WA Today: TV viewers bite back, week of April 19

A job well done

Employable Me is currently the best show on free to air TV. To meet the candidates for employment who have neuro diverse conditions is a privilege. At times humorous, quirky, painful, and brilliant, their stories are deeply moving and expand our knowledge of what is is to be human. Good luck to Tim, Rohan and Kayla and their families. I have a lasting image of Tim smiling, his eyes shining when he was offered a job which suited his unique skills. A man of few words, his eyes said it all. - Lynne Boyd, Brighton East

Podcast: TV series Changing Minds returns to fight the taboo

The harmful stigma surrounding mental health may still remain in some areas, but an ambitious television series is tackling that head on. The second season of Changing Minds will begin on ABC tomorrow night, to fight the taboo that often shroudes mental health.

The three-part series follows 11 patients in the locked mental health units of Sydney's Campbelltown Hospital and in the homes of patients cared for by community mental health teams.

We were joined by Dr Mark Cross, psychiatrist at Campbelltown Hospital, to chat more about this ground-breaking series and the issue of mental health.

Listen to the radio interview here

Steve Barnes sees through the illness and gives young people hope

Steve Barnes is often the last hope for many young people who suffer with mental health problems. As a clinical nurse consultant, the Austral mother of three has spent 30 years working in drug, health and mental illness.

She is one of the faces on ABC’s Changing Minds: The Inside Story, which is run over three episodes. Episode one is on tonight.

Podcast: Behind the Scenes

Changing Minds, series two, follows a group of ten young Australians facing mental health issues and we see how our mental health system copes with caring for them. The first series picked up an Australian Director’s Guild Award for Best Directing in a Documentary Series for director Cian O’Clery. He joined us on the phone today to talk about the new series and how they went about filming people in the most vulnerable point in their life.“Changing Minds” will broadcast on ABC on 6, 7, 8 October for Mental Health Week.

Visit the Radio Adelaide link to listen to the podcast episode with Cian O'Clery

Switched On review of Changing Minds


Joel, 18, has a problem. "This may sound crazy, but I can speak to spirits and that," he tells Dr Mark Cross. The shrink is ready for him. "Look, I'm a psychiatrist, I can cope with crazy."

Joel is in society's most at-risk group for mental illness, 17-24, one of the patients at Campbelltown Hospital's Mental Health Unit who have agreed to be filmed for the second season of this riveting series. Dr Cross and team can help in different ways, starting with the simple stuff. Joel, who lives in a bush cave, needs a pair of shoes.

Switched On - CM review - 30.09.15

Sydney Morning Herald's 4 Star Review of Changing Minds

This Week: Melinda Houston's TV sides Melinda Houston – SMH - October 4, 2015

CHANGING MINDS Series return ★★★★ Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday 8.30pm, ABC

Changing Minds tackles mental health issues faced by young people.

This fabulous observational documentary returns for a second season, this time focusing on the mental health problems besetting our teens and twentysomethings. It doesn't sound like a great night's entertainment but the frankness and generosity with which the subject is treated, and the beautiful characters that emerge – diverse, funny, clever, sweet, often challenging but extraordinarily brave – make this completely engaging. Yes, hopefully it will change your mind about mental illness – but you will also by thoroughly engaged along the way.

Changing Minds: journey from mental illness

Pick of the day: Changing Minds: The Inside Story, 8.30pm, ABC. This three-part series screens tonight and the next two evenings, a key focus of a week of programming on mental illness, health and wellbeing across television, radio and online.

Producer Jenni Wilks and director Cian O’Clery take us on a journey with young mentally ill patients on their road to recovery, from breaking point to rehabilitation in the locked mental health units of Sydney’s Campbelltown Hospital.

The 10 patients — more than 30 were filmed — include Daniel, 20, whose cannabis addiction masks psychotic symptoms; Taileah, 20, a recently graduated nurse whose stress manifests in auditory hallucinations; 24-year-old Nathan, whose schizophrenia allows him to converse with Hitler and Muhammad Ali; and Fabrice, 36, a barrister’s son with persecutory delusions.

They generously agreed to be filmed during the acute phases of their illnesses, their stories not related retrospectively but allowed to unfold in crisis, a serendipitous process hardly within the norms of production schedules and crew call sheets.

