did not work out, we are now happy to report that we are back on track with a bright and enthusiastic new editor with a great love and passion for the ocean. Our goal is to complete the editing stage in about two and a half months’ time. From there we will be doing our finishing touches and making sure all of our legal paperwork is in order prior to release!

I am so grateful to all of you who have followed our story and have offered support.

Best wishes to you all over Christmas! I am looking forward to doing some volunteer work at the Australian Bat Clinic and enjoying the many family festivities!



Turtle illustration provided by Kree Arvanitas of Rebel Dog Studio in Seattle.

Set backs and progress – where we’re at with Rubber Jellyfish

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It’s hard to believe but it was over three years ago that I first started tinkering with the idea of making a film about how balloon release ceremonies affect ocean wildlife.

We have now finished all of the filming and have received many contributions of photos and videos of animals and even people who have been killed by balloons and the helium used to fill them. It’s an ironically heavy topic considering we are focusing on something virtually weightless. Despite the seriousness of the issue, though, the journey has been a positive one – and for me, a deeply personal one.

My daughter was born in the early stages of making the film and would come along, strapped to my back, while we visited sea turtle hospitals, interviewed academics and activists, and traveled around the country, exploring this issue.  For me this film is more than a big project, it’s a part of my daughter’s childhood history and my journey into motherhood.

We had hoped to finish the film in August of this year but had a set back when we hired a British editor named Adam back in June.  He was in Australia temporarily and very eagerly replied to my call for editors. He seemed perfect for the role. Enthusiastic, experienced, passionate about conservation and animal rights. But after pre-paying him (a naive mistake on my part), he returned to the UK and has been incommunicado ever since. A part of me wonders if he was hit by a truck but I feel the truth is he realised the project was going to be a huge undertaking and decided to do the wrong thing and just disappear rather than admit that he had got in over his head. As a freelance editor, he has no website or social media channels (another red flag as I look back in retrospect) and thus, no way for us to urge future clients away from him.

Luckily Adam was only paid a modest sum with the promise of a cut of the profits should the film find any financial success. His payment came out of the pool of donations we received through our Indiegogo crowd funding campaign. My partner and I refuse for those donations to have been in vain so we will be putting our own money back into the pool to pay our new editor.

The good news is we do have a new editor. Jenni is a locally-based dive photographer with a tremendous passion for ocean conservation and a long history in film production. She is at the end of a five month dive excursion right now but will be returning next week and then taking over the editing reigns. Jenni also has experience with the process of applying to environmental film festivals which could be a huge benefit to the project. A part of me wonders if the Adam experience was always meant to happen to teach me what not to do in this business and ultimately lead me in the right direction.  Regardless, we are committed to seeing this film through and hopefully it will help people to understand about this important issue and possibly even inspire some policy changes.

As I mentioned, my partner and I will be covering the costs of replacing what was stolen but we do have other things coming up on the horizon that we will need to pay for. Namely, a media lawyer to check that we have ticked all the right boxes and prepare a document stating this for film festivals and broadcasters. We will also need to create a poster for the film. If anyone would like to donate (or knows a philanthropist who might like to get involved), all contributions to Rubber Jellyfish over $2 are tax deductible through the Documentary Australia Foundation:

We would also be very interested in leads on media lawyers or graphic designers who might be interested in doing some pro bono work for us.

Thanks to you all for all your support thus far!

<3 Carly

Film update – perks have been shipped & we’re in the edit!

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A huge thank you to everyone who contributed to the Rubber Jellyfish fundraising campaigns through Indiegogo and Documentary Australia Foundation (DAF).  The DAF campaign is still running but the Indiegogo campaign is now closed all all perks have been mailed out (please let us know if you ordered a perk package but have not received it).  It was so much fun putting the perk packages together and it’s been awesome getting emails from a few people who have received them 🙂  We included items in the perk packages that would help the overwhelming issue of ocean plastification.  Most notably, a set of beeswax wraps (environmentally friendly clingfilm alternative) which people are loving!  (and so do we!).

We conducted candid ‘on the street’ style interviews with local Surfer’s Paradise patrons recently, including these two lovely meter maids. The one on the left turned out to be a very knowledgable Brazilian vet!

With the generous donations we have received so far, we have been able to bring aboard a fantastic editor named Adam with experience working on a number of high profile television series in the UK.  More than that, though, we chose Adam (after receiving interest from over 30 professional screen editors) because of his positive attitude and humble, happy spirit.   We are so excited to watch him bring our footage to life.  It has been over three years now since we first started filming so he has a big task ahead of him!

