“This Is Not A Film About A Shark Attack” - Stab Mag

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Somehow, despite losing 3/4 of his thigh and having no left lat muscle, Brett