It meant there was no guarantee patients would continue to consent as they became increasingly in touch with their real selves — and, as O’Clery says, no guarantee existed that the stories would be engaging to an audience.

Well, they certainly are — this series is not only informative and intensely moving at times, if often uncomfortable viewing, it’s also philosophically profound and often very funny as taboos and stigmas about mental illness are confronted and challenged.

It’s skilfully and compassionately directed by O’Clery with sensual photography from Simon Morris creating a feature film look with a shallow depth of field causing distractions to melt away.

Bravo to all involved, especially the charming and witty Mark Cross, the psychiatrist at the centre of this absorbing, character-driven observational series.

ABC's Mental Health Week gets real with second 'Changing Minds'

ABC’s Mental As… week won plenty of acclaim in 2014 for “shining light” on mental illness, particularly in the centrepiece of the week — a three-part documentary which went inside a mental health unit. Changing Minds is an excellent piece of documentary and thoroughly deserved its accolades, including the Sydney Morning Herald review which named it “one of the most important programs in Australian television history.” 

Northern Pictures strikes the right balance

When David Haslingden decided to return home to Australia a few years ago, he didn’t have a home. After leaving his role as the president and chief operating officer of the US Fox Networks Group, the home to FX, National Geographic, Fox Sports and others, he emerged with a production company with operations in China, New Zealand and Singapore yet “nowhere to sit” in ­Sydney.

The Australian - Review of Changing Minds

Directed with great skill and compassion is the ABC’s startling three-part Changing Minds: The Inside Story, a key component of Mental As, a week of programming across TV, radio and online on mental illness, health and wellbeing. In this second season of the show, producer Jenni Wilks and director Cian O’Clery take us on a rather fantastical journey with a group of young mentally ill patients on their road to recovery in the locked mental health units of Sydney’s Campbelltown Hospital. The 10 patients include 20-year-old Daniel, whose cannabis addiction masks psychotic symptoms; Taileah, a recently graduated 20-year-old nurse whose stress manifests in distressing auditory hallucinations; 24-year-old Nathan, whose schizophrenia allows him to converse with Hitler and Muhammad Ali; and Fabrice, a 36-year-old barrister’s son with persecutory delusions about demons and devils.

They all generously agreed to be filmed during the acute phases of their illnesses, their stories not related retrospectively but allowed to unfold in crisis, a serendipitous process hardly within the norms of production schedules and crew call sheets. It meant there was no guarantee patients would continue to consent as they became increasingly in touch with their real selves — and, as O’Clery says, no certainty existed that the stories found would be engaging to an audience. Well, they certainly are. This series is not only informative and intensely moving at times, if often uncomfortable viewing, it’s also philosophically profound and often very funny as taboos and stigmas about mental illness are confronted and challenged. (For example: mental illness is not a life sentence; not all mental illnesses are the same; mentally ill people are not violent; and some cultural groups are no more likely than others to experience it.)

O’Clery and his director of photography, Simon Morris, filmed the series in a highly cinematic fashion using prime lenses on large sensor cameras, giving the images a feature-film look with a shallow depth of field, causing distractions to melt away, and at times it looks quite sensual. “What I didn’t want was for the series to look ‘raw and gritty’ ”, the director says. “I think that by doing our best to make it look beautiful, it helps present people and their stories in a sensitive and gentle way.”

Bravo to all involved especially the charming and witty Mark Cross, the psychiatrist at the centre of this absorbing character-driven observational series.

Northern Pictures spotlights mental health, sex

Documentaries on mental health, artist Brett Whiteley, the environmental threat to our seas, the secret life of pearls and how to have better sex are in the works from Northern Pictures. Managing director Sue Clothier and head of factual Karina Holden are driving the eclectic slate for broadcasters including National Geographic Channels International and the ABC and distributor Transmission Films.

The second series of Changing Minds: The Inside Story will screen on three consecutive nights from October 6 as part of Mental As..., the ABC’s week-long initiative in support of Mental Health Week.

While last year’s series was filmed inside Western Sydney's Liverpool Hospital’s psychiatric ward, the sequel follows daily life in the locked mental health units of Campbelltown Hospital and in the homes of patients cared for by community mental health teams.

Good Pitch 2 Australia generated philanthropic funding for six projects including two Northern Pictures feature docs. Whiteley is a portrait of the life and legacy of the celebrated artist Brett Whiteley, funded in the first round of Screen Australia’s documentary producer program.

