A clownfish hides in the fronds of its host anemone in a scene from the ABC TV series Ocean Odyssey: A Journey Down the East Australian Current.
A clownfish hides in the fronds of its host anemone in a scene from the ABC TV series Ocean Odyssey: A Journey Down the East Australian Current. Jon Shaw

Doco dives into the beauty of the EAC with the real Nemo

FILMMAKING has taken Nick Robinson and Jon Shaw around the world, but they relished the chance to show off the beauty of their own backyard.

The Emmy-nominated duo behind 2015's Life on the Reef takes viewers on the same journey, and beyond, as Pixar's adventurous clownfish Nemo in Ocean Odyssey: A Journey Down the East Australian Current.

From microscopic plankton to humpback whales, the new three-part documentary series narrated by Marta Dusseldorp follows the flow of the East Australian Current and how it impacts life both underwater and on land.

A humpback whale calf and its mother on their southern migration in a scene from the documentary TV series Ocean Odyssey: A Journey Down the East Australian Current.
A humpback whale calf and its mother on their southern migration in a scene from the documentary TV series Ocean Odyssey: A Journey Down the East Australian Current. Supplied

"The appeal of Nemo puts it in the global view," underwater cinematographer Jon says.

"(In the film), he starts off on the pristine Great Barrier Reef and ends up in Sydney in this horrible, polluted landscape but that's not the case in real life. There are these amazing landscapes way past Sydney and that's the major difference we really wanted to showcase."

With a small, mobile film crew, Nick and Jon spent two years filming up and down the coast from the northern Great Barrier Reef to remote southwest Tasmania and Antarctica.

Fraser Island ranger Peter Meyer, who features in the first episode and has worked with the BBC and National Geographic, says the footage is "as good as anything on Blue Planet".

"If you want to inspire people to love the east coast of Australia - not everywhere is always warm and clear like the Great Barrier Reef - then you want to pick the best moments of when the biology and water and visibility is right, those gem moments," Nick says.

Director and cinematographer Nick Robinson on the CSIRO's RV Inestigator in a scene from Ocean Odyssey: A Journey Down the East Australian Current.
Director and cinematographer Nick Robinson on the CSIRO's RV Inestigator in a scene from Ocean Odyssey: A Journey Down the East Australian Current. Supplied

"When I was at university in Sydney studying marine science 30-something years ago, the harbour was an awful place. I worked in the harbour as a diver for a weekend job and I couldn't see more than a foot in front of my face. Now the place is amazing. It's a wonderful story of recovery there, and one of the key messages of this series is we can fix these things."

Drone footage and animated graphics help to bring the larger concepts of currents, chemistry and migration to life.

"I want people to feel like they are on a journey along the whole east coast of Australia and to give that sense of moving down the current," Nick says.

"We wanted to make a film about how the planet works. If you could feel the planet as a living, breathing organism, and the ocean is the blood in its veins, then people might be more inclined to protected it."

Jon, whose highlight of the series was an 80m deep dive on a remote reef off Tasmania, hopes to inspire a new generation of swimmers, surfers and scuba divers.

Specialist diver and cinematographer Jon Shaw explores Tasmania's deep reefs in a scene from the documentary TV series Australia's Ocean Odyssey: A Journey Down the East Australian Current.
Specialist diver and cinematographer Jon Shaw explores Tasmania's deep reefs in a scene from the documentary TV series Australia's Ocean Odyssey: A Journey Down the East Australian Current. Supplied

"Even though we're locked down in Australia for the foreseeable future, we can get in the water and go snorkelling. There's stunning life up and down the coastline. We're really lucky to have everything from coral reefs to temperate water zones," he says.

"If kids go snorkelling at Shelley Beach and appreciate it, they're our future decision makers and that means things can be better in the future."

Ocean Odyssey: A Journey Down the East Australian Current airs Tuesdays at 8.30pm on ABC-TV. Catch up on the first episode at ABC iView.