We Are Mermaids
For nearly seventy years, Weeki Wachee Springs has been home to America's first and only fully-choreographed mermaid show. Competing with Orlando's mega-parks, it remains as one of the last of Florida's historical roadside attractions thanks to the mermaids who work tirelessly to protect the park, advocate for water conservation, and preserve their valued traditions. A story of history and sisterhood, We Are Mermaids looks to educate as well as inspire.
"We Are Mermaids" is a full-length documentary about Weeki Wachee Springs, a small town on the Gulf Coast of Florida which is also known as "The City of Mermaids" because deep below the surface of the largest natural spring in the northern hemispohere you will find the Weeki Wachee Mermaids who perfrom 20-feet below the surface in the world's only fully choreographed underwater mermaid show. For nearly seventy years, millions of people have come from all over the world to wach the famous sirens as they dance to music, perform underwater feats, and dive nearly 200 feet into the spring which gushes out 117 million gallons of water every day.
Settled next to I-19, along the West Coast of Florida, the park has fallen into disarray, a remnant flame from the star it once was in the fifties and sixties, the park struggles to keep itself afloat against the competition from the worlds biggest attractions located just an hour to the east, pulling all the traffic away.
The park remains to this day a place of legend, legacy, and pride for the people of Hernando and Pasco county, Florida who maintain that the water is somehow magical and that mermaids exist in what can only be descrived as the true Fountain of Youth. The Legendary Sirens, an exclusive group of women who've performed between the 1950s and 60s have committed their lives to preservation of the park, its traditions and the delicate ecosystem that is so vital to the life of the people and wildlife of Florida's Suncoast.
A Film About Sisterhood And Legacy
To become a mermaid at Weeki Wachee requires an immense amount of training and risk thus forming a bond between performers. Many of the performers are second or even third-generation performers at the park; following in the footsteps of mothers, aunts, sisters, and cousins, many of the mermaids find themselves at the park though familiar paths.
A Film About History
We Are Mermaids tells the story of a time when the roadside attraction once ruled the American landscape. Now, forty years after the opening of Disney World, it remains on of the few remaining parks. We Are Mermaid is a film that explains the value of small-town Americana in the face of major corporations.
A Film About Florida
Weeki Wachee Springs is commonly referred to as "the real Florida". Long before travelers looks outwards to places like Costa Rica, Florida was renown for eco-tourism; which still remains today and a resurgence in both national and international interest in Florida's array of springs, rivers, swamps, and beaches growing. Our film examine's Florida's important relationship with nature and the importance of protecting the delicate environment.
We Are Mermaids looks to tell the whole story of Weeki Wachee Springs and draw attention to Florida's Gulf Coast.
Contributions will be used to aid the completion of the film. Funds will be distributed to compensate staff, crew, and production costs.
We Are Mermaids is supported by the International Documentary Association who have granted the film 501(c)(3) non-profit status which means any contribution to the film via IDA will qualify for a tax-deductible.
About The Filmmakers
David Lee Morea (NCHD Productions)
A graduate from NYU Film, David has continued to work in both film and television. From working on shows like Project Runway and American Idol, he now works as a freelance filmmaker for himself and other organizations such as NBC and the United Nations. He recently completed his first documentary entitled "Before Neorealism: Italy's Forgotten Cinema", which outlined the history of Regime-Era cinema in 1930 and 40s Italy.
David is a native to Pasco County and has spent many summer afternoons at Weeki Wachee. His experience and curiosity of the park and its mermaids is the inspiration of this film.
Kandace holds a degree in Communications from Hofstra University and has worked for various television networks including ITV Studios, Fox News and Lifetime Television. Currently, Kandace is the head of global marketing at a technology company in New York City. She is responsible for all creative development and lead generation. Kandace and David Lee met in a film production summer program at NYU in 2004.
About The Park
Originated in 1947 by stunt-diver, Newt Perry, who created an underwater breathing apparatus which transferred compressed air through a narrow hose allowing him to perform deep dives into the cavernous spring. Soon after, Perry taught women to perform underwater with the air hoses and constructed a large underwater theatre for spectators to watch; thus the Weeki Wachee Spring Mermaid show was created. The park quickly gained popularity as it was located on the only road that took tourists from the north southward towards Miami. The park attracted celebrities such as Elvis Presley and Don Knotts. The show evolved into more intricate performances as the years advanced; the women bound their legs in shimmering tails and removed their diving masks for a more authentic show and in the sixties and seventies the park found itself at the hight of popularity. Such success, however, was not to last. As the seventies progressed, competition moved in only a few miles to the east in Orlando with the shape of a mouse. The arrival of Walt Disney World led to the construction of I-75 which drew away the traffic from spring’s main highway and the park’s attendance began to see a decline. Only ten years later, the park found itself in financial ruin; dropping from eight shows a day to three, the once thriving roadside attraction began experiencing a revolving door of failed ownerships, constantly on the brink of closing its doors for good. After a series of public outreaches and pleads to save the park, in 2003 the state decided to declare Weeki Wachee Springs a state park. And even though the park is now protected by the state, it remains a flicker of the flame it was many years ago. Even though the roster is dramatically reduced from its hay day, the mermaids still swim and shows remain the same. Performing twenty feet beneath the surface of the natural spring, the women perform one of two different shows, “The Little Mermaid,” and “Fish Tales”, the show which they’ve been performing for over fifty years; featuring deep dives, interaction with sea life, and drinking a bottle of coke.
The documentary is family-friendly and appealing to both children and adults. While historical in content, the topic of mermaids captivates people who might not otherwise be attracted to historically-themed, family friendly content. Targeted towards the 18-35 demographic We Are Mermaids has the potential to reach a much broader crowd. Mermaids have taken over American pop culture and their popularity has experienced a resurgence in the past few years so, We Are Mermaids, has the appeal to both “Millennial and those of the LGBTQ community.
This film focuses a fading tradition that is still a quintessential part of American culture, therefore, the film will appeal to not only a domestic but also international audience. Once completed, we plan on submitting this film to domestic and international film festivals. The film looks to find distributions with companies like The Criterion Collection.
To engage the audience, we will have created a Facebook page as well as reaching out to bloggers and special interests groups who are fans of mermaids. In the future, we plan on building a site for the film as well as holding events in New York City and Tampa to garner more attention for the film.
The film is currently in production and shooting has already begun. A relationship has been fortified between the staff of Weeki Wachee and myself and I have been granted full access to archival footage, photos, and the park- including the area in which the mermaids perform (photo). Having already met with the Legendary Sirens, I receive enthusiastic emails with charming anecdotes and leads to find more former employees. I have been shooting on both Canon Mark III 5D as well as a GoPro Hero which are in my possession along with lighting and professional quality microphone.
As of October, 2016, the film’s production will continue in 10-day monthly increments until January where post production will begin. After the initial editing has begun, pick-ups and final shots will be filmed in March. Post-production will continue through April and the final film expects to be delivered by May 2017.
While the film, at this stage, has been entirely self-funded by NCHD Production’s own investments, fundraising continues through grant applications as well as NGO contributions. Other grants considered are from Sundance, Tribeca, Ford Foundation, and IDA.