Produced by Clothier, the doc is being directed by James Bogle, who is co-writing with Victor Gentile. “We will tell the story in Brett’s own voice, using archival material, and there will be some dramatic re-enactments,” Clothier tells IF.

The late artist’s wife Wendy Whiteley is co-operating. Distributor Transmission will arrange event screenings and the release will be marketed via major arts institutions.

Blue will examine efforts to safeguard the waters surrounding the continent from industrial scale fishing, habitat destruction, species loss and pollution.

Filming is due to start in early 2016, with Holden as the director/writer and Sarah Beard as the “impact” producer, who will pursue various models of distribution.

Blue will tap into the 700 hours of underwater footage filmed in the past few years by Northern Pictures, most of it in 4K, including the 3-part series Life on the Reef which screened on ABC, PBS, Arte, Discovery UK and National Geographic Channels International (NGCI).

NGCI has commissioned Secret Life of Pearls, a one-off doc which explains how man and nature work together to forge the ocean’s most desired treasure. The director is Nick Robinson, whose credits include Life on the Reef and Kakadu.

Holden is producing Lukewarm Sex, a six-part doc for the ABC created by actor/writer Luke McGregor (now on screen in Working Dog’s Utopia) and the director Hayden Guppy.

The series will follow McGregor’s efforts to get better at sex with help from experts who aim to coach him to go from being lukewarm to red hot.

Clothier says viewers will have to watch the show on the ABC next year to see how that mission turns out.

ABC’s mental health week gets real with second ‘Changing Minds’

Producer Jenni Wilks talks us through the second series of ABC’s acclaimed ‘Changing Minds’, which chronicles the happenings of one of Australia’s busiest Mental Health Units. 3f52a142c355b83772c2

In Australia, mental illness is the third leading cause of disability. Statistically each year, approximately one in every five Australians will experience some form of debilitating mental illness.

Yet in spite of how prevalent it may be, there remains a huge degree of stigma attached to those with mental illnesses, deeply entrenched negative perceptions held by the wider community.

A 2006 study reported by the Western Australia Mental Health Commission found that one in four people felt depression to be a sign of weakness and would not employ a person with depression; one in five said if they had depression they would not tell anyone; a third would not vote for any politician that had depression; and 42% thought people with depression were unpredictable.

Changing Minds: The Inside Story is a documentary series by Northern Pictures in collaboration with the ABC. About to enter its second season, the program – whose Oct 6 premiere coincides with Mental Health Week - not only attempts to challenge the perceptions we might hold about the mentally ill, it seeks to elicit a compassionate attitude by following the lives of several real patients inside a South Western Sydney hospital. Both touching and confronting, it emphasises the common humanity we can too easily forget we share with those less fortunate.

“There has not been another documentary before Changing Minds that has captured the reality of the experience for people who suffer,” says series producer Jenni Wilks. “I hope the audience comes to understand what it is really like for people and their families to live and deal with mental illness, which in turn will reduce the stigma associated with it.”

Wilks is certainly as qualified as anyone to pronounce on the subject. A formerly registered nurse, whose husband is a psychiatrist, she says it is her interest in health, medicine and social issues which draws her to medical documentaries.

For seventeen years, she was the supervising producer on RPA, where, she explains “mental illness was the only area of medicine never covered in a series that ran for seventeen years! I made several attempts to include mental illness in the series but there was resistance from medical staff and my own production peers.”

While Wilks argues this as another example of stigma towards mental illness, she reports that “ABC TV executives were very open to supporting the series,” and including it as part of their ‘Mental As…’ week of programming about Mental Health.

“With a filmmakers hat on I could see how the nature and impact of mental illnesses could engage an audience, particularly in an observational format,” says Wilks.

However, given the nature of the program, strict protocols were in place at all times during filming “ensuring patient’s welfare was paramount, our consent process was rigorous and the stories would be told respectfully,” as she explains.

Accordingly, nothing filmed for the series took place without the approval of a doctor, and no patient was approached without the agreement of a clinician. While all the patients who appear on screen gave consent, there were also follow up meetings afterwards to ensure they were still comfortable with the decision; doctors who assessed their capacity to make those decisions; and further reviews by family members and clinical staff of the filmed footage to ensure the process was one hundred percent ethically responsible.

