Conservation Filmmaker, Inka Cresswell, is passionate about documenting the state of the world’s oceans to inspire others to safeguard them for future generations. At 26 years old, Inka is a PADI Open Water Dive Instructor, Underwater Photography Instructor, and Dive Against Debris Instructor, as well as an Advanced, Nitrox, and Decompression Procedures Technical Diver. She also holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Marine Biology, and a Master’s Degree in Wildlife Filmmaking. Her debut film, ‘MY 25: The Ocean Between Us’ has been shown at numerous film festivals around the world. Here, Inka provides some powerful behind-the-lens perspectives on all things conservation filmmaking.

Interested in conservation filmmaking? The PADI Digital Underwater Photographer Course teaches you valuable techniques to improve the quality of the photos and videos you take while diving. This course is now also available on eLearning, so you can complete the online portion first, before connecting with a PADI dive shop at anytime to complete your in-water training.


What inspired you to earn your Masters Degree in Wildlife Filmmaking?

Inka: From the age of six I had already decided I was going to be a Marine Biologist. I was completely captivated by our underwater world, enchanted by all the otherworldly marine species I read about in books and watched on mesmerizing programs like ‘Blue Planet’. But at that young age, I had no idea that by the time I was able to make that dream a reality our oceans would have changed drastically. By the time I graduated from University with a degree in Marine Biology and started working on research projects the ocean I had grown up fantasizing about was long gone and I found all the work I was doing heavily geared around saving the last of a species and attempting to conserve the last of these great ecosystems. Throughout my undergraduate degree, I was increasingly frustrated by the lack of communication between the scientific community and the general public and became increasingly interested in science communication.

As an avid underwater photographer, I decided to combine my passion for marine biology and diving with my love of science communication and photography and try to start bridging the gap between science and general awareness. I found that my camera was my most powerful tool in conservation as it allowed me to share my passion and enthusiasm for marine life, portray marine species in a new light and lend a voice to our oceans – creating content that not only educates but hopefully inspires people to care for our underwater world in the same way I do. When the opportunity arose to earn a Masters at the University of the West of England in Wildlife Filmmaking, in partnership with the Natural History Unit, it was an offer I couldn’t turn down as it allowed me to build my film making skills to a whole new level and provided a great opportunity to break into the professional wildlife filmmaking industry.

What is your debut film ‘MY 25: The Ocean Between Us’ all about?

Inka: MY 25: The Ocean Between Us’ is an intimate personal authored film about how I have seen the oceans change in just my lifetime. Through the film, I wanted to take the audience on a journey from some of our most degraded reefs to some of our most pristine coastlines and share the stories of the people working to protect our oceans. From traditional fishing practices to state of the art wet labs and coral restoration work, the film shows the importance of learning from different cultures and generations and how there is still time to change the fate of our oceans.

My goal as a filmmaker was to create a film that would not only educate people about ocean conservation topics such as shifting baselines, marine protected areas, and overfishing but leave them inspired and hopeful for the future. The film is currently playing this year at a variety of international film festivals including ‘Wildscreen’ and the ‘Wildlife Conservation Film Festival’.

What sort of role has diving played in your life and career thus far?

Inka: I started diving when I was just 11 years old. Diving has always been such a huge part of my life as it allowed me to take that step into our underwater world and begin to connect with nature on a more personal level. Over the years diving has become less of a recreational experience and more of an essential tool in my work. As diving has become second nature I have been able to shift my focus more to my camera and observing interactions between marine life – allowing me to start unlocking some of these ocean mysteries.

I am currently a PADI Open Water Dive Instructor, Underwater Photography Instructor, and Dive Against Debris Instructor, as well as an Advanced, Nitrox, and Decompression Procedures Technical Diver. I look forward to continuing my dive education. With every course I take I’m always excited to see what other parts of our ocean I can begin to unlock. 

Why is it important to you to promote diversity in diving and conservation?

Inka: Growing up I never saw anyone who looked like me in my textbooks or in the documentaries I watched and I think for a young person this can be very discouraging. If you never see anyone you can relate to making it in the industry you aspire to be in its easy to feel out of place and defeated before you have even begun your journey. As a woman of colour, I feel passionate about ensuring that we change what we think of when we hear the word diver, conservationist, or Marine Biologist and I think that media representation is a great way to start challenging these roles and ensuring marine conservation and the dive industry feel more inclusive.

While working on my film I felt passionate about featuring local marine biologists for this reason. As Marine Biologist Asha De Vos stated ‘Every coastline needs a local hero’, and that’s because ocean conservation is a global issue. Every coastline is unique, with unique solutions. For us to be truly successful in conserving our oceans we need people from every corner of our planet working together and this means that all people no matter their race, religion, gender, or sexual identity must feel empowered to engage with our marine environment and in conservation work. We protect what we care about and if only a small part of the population has access to the tools they need to peer below the surface of the ocean it’s going to be a much harder fight. As soon as people start to understand the beauty and fragility of our oceans I think we will be in a much better position to protect them.


What advice do you have for anyone looking to pursue a path in conservation filmmaking?

Inka: The most important thing is to get out there and start making films. Even if that’s just with your iPhone and a GoPro, everyone has a story to tell, and if you can inspire just a few other people to make a positive change you are succeeding. I found that making my own films was the greatest learning tool, by going through that process of researching, writing, filming, and editing you learn so much about the importance of each of role. For those who are interested in a career in wildlife filmmaking, a great start is a good background in science and research. By earning a degree in Marine Biology before pursuing filmmaking, I feel much better prepared for some of those harder scientific questions and my solid foundation in science allows me to ensure that the educational aspect isn’t lost.

A Masters Degree in Wildlife Filmmaking is also a great way to move into a career in Conservation Filmmaking. Through my course I was able to develop my editorial mind, ensuring that my films deliver on education, don’t become bogged down by science, and were also entertaining and impactful. I was also able to gain fantastic insight into the film industry, with a ‘Blue Planet’ director mentoring me through my student film, and landing my first professional film job working on a landmark ocean series. And of course being a skilled diver is an essential tool for any ocean conservation filmmaker.

To follow Inka’s diving and conservation filmmaking journey, you can find her @inkacresswell on Instagram and Twitter. She is a passionate social media influencer, focused on sharing imagery of the underwater world, as well as her personal journey, with the hopes that her work will inspire more women and people of color to become involved in diving, marine science, and conservation filmmaking.

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