Kaelyn Maehara is a California-born filmmaker and photographer. She has a bachelors degree in Marine Biology from the University of California, Santa Barbara and has just completed her masters in Documentary Production at the University of the West of England. She believes wholeheartedly in the power of visual media to change hearts and minds and strives to tell impactful stories around environmental and human issues.
Apart from making her own films on various topics, she has also served on the media teams aboard Sea Shepherd Global ships. On her first campaign, while filming the TV show, Whale Wars, her team brought the world footage of the first slaughtered minke whale on the deck of the Nisshin Maru since the Japanese whaling fleet was found guilty of illegally whaling in the Southern Ocean in 2014. This footage was proof that the Japanese government was still whaling illegally in Antarctic protected waters and eventually reached over 1 billion people world wide.
Following that campaign, she crewed on another Sea Shepherd ship in the Sea of Cortez, trying to prevent the extinction of the Vaquita porpoise by tracking and retrieving illegal gill nets out of the protected waters.
During her masters program, she started focusing on human stories around gentrification, art, sustainability and biodiversity in cities. For her final film, she completed a documentary on a traditional fishing village in India fighting displacement from industry and an unfair law proposal.
You'll most likely find Kaelyn outdoors- diving, hiking, skiing, sailing and exploring the natural world around her.
I got into storytelling to give a voice and a platform to causes and movements that spoke to me. This mostly involved me creating films for environmental and conservation based movements, I had never before been exposed to the human aspects of these stories. That is until I met Siddharth. Having both previously worked at the same environmental NGO, we had an understanding and a common love for the oceans- but where previously we were working under the banner of animal rights and conservation, the work Sid was doing in India was completely different. Being the curious person I was, I had to find out more about it.
What I uncovered in India, was more than I could have ever imagined. The stories, the people, the situation were beyond what I had expected and became more and more complex, the more time I spent there. At first I had the notion that I was going to make a film about the evils of shrimp farming on a traditional community. It wasn’t until a week before I was set to leave for India that I learned about CRZ 2018, a piece of draft legislation that would change the course of India’s entire coastline. CRZ 2018 had just been release publicly and was open for comment during my production schedule, it relaxed environmental regulations on the coastlines and was in favor of industrial development. For the millions of traditional fishworkers that make their living from small scale fishing and other modest means, this law means the end of the line for them. Their way of life will effectively be over and they will have to convert their peaceful and sustainable livelihoods for more industrial practices like shrimp farming or working as migrant labor.
Coming from a western country where long ago the waves of industrialization had already replaced most traditional livelihoods, I had no real concept of how important traditional life was. Interacting with people who still catch or grow everything they eat, who know exactly how to live sustainably with their environment, and who now live on the razor edge of survival and extinction was one of the most humbling experiences of my life. As an outsider with a camera, my goal was to tell their story, to educate the public on their struggles, and open the public’s eyes to the human and environmental cost of industrialization.
I want people to think about where their cheap seafood comes from. I want people know be reminded of how traditionally people lived in harmony and not at odds with their environment. I want people to see how industrialization is not always the answer and for some it costs more than others.
BY THE WATER is both the hardest and best thing I have ever had the privilege to make. Its stories like these that inspired me to get into filmmaking and its stories like these I hope to continue to tell for the rest of my career.