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Spear, Spatula, Submarine: Floridians Fight to Take Back Their Waters - still #1
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Spear, Spatula, Submarine: Floridians Fight to Take Back Their Waters - still #4
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Spear, Spatula, Submarine: Floridians Fight to Take Back Their Waters

East Coast Premiere

Director: Shannon Morrall

United States, 2023, 13 min

Shooting Format:Digital

Festival Year:2023

Category:Documentary Short

Genres:Documentary, Nature, Environment, Activism, Sustainability

Crew:Producers: Alyssa Katalyna, Shannon Morrall. Executive Producer: Kent Anderson; Director of Photography: Luke Becker-Lowe; Editor: Avo Kambourian


With an avaricious appetite, no native predators, and rapid reproduction rates, the invasive lionfish is one of the planet's greatest eco-disasters. In this short documentary about sustainability and activism, a community of passionate Floridians use creative removal methods to save the waters they love.


About the director

Shannon Morrall is a writer/director/producer based in Los Angeles. This is her first documentary film, for which she received the $25,000 Natural Florida Film Grant to continue her work in educational nature content, which she began in 2015 with a children's nature web series. Typically a narrative filmmaker, Shannon's stories tend to explore human connection, joy, and play, often through the escapism of grand adventure genres. In 2022, her films were awarded Outstanding Director (Art of Brooklyn Film Festival), Best Short Film (Universal FF), Best Georgia-Made Film (Macon FF), and a nomination for Best Director at Festival of Cinema NYC.

With a degree in International Politics and Chinese, Shannon got her start as a women's rights representative at the United Nations before transitioning to filmmaking. While this film was created independently from school, she is currently attending USC's School of Cinematic Arts earning her Masters in Film Production.

Website Filmography

Filmmaker's note

“Lionfish really are an underwater forest fire. Nobody watches it. Nobody can see it from the shore.”

These are the words of legendary ocean researcher, counter-terrorism operative, and submarine pilot Scott Cassell - one of the film’s main subjects. He’s right - the lionfish invasion is one of the planet's greatest eco-disasters, starting in Florida but spreading as far north as Rhode Island and as far south as Brazil. But while the issue has grown over decades, I only learned of it this year. As my curiosity grew, I spiraled into research mode, learning two things (among many):

One. Not nearly as many people are talking about this as there needs to be.

Two. Avoiding “disaster-mode” is entirely possible. Simple, even. Catch the fish. Eat the fish. The solutions are already in place. We just need more man-power.

Out of all of the environmental “forest fires” on this planet, how does one inspire people to choose the right fire to put their efforts towards? With a background in both film and humanitarian aid, I knew the answer. Whichever issue becomes dinner table chatter, whichever topic trends on twitter - that’s the one that gets the attention. That’s the one that gets its firefighters.

I have a clear goal for this film: get as many people to see it as possible. I set out to make a short, engaging piece that gives a basic rundown of the problem, but really at its core focuses on the solutions, and the everyday Floridians fighting the good fight. I chose this personal profile approach to make the film entertaining - scientists with stats are wonderful (and we collaborated with many to fact-check the film and shape the edit), but why tell the story through that lens when there’s a man out here with a submarine, for Godsake! My background in narrative filmmaking definitely influenced my approach here for my first documentary.

There’s a lot of doom and gloom in the environmental doc world. Disaster films with complicated, maybe even nonexistent solutions. Issues that are important as all-get-out but ultimately disheartening for someone on an individual level. The appeal for me here was that, with this issue, even one person deciding to take up arms against this fish, someone who tries it out at Whole Foods or brings a spear on their next recreational dive, can make a massive difference for the reef.

My team for this film was small but scrappy - we traveled all over Florida to find the right voices for our spear, our spatula, and our submarine, from East coast to West, all the way down to the Keys, staying with family and rallying local help in each location.

I grew up minutes from Fort Lauderdale Beach, finding freedom in the waves. Our waters, when healthy, provide Floridians with both the joy of nature and a livelihood to hundreds of thousands in the fishing industry and its periphery industries. The ocean is at the heart of Florida. It’s on all of us to take care of her, and I hope I’ve created a film that reminds us of that.

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