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Returning to Clearwater
As there were in "Dolphin Tale," there are pivotal moments in "Dolphin Tale 2" that are seen from Winter's viewpoint, which, Charles Martin Smith says, was a crucial element. "It was important to me that the cameras be be in Winter's world and see things from her perspective."

One change from the earlier film was the decision to film in 2D instead of 3D, which allowed for greater freedom of movement underwater. "The 3D cameras were enormous and required special housing to be waterproof, making them even more cumbersome," Smith recalls. "We had the advantage on this film of much smaller cameras, so we had better mobility and could get all kinds of shots we weren't able to get before."

Smith collaborated closely with director of photography Daryn Okada, as well as underwater cinematographers Pete Zuccarini and Bob Talbot, to view the story through Winter's eyes. "Pete was with us on the last movie and did a great job. Bob Talbot is a world renowned documentarian and marine wildlife photographer, whose photos are admired around the world. We were very lucky to get him. In planning the shots out, I used to tell him, 'Think like Winter. What are you looking at if you're a dolphin? What do you want to see?' And because Bob knows dolphins so well, he could get into the mind of what they were thinking. It was a terrific collaboration and I think what he did is breathtaking. And Daryn shot the film in a way that is absolutely beautiful, with interesting angles and lighting."

Okada comments, "I worked with Charles on a small movie over 20 years ago, and it was worth the wait to be involved with him on this film. He was very articulate in communicating the feelings he wanted evoked by the camera. One thing we did was to design our lighting though the water to create moods for those scenes. We also experimented with different camera speeds because when you're underwater, events are experienced like they're in slow or accelerated motion. It's almost like an altered reality."

Principal photography on "Dolphin Tale 2" was accomplished entirely on location in Clearwater, Tampa and St. Petersburg, Florida, with a significant portion of filming taking place at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium. Smith states, "Well, of course, Winter and Hope live at CMA, so there was no way we could, or would, shoot anywhere else. But also, the CMA staff, led by David Yates, was always so helpful and accommodating. The most important thing to everyone involved in the film was not to interfere in their rescue and rehab work."

Yates attests, "Charles Martin Smith really gets what we're about at the Aquarium, which is very important to our staff. He understood that we're not a set; we couldn't just shut down our operations. Throughout filming, we were still caring for animals and doing the things we needed to do. Frankly, it couldn't have gone better."

One of the things the filmmakers did on the first movie and repeated for "Dolphin Tale 2" was to bring in cameras and equipment ahead of filming to desensitize Winter, Hope and Nicholas to their presence. Because of the dolphins' natural curiosity, they spent time checking everything out, but by the time shooting started, the novelty of the equipment had worn off and it was not a distraction or of any concern to them.

Production designer David J. Bomba took full advantage of the expanded and refurbished real-life Aquarium to show the parallel improvements that have transpired within the story's CMA. "It's undergone a complete renovation," Bomba says. "We wanted to show that it's become a major tourist destination because of the crowds that come to see Winter, but conceptually it's still a rescue facility, and everything still revolves around that."

Similarly, costume designer Hope Hanafin, returning from "Dolphin Tale," reflected the progress at CMA in her costumes. "We did official uniforms for the staff and volunteers," she says. "Last time, people threw on faded t-shirts and shorts. Now a corporation has come in and designed the uniforms, so there's a stratum to it, delineated by color. You get the sense that Clay's world has built up in a hierarchical way, in which he is not entirely at home. He takes his stand, wearing the old CMH t-shirts or his own Hawaiian shirts, with shorts and flip flops, even when he goes to the boardroom."

One vital scene-when the CMA staff learns that an infant dolphin has been rescued and is on her way-was filmed next door to the Aquarium at the Island Way Grill. It is the same restaurant where the "Dolphin Tale" wrap party was being held the night the real Hope was rescued. Smith acknowledges, "I recreated it as closely as I could. We brought in members of the same team that had rescued Hope-Dr. Juli Goldstein and Steve McCulloch-to play themselves, and they bring her to CMA in the same truck they used that night. I even took a couple of lines of dialogue from the actual footage because I wanted it to feel very authentic."

However, there was one bit of serendipity the director had not planned. He recounts, "We filmed the scene on December 11th. One of the trainers came up to me and asked, 'Did you decide to shoot this scene tonight on purpose?' And I told her no, it just happened to fall in the shooting schedule that way. When I asked why, she reminded me that December 11th was the very night Hope was rescued and brought to CMA, exactly three years before to the day. It was just a coincidence...or maybe it was meant to be," he smiles.

The final creative element of "Dolphin Tale 2" was the music, which Smith emphasizes "was a critical piece of the film because we have a number of non-dialogue scenes, like some of the interaction between Sawyer and Winter or between Winter and Hope. Rachel Portman wrote the score and it's beautiful and emotional. She approached this wanting to understand more about the dolphins and about the focus on Rescue, Rehab and Release. It was important to her that these animals are safe and returned to the wild whenever possible. She totally got the spirit of the story and that's absolutely reflected in her music."

The central themes of the film are also reflected in the song that accompanies the real-life end footage of Winter, Hope and Mandy, as well as just a few of the people who have been inspired by visiting the remarkable Winter at CMA. Written by award-winning composer Diane Warren and performed by Gavin DeGraw, the song is titled "You Got Me." Smith offers, "When we're showing this documentary footage, we wanted a song that touches people and also uplifts them as they're watching some of the fantastic work that CMA does to help both people and animals."

Smith concludes, "I think there's something very basic in the idea that we are united and in this together. The way Sawyer and Winter bond, even though they're human and dolphin, speaks to the power of love universally. We all have to work together to make this world better and more compassionate."


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