“At the meetings we described exactly how the patients would appear in the program,” says Wilks, “when well and unwell, and who else would speak about them and their illness.”

However, what struck Wilks most about the people who agreed to be featured in the series “both the first and this series, is how strongly they and their families wanted to advocate for people who suffer from mental illness and their motivation to help others by telling their own story.”

What distinguishes Changing Minds according to Wilks, from other documentaries on the same subject, is that the patients’ stories are unfolding in real time and not being told retrospectively.

“What has not been seen before,” she says, “and therefore is poorly understood, is a person actually experiencing an acute phase of mental illness, seeing it as it happens. The audience actually see and learn what it is like for people to be mentally unwell. It was important to us to always separate the illness from the person and therefore it was crucial that we not only filmed people when unwell, but also when they had recovered. Thereby, providing the basics of storytelling with a beginning, middle, and end.”

Changing Minds: The Inside Story – Series 2 will premiere nationally Oct 6th on the ABC.

Changing Minds win at MHS Awards

Northern Pictures, the team behind Changing Minds: The Inside Story, have been recognised at the 2015 TheMHS conference for their work in Mental Health journalism. In a ceremony in Canberra this week, The Hon Dr Kay Patterson presented the award as part of the 2015 TheMHS Learning Network Conference, an event that brings together people interested in improving mental health care and systems in Australia and New Zealand.

The ABC was also recognised for its exceptional services to Mental Health for its Mental As... broadcast initiative.

How we're protecting 'Life on the Reef' - PBS series chronicles conservation efforts in Australia's iconic ecosystem.

LifeOnTheReefGreenSeaTurtleSwimsInGreatBarreirReef.jpg.653x0_q80_crop-smartA green sea turtle swims in the Great Barrier Reef in this image from 'Life on the Reef.' The three-part documentary that focuses on the coral habitat premieres July 22 on PBS. (Photo: Jon Shaw/Eye Spy Productions Trading as Northern Pictures)

It stretches 1,500 miles, is visible from space and is home to thousands of the planet's fish, plant and animal species, many of them endangered. It's Australia's Great Barrier Reef — actually 3,000 individual reefs that make up this World Heritage Marine Park — and efforts to protect it are the subject of the three-part PBS series "Life on the Reef," premiering July 22.

Humpback whales, green sea turtles, tiger sharks and manta rays are just a few of the species showcased in the series, which also focuses on scientists, conservationists, rescue squads and emergency teams that spring into action during cyclones, oil spill disasters and other crises.

Director Nick Robinson, who also served as one of the cinematographers, spent a year gathering 200 hours of footage for the series. He shared his insights about the series and this special place.

MNN: Why is The Great Barrier Reef so important to Earth's ecosystem?

Nick Robinson: As the world's largest reef system, the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) is a Noah's Ark for reef biodiversity at a time where we have already lost about 50 percent of the worlds coral reefs. Many species travel to and from the reef as part of their life cycle. Losing the GBR would mean losing a large number of species from the Pacific Ocean as a whole. If left unchecked, man-made climate change, pollution and overfishing will almost certainly wipe this vital marine ecosystem from our planet within our kids' lifetimes. We humans can decide to intervene to halt the decline, and the motivation to do so is growing stronger every day. The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park realistically represents our best chance of preserving a large and functioning coral reef system. It's also the epicenter of reef conservation science, a place where we as a species are learning how to best look after our marine environments. Vital knowledge is being created every day that will hopefully be used in the near future to save the world's remaining coral reef habitats.

What was your approach to the special? What did you want to convey?

We made this series to give people insight into how extraordinary the reef is and how we as humans can help to protect it. We wanted to include the human story that is so often overlooked in wildlife films. We humans are the biggest predator/threat to the survival of most creatures on the planet so we thought it would be appropriate to highlight that friction point. It was also an opportunity to celebrate some of the great work being done to protect the reef and a chance motivate more people to get involved with marine conservation.

The Great Barrier Reef should become a great role model for the creation of other marine parks. It was also the perfect place to look at the complex environmental dynamic of balancing our needs with those of the natural world.

LifeOnTheReefLionFishSwimsInGreatBarrierReef.jpg.838x0_q80 A lionfish swims in the Great Barrier Reef in this image from 'Life on the Reef.' (Photo: Nick Robinson and Luke Peterson/Eye Spy Productions Trading as Northern Pictures)

What challenges did you face during the shoot?