We are moving steadily now toward the finish line with the goal of completing the film by August, 2017.  Stay tuned!

Again, the DAF campaign is still running if you would like to get in on it – especially now that the Australian end of financial year is looming.  All contributions made through DAF are tax deductible and will help us pay for services and the acquisition of media needed to complete the film.  As a small gesture of thanks, we will acknowledge you in the film’s credits!

There are so many bigger issues, why worry so much about balloons?

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This post has recently been re-posted on the environmental blog, 1 Million Women.

One of the more common questions I am asked is why am I so focussed on balloons when there are so many more prevalent (and it could be argued, worse) types of marine debris?  For example, straws and cigarette butts are virtually everywhere but you could go weeks or months without finding a littered balloon.

Well, here are my my top three reasons for getting so fired up about balloons.

( .. I’ll skip the obvious one – the whole Rubber Jellyfish Phenomenon thing.  Most of you that have been following the updates of this documentary would already know by now that when balloons burst high in the earth’s atmosphere they burst into bizarre jellyfish-looking shapes and become prey to sea turtles, sea birds, and many other species that eat jellyfish and other gelatinous creatures naturally.  )

But also …

Balloon litter collected on the Great Barrier Reef. Photo courtesy of Christian Miller and Tangaroa Blue

1. Balloons don’t biodegrade in salt water.  I spoke with a researcher in Holland as part of Rubber Jellyfish filming who had studied the degradation of latex in ocean water and found that balloons actually increase in mass when immersed in the sea because they absorb salts from the water!  This is pretty disturbing considering 70% of the Earth is made of ocean and …

2. Balloons fly .. Releasing a balloon into the air is a little different to tossing a plastic cup out the window (although equally disgusting).  When a balloon is released, you have absolutely no idea where it is going to go.  Balloons have been known to rise into jet streams and travel across entire continents like this one that traveled from the UK to Australia!  Many of them land in the ocean and then travel in ocean currents, congregating in certain ‘hot spots’.  One of these helium ballon ‘hot spots’ is actually the Great Barrier Reef, home to so many sensitive marine species.

But more than anything else, my number one inspiration for making this film was …

3.  Most people have no idea they are doing anything wrong

Balloon release ceremonies are increasing in popularity.

It’s hard to do anything about certain litter issues like cigarette butts because people already know they aren’t doing the right thing – they know they are being a bit of a weasil.  Apathy is a hard thing to deal with.  The popularity of balloon release ceremonies is something totally different.  I was shocked to learn that a lot of charities and not for profit groups perform balloon release ceremonies.  These are amazing people trying raise awareness to important causes.  I believe in my heart that this wouldn’t be happening if people understood the effects.  There is a reason you don’t see charities performing ceremonial flicking of cigarettes – who would want to affiliate a good cause with this kind of inappropriate behaviour?

At the start of my film journey it did seem really weird to me, though, that so many people were under the delusion that releasing helium-filled balls of latex into the sky and then walking away is somehow not littering.  How did this happen?  With a little digging around I learned that it all seems to come back to point #1.  I spend a lot of time in the film exploring how the international balloon industry (which is worth some pretty big bucks – according this this article by a major helium company) has lead people to believe that balloons are biodegradable and environmentally friendly.  This simply isn’t true and the evidence that they always sight (comparing balloons to oak leaves, if any balloon people are reading this) is not based in science has been refuted by scientists several times.  Despite this, the balloon industry has gone to a lot of time and effort to create publications and websites making it seem as though latex balloons are harmless.  Here is the number two item that comes up in a Google search for “are latex balloons biodegradable?” – it’s a good example of the kind of balloon-industry propaganda I am talking about.

an example of misleading (actually, completely inaccurate) information supplied by the balloon industry)

So in a nutshell, the reason I have chosen to dedicate a lot of time and energy to this one single issue is because I believe that with widespread education, we can change public attitudes, change public behaviour, and inspire policy change!  Endangered sea turtles and endangered sea birds (especially albatrosses) are particularly vulnerable to this issue.  It was – and is! – an issue worthy of focused time and attention!

Curious about this issue and the effort by the balloon industry to lead consumers to believe their products are environmentally friendly?  Please check out our Indiegogo campaign and contribute to our fundraising effort to raise money for the post production cost involved in finishing the film.  For a donation of $30 AUD (about $23 USD) you can pre-order the film to be one of the first people that will ever see it.  Many other fun perks available! 

Eat pizza for turtles

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Hey guys!

