Save Our Seas Foundation Presents
Older Then Trees

Older Than Trees


This is a film about hope for the future of sharks and rays. The film tells the story of James Lea, a field biologist who grew up dreaming of sharks, enigmatic creatures of the deep. In his first few years as a field biologist, he fell in love with silky sharks in the Red Sea, where he interacted with them and learned their individual personalities. But in the space of just a few years he watched as almost each and every animal he had known was lost to overfishing. Feeling heartbroken and helpless, Lea resolved to use his expertise as a scientist to protect sharks in places where they still have a chance to thrive.


Older Than Trees highlights Lea’s work in the field and the success he’s contributed to in safeguarding these ancient species. Using both new and never-before-seen archival footage, the film takes us on an expedition around the world that showcases the critical role science plays in safeguarding vulnerable species like sharks and rays. ‘We rely on our oceans for food, livelihoods, climate regulation and our well-being, and sharks play many crucial roles in the stability of ocean systems. Increasingly, we risk losing this stability through intense overfishing; global shark populations have declined by more than 70%. Sharks really, really need our help,’ says Lea. ‘This is where the science comes in. Filling knowledge gaps about sharks and their behaviour helps us to target conservation efforts, making sure they are as effective as possible.’


“This is a very important story, in the bigger sense, perhaps the most important story.”
Craig Foster
My Octopus Teacher

Director's statement

‘Save Our Seas Foundation has been part of my life for more than a decade. My love for the ocean took on a whole new dimension during years of interviews with SOSF-funded researchers and awe-inspiring visits with project leaders around the world. If it was not for these connections and experiences I would not have had the knowledge or understanding of conservation storytelling that allowed me to make My Octopus Teacher.

It was just after our launch on Netflix that James Lea and Jade Schultz approached me to make a film for the foundation’s 20-year anniversary. At that time we didn’t know exactly what the film would be, but I was excited to dive back into SOSF’s incredible library of footage and try to bring two decades of science, education and storytelling to life into an emotional and cohesive narrative. By commissioning the film James had unwittingly made himself a reluctant protagonist and his humility and sincerity, combined with a jaw-dropping archive and a brilliant cross-continental production team, allowed us to show the wonder of sharks and rays, tell the story of their plight and highlight the global effort to protect them.’


‘An urgent story, beautifully told, tells of the ocean’s imperilled sharks and why they matter. James’ personal journey through the world of sharks made me grin, gasp and shed tears. Most of all, it leaves me feeling hopeful that all is not lost for these incredible wonders of nature. Sharks are indeed Older Than Trees and this film is a compelling call to action to make sure they’ll still be swimming through the ocean for a long time to come.’

Dr Helen Scales
author of What the Wild Sea Can Be


Photo by Dan Beecham

Protect & Take Action

Older Than Trees is a compelling reminder of the value of impact-driven science in the urgent mission to protect and restore populations of threatened animals like sharks. On the impact of the film, Lea had this to say,  “Although I love sharks, I never dreamed I would get to know, and grow deeply fond of, particular individuals. They’re connections I cherish, and ones that I hope our future generations will get the privilege to experience.”

By sharing these stories, people all over the world, including local decision-makers, will recognise the value of sharks and the role they play in our ecosystem. To find out more about how you can help protect sharks, go to How can I help sharks.

Film credits

Directed By Pippa Ehrlich
Produced By Tasmin Vosloo
Executive Producers Craig Foster, Swati Thiyagarajan
Associate Producers Jade Schultz, James Lea
Production Assistant Sophie Foulkes
Editor Bryan Little
Additional Editing Jackie Viviers
Assistant Editors Natasha Dryden, Sam Barton-Humphreys
Online Editor Danielle Nel
Director of Photography Luke Saddler
Cinematography Dan Beecham, Byron Dilkes, Pippa Ehrlich, Craig Foster, James Loudon, Sebastian Staines
Additional Cinematography Duncake Brake, Owen Bruce, Tom Campbell, Ryan Daly, Matthew During, Nick Filmalter, Nic Good, Stuart Halbutzel, James Lea, Felipe Ravina Olivares, Michael Scholl, Rainer von Brandis
Graphic Artist Alexis Schofield
Colourist Kyle Stroebel
Sound Design Barry Donnelly
Music by Sven Faulconer
Musicians Ina Veli, Cankat Guenel
Additional Dialogue Recording Scott Talbott