The big challenges were logistical. The GBR is huge and much of the coast is hard to access by road so getting where you want to be at the right time of year was a permanent headache. Most of the barrier reef also lies at least twenty miles or further off shore. Weather, boats, camping on islands and finally finding the animals made for some great adventures. In most cases, however, we were following scientists that had a deep understanding of their subjects and that took a lot of the guesswork out of the equation. The creatures were generally where they said they would be and quite accommodating when it came to being filmed!

There are many spectacular sequences—which stand out to you?

I guess my favorite material is all the work we did on Raine Island. It's a restricted access island that very few people are ever allowed to visit because it's home to the largest green sea turtle rookery on the planet. Being on that small island with twenty thousand turtles in a single evening was nothing short of mind blowing. There were tiger sharks, hundreds of thousands of seabirds and some fantastic scientists doing an incredible job trying to find solutions to save this beautiful endangered species. The whole experience of being out there and seeing conservation work being conducted in its purest form was quite inspiring. It was also a place that drummed home the central theme to the series: connectivity.

Why was it important to emphasize the connectivity and conservation aspects?

Connectivity is the foundation of marine ecosystems and the more scientists learn about these environments the more we realize how important the big picture is. When you talk about the necessity of maintaining a marine park the size of France many people might think that's a little overkill, surely it could be a little smaller. Land-based national parks are nowhere near that big, so it's a fair question and we felt it deserved some answers in the series. We opened this series with the story of the east coast humpback whales. They travel thousands of miles every year from the edge of the ice in the Antarctic to calve up in the warm waters around the Great Barrier Reef. They need the Antarctic krill to survive but equally they need the warm safe place to give birth. Compromise either of these habitats and the species is doomed.

The humpback story is similar to so many other creatures in the sea: what happens on the reef has an impact all over the Pacific Ocean. Turtles, tiger sharks, marlin, tuna, seabirds the list goes on and on of creatures that roam the Pacific far and wide in their seasonal migrations. We also chose to open with the humpbacks because they are one of the great environmental success stories. Only fifty years ago these animals were disappearing through whaling. Less than 500 animals survived the slaughter on Australia's east coast. But since protection was introduced for them they have made a steady recovery. Over twenty thousand humpbacks visited the Great Barrier Reef in 2014, majestic proof that when we care enough we can strike a balance between our needs and those of the natural world.

LifeOnTheReefLiszardIsland.jpg.838x0_q80 Lizard Island is home to the Lizard Island Research Station, a facility dedicated to studying the Great Barrier Reef and other coral habitats. (Photo: Nick Robinson and Luke Peterson/Eye Spy Productions Trading as Northern Pictures)

Was there anything you wanted to include but couldn't get?

Not really. When things didn't work out we would have another go later on, but some of the best moments just popped up. Things like a cuttlefish laying its eggs or the aerial battle between frigate birds and boobies can be hard to predict, yet they all happened in front of our cameras while we were out looking for something completely different. Having a year to produce the program also meant we could be opportunistic and capture things like a cyclone that trashed a small town and a reef complete with before and after shots. Time was our friend on this series and I think the quality of the program is largely due to the time spent creating it.

What do you hope viewers take away?

I guess the overriding message is simple: This planet of ours is awe-inspiring and provides us with everything we need to survive. Looking after it is an investment in our future as a species. This series is about a small but vital part of our planet's marine ecosystem, but it provides a wonderful micro-world through which we hope viewers will garner a greater understanding of the big picture challenges our marine environments face. We also hope the series gives them the hope and confidence to believe that we humans do have the means to look after our oceans.

Marine biologist Mark Read in Life on the Reef

Marine biologist Mark Read in Life on the Reef. Mark Read is an optimist. As a marine biologist, he's fully aware of the many threats to the Great Barrier Reef. But he's also inspired by the people, like him, who live and work on it.

"My job is about identifying sensitive areas and making sure they are maintained for current and future generations," he said. "It's about working closely with the people who use the reef all the time - government, non-government, industry, traditional owners, the defence department - seeing whether the activities they are engaged in can be modified to actually make them more ecologically sustainable, while still providing a top-level product for their consumers.