Well after a two year labour of love, we have finally almost finished production on the marine wildlife documentary Rubber Jellyfish. As most of you know, Rubber Jellyfish explores the effects of balloon release ceremonies on the environment and the lengths to which the international balloon industry has gone to mislead consumers about the safety of their products.

In the time that we have been creating this film, we have heard about so many balloon releases that have happened all around the world and some of our friends have even witnessed large groups of people releasing balloons while literally standing on the beach. People clearly aren’t aware that balloons are damaging to the environment, it’s precious wildlife, and even to us (the US product safety commission reports that balloons cause more child fatalities than any other toy). It’s time for the film to wrap so that we can get this message out into the world.

We hope that you will join us at this fund raising dinner. Tiffany Lee of Australian Seabird Rescue and Turtle Hospital in Ballina will be speaking about the effects of marine debris on Australian sea turtles and other marine species. She will be joined by Dr Marcia Bergamini, a marine wildlife vet from Brazil. Carly will also be speaking about her journey in creating this documentary and will reveal our brand new, professionally constructed trailer!

Click here to RSVP to the Facebook invite

Tickets are $25 p.p. or $15 for kids. That includes your choice of a small pizza or nachos (FYI Mandala is a vegan restaurant but it is still considered delicious by omnavores). If your kiddo is small enough to not need their own meal, then they are free! Drinks are not included in the ticket price but can be purchased at the venue.

Bring along your spare change – we will be raffling off some awesome items and will also have a wishing well for anyone who wants to make a more sizeable (and tax deductable) offering to the film.

All proceeds will go directly toward finishing costs associated with the project (editing, purchasing stock images, acquiring permission to republish newspaper articles, paying a lawyer to review all of our paper work, and hiring a graphic artist to create a poster). Carly and her partner have shouldered most of the financial burden so far but now that we are heading into the expensive end of things, we are reaching out the community for support.

We are asking everyone to pay on the night with more details to follow.

Doors open at 5:45 for a 6pm start. It will be a short and sweet event – ending by 7. Feel free to stick around afterward for drinks and chats with awesome likeminded people!

We have received a $1300 grant through the Pollination Project!

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tpp_grantee_badge-300x300We received a $1300 grant recently from the Pollination Project which offers seed money to change makers fighting for social and/or environmental justice.  This has allowed us to bring on board a National Geographic editor!  We are still fund raising for costs needed to complete editing (the $1300 grant only gets us 65 out of the 400 to 500 hours of editing that we will need) but it’s a great start!

The $20,000 we are currently fund raising for does not include the $1300 grant.  We recently edited our fundraising goal to reflect what we still require to get this thing across the line.

We are so grateful for the support from the Pollination Project, those who have donated through DAF, those who donated through Paypal, and for everyone who has volunteered their time, offered free baby sitting so Carly could go out and film, shared our social media posts, and just offered moral support and were generally awesome.  We really have been blessed and this project feels like kismet.  We are still finishing up production and will have several months of editing ahead but have faith in that ancient turtle wisdom – slow and steady wins the race!

If you are interested in donating to our film, please visit our donation page or contribute quick and easy with Paypal!

#seedthechange #balloonsblow

Accepted into the Documentary Australia Foundation

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Big news for the Rubber Jellyfish film!

I am pleased to announce that my film about the effects of balloon litter on endangered sea turtle populations has been accepted into the Documentary Australia Foundation!

The Documentary Australia Foundation is a private philanthropic initiative that aims to inspire and nurture partnerships between philanthropic grantmakers, not for profits and documentary film makers. Click here to view our DAF campaign and learn more about the film and its conservation importance.

The great thing about being accepted into DAF is it means that all donations over $2 are tax deductible!  The downside is that we are not allowed to offer any additional perks (aside from thanking you in the film’s credits).  For those of you that may like to donate but aren’t necessarily worried about the tax benefit, we have also set up a Paypal account.  All donations through Paypal of $30AU or more will receive a free digital download of the completed film.

Why are we seeking financial assistance? So far, the film has been self funded by the film maker. We have come a long way on our own but an inflow of cash will help get us where we need to be.

Our funding goal of $20,000 will cover all of our finishing costs – editing, purchasing of music, and legal fees!  Please view our donations page for an update on where we are at with our goal.

It’s an exciting time for us here on the Rubber Jellyfish team. Our film will expose the balloon industry for 30 years of misrepresenting science and leading consumers to believe that balloons are biodegradable and environmentally friendly. We would be so grateful for your contribution which will help bring this issue into the limelight and give our world’s sea turtles a severely needed helping hand.