Bill Fisher met his first shark on a Grand Cayman snorkeling excursion almost twenty years ago. Ever since that encounter, the Chicago Recording Company audio engineer has made a conscious effort to repeat the experience as often as possible. So far, he has come face-to-face with hundreds of sharks all over the world.
“I love the Mako,” he says. “If you’re lucky enough to see one in person, it’s just beautiful … blue, purple, silver … it’s like a bullet.”
Nowadays, his passion for the bullet is channeled into projects for 333 Productions, a company that specializes in “sharks, underwater cinematography, and natural history filmmaking.”
The Mako is one of the species that will be featured on the premiere of 333 Productions first full-length TV show, Shark Vortex, tonight at 7 p.m.
“Shark Vortex” is a reference to an annual gathering of sharks that takes place off the coast of New England every summer. Along with the Mako, more than thirty species follow the warm Gulf Stream current’s northern surge to an area near Rhode Island in late June.
The program is part of the Discovery network’s Shark Week. On TV Today described it as “one of the more noteworthy offerings.”
Fisher is Shark Vortex’ co-executive producer. He developed a knack for underwater production by frequently journeying under the sea with 333 Productions’ founder, legendary shark cinematographer and media personality Joe Romeiro.
Before getting the green light to make Shark Vortex, the pair spent years assembling Romeiro’s footage and licensing it to National Geographic, BBC and Discovery. They also produced several award-winning short films, including 2011’s A Tribute To Jacques Cousteau / 100 years.
Romeiro not only shot footage for Shark Vortex, he also directed, executive produced and hosted the show. He made the jump to on-camera over the course of 333’s growth, and has appeared in several Shark Week episodes including Monster Mako and Return of Monster Mako.
It all started in 1998, after Fisher won a free trip on United Airlines at the annual breakfast hosted by Leo Burnett, where he had worked as an audio engineer for nearly a decade.
“I won two-round trip tickets anywhere except, Asia or Australia,” he remembers.
On a suggestion from his sister, a world traveler, Fisher took his wife to Grand Cayman the following December. He’d never been to an island before, and as a fan of Jacques Cousteau as a kid, she knew he’d love it.
“My sister booked us on all this cool stuff,” he says. “One of them was an ocean excursion with Captain Marvin to Sting Ray City. After the stingrays, I asked, are there any sharks?”
His fate was sealed when he stared a Nurse Shark in the eyes.
“I learned how to scuba dive and went to the Bahamas like a year later on a Caribbean shark feeding dive,” he says. “After that, I was hooked.”
So began a seafaring journey that has taken him all over the world. Along the way, he learned that sharks are much more docile than most landlubbers would believe.
“They definitely don’t live up to their reputation as mindless killers” he says.
Fisher filmed his excursions with cameras borrowed from other divers. On evenings and weekends, whenever he wasn’t spending time with his family or fashioning sound at CRC’s 55 W. Wacker Drive facility, he’d combine the footage with material shot by fellow travelers and cut videos of the expeditions for friends and family.
He met Romeiro on a 2006 trip to Fiji — “Tiger Sharks, Bull Sharks, Silvertip, Black Tip, Nurse, Lemon, Grey and Whitetip Reef Sharks,” he says “One of the best trips of my life!”
When Romeiro saw Fisher’s follow up video, he felt a calling.
“Joe was, like, ‘this is incredible,’ Fisher recalls. “He said, ‘I’m going to buy a camera and we’re going to make movies — are you in?’”
The ensuing media success thrills the pair, but the sharks are the reason they keep going under.
“I still get captivated every time I see a shark” Fisher says.