"The interesting thing is that so many of the people that I would be talking to out there on the reef are already some of the best environmental stewards that we have. These are people that are constantly pushing the envelope to ensure that whatever they do allows them to make a living that minimises the impact on the reef. That's one of the lovely parts of my job that I get to rub shoulders with people like that who are just inspirational."

Read, who is manager of species conservation at the Great Barrier Reef Marine Parks Authority, is one of the characters you'll meet tonight in the ABC's spectacular documentary, Life on The Reef. He's forced to stay in an office in Townsville most of the week, but "any excuse to get out on the water, I'll take it or make it".

"I think we sometimes forget just what an amazing place the Great Barrier Reef is. You're talking about the largest living creature, or assemblage of creatures, on the earth. It stretches for 10,000 kilometres. You can see it from space. One of the things that's unique about the reef is the people who really feel passionately about it."

Read hopes the documentary will make Australians more aware of the threats, which he identifies as climate change through greenhouse gas emissions, unsustainable fishing practices, run-offs from the land, and the crown of thorns starfish.

"The starfish have been documented over the years as being one of the most significant contributors to the decline of the coral cover over the reef. There's a link between the success of the crown of thorns starfish and the amount of nutrients and sediments and run-off coming off the land."

What's his favourite place on the reef? "As soon as you mention the Barrier Reef, people think of coral, but for me I like the estuarine areas, the mangroves, because they're very diverse and they are places not a lot of people go to and value. I really like spending time there and going fishing."

Fishing? Doesn't that contribute to the stripping of resources? "Not at all - I'm not that good a fisherman. For me it's about being in the environment, so if I catch a feed, that's a bonus."

Capturing Nature's Best

The story of the Great Barrier Reef is told through breathtaking images in Life On The Reef, writes Emma Brown. Occasionally a show comes alone that is important beyond its entertainment value. One such show is Life On The Reef, a three part observational documentary series produced by the team who delivered the award-winning Kakadu last year.

Australian cinematographer Nick Robinson is the man behind the spectacular images captured on film which form the backdrop to the story of our Great Barrier Reef.

Filmed over the course of a full year, the three-part series follows people who live and work in this extraordinary environment.

"We spent a year on the reef following characters who are working to save the reef such as rangers and marine park offices, traditional owners, search and rescue crews, scientists and tourism operators," Robinson says.

"Some of the people we followed are very inspiring."

While the series highlights the environmental issues facing the delicate ecosystem of the GBR marine park it is more about inspiring people to care, rather than harping at them to do something, Robinson says.

Although Robinson thinks that if we continue down our current path with the reef the future for it is bleak, he does believe there are lots of things we can do to keep it.

"Many people have come up to me and asked is it (the reef) dead already? Fifty percent of it is but only a small part of this, about ten per cent, is due to global warming. Other things causing this are things we can change," he said.

One of these things is the Crown of Thorns starfish, a predator that eats coral on the reef, which has been responsible for 40 per cent of coral loss between Cooktown and the Whitsundays in the last decades.

"It would cost about $5 million to stop the outbreak of the COTS which isn't a massive investment to stop the decline in the reef. We also need to improve water quality, control shipping and manage risks," he said.

As the most important marine park in the world, the GBR runs from Fraser Island to Papua New Guinea . At 2,300 kilometres long, it is the length of the west coast of the United States. It is the world's largest living structure and one the richest and most complex natural ecosystems on Earth.

"The reef has a vital role in the whole ocean. Whales come to calf there and changes to it have a wide ranging impact on the ocean."

Set against a backdrop of extraordinary marine habitats, ranging from coral reefs to tropical islands, shallow estuaries to deep oceanic waters, Life On The Reef takes the audience above and beneath the waters as nature adapts to the changing seasons.

Above the reef aerial photography from helicopters show the enormity of the marine park, giving macro coverage, while underwater photography shows some of the best microscopic coverage of the reef ever filmed.

Time-lapse and high speed cinematography is used to stunning effect, capturing the true nature of the area and the bizarre, beautiful and sometimes deadly creatures that call it home.

The series is narrated by Australian actor Rupert Reid who is best known for his roles as Declan in TV show Heartbreak High and later, Jack Dawson on Blue Heelers.

For Robinson, a trained marine biologist, the story of Life On The Reef is something he has always wanted to tell. As a cinematographer who shoots and directs documentaries, the success of last year's Kakadu means more opportunities to work on projects of his choosing.

Kakadu took out a gold medal at the prestigious New York Festival World's Best Television and Films competition and was awarded at a local level in January with a Best Cinematography for a documentary at the AACTA Awards.

As a fly-in fly-out worker Robinson and his other two crew members were often assisted by the Great Barrier Marine Park Authorityy (GBRMPA) and Queensland National Parks.

"They helped us out a lot by dropping us places while their scientists were working - we were very privileged."

For people who are interested in helping the reef Robinson suggests there are many ways to get involved from contacting politicians to joining a reef organisation.

"Volunteer, they need the manpower. Connect with other individuals and you can go out and have a reef experience and help at the same time."

Life on the Reef premieres Sunday 1 March 2015 at 7.40pm on ABC.

Review of Life on the Reef - Daily Telegraph

This one's a no-brainer. Each shot more beautiful than the next, it explores who lives on, in or around the Great Barrier Reef. Irish diver and marine biologis Paddy Colwell likes to kick his fins off and go for a stroll on the ocean floor around Osprey Island.

Bonus points for anyone who can guess the former Heartbreak High and Blue Heelers actor who narrates it.

4.5 stars out of 5

Review of Life on the Reef - Green Guide

Life on The Reef captures a year in the life of the Great Barrier Reef

Kakadu was always going to be a hard act to follow.

The ABC series was lauded for the way it captured the natural world at its most beguiling, with breath-taking visuals giving insight into why there is nowhere more primal, frightening and entrancing.

After delivering such an acclaimed series, director and cinematographer Nick Robinson could have been forgiven for putting his documentary production cue back in the rack, but he felt his work was far from done.

Daunting as it seemed, he and his team set out to create another epic series, this one filmed over a year on The Great Barrier Reef.

The result is spectacular, allowing us to be present as the seasons change and an array of bizarre, beautiful and deadly creatures fight for survival. But it's not just about animal life above and below the water. Life on the reef also profiles park rangers, traditional owners, coast guard, scientists, fishermen and residents as they interact with animal life and the sometimes violent forces of nature.

It turns out that marine animals have been getting up to all kinds of drama and mating mischief in Queensland long before schoolies thought they made it fashionable.

In spring, rising water temperatures make the reef prime for reproduction, prompting billions of coral polyps to release eggs and sperm into the ocean. Swept up in the excitement are worms and clams, who eagerly release their own eggs and sperm into this mating minestrone.

Reproductive behaviour can also mean violence, illustrated when Robinson and his team plumb the depths to deliver extraordinary images of shark feeding and mating frenzies.

Tiger sharks travel thousands of kilometres to feed on exhausted green sea turtles, but there's a chance they'll consider taste testing a documentary maker who's in the wrong place at the wrong time. A dropping of the fins and a head wobble can be signs a shark is considering adding you to its menu.

"To watch sharks in the mating process is one of the most incredibly violent things you'll see," Robinson says.

"But we try to be careful. I have no desire to get eaten by a shark and you always have to be aware (when it seems safe) that there could be one that behaves differently to the others. We have a rule when we are working that we get out of the water when there are more than two tigers around because more than two lessens your chances of seeing one coming. I was diving with Jon Shaw. I had a $7 broomstick and he had the camera. Sharks have a good sense of self-preservation so if you give them a swipe with a stick you are usually fine."

There are times though when even a diver as experienced as Robinson begins to question his judgement.

"At one point I decided I'd swim a bit to film a silver tip shark and when I began swimming I thought it was about two metres in length," Robinson says.

"When I got there I realised it was four metres. And it was pretty frisky, so I had to do a bit of back-peddling." It's pretty well documented that crocodiles can also be a bit unfriendly. Plenty of people who've wandered into their habitat have found themselves in the grip of a death roll in some murky river. Filming them on land can be tricky, too.

"I've filmed a lot of crocs and I remember one that had amazing speed and aggression," Robinson says. "It came out of the water faster than I could run, that's for sure. If I'd not been watching, I would not have seen it coming.

"There was another one we were filming from a helicopter. He decided to bite the skid and was hanging off it and we couldn't get away. So this croc was right under my feet and I thought, this is interesting, this helicopter is not going to be able to lift this crocodile."

Life on the Reef, ABC, Sunday, 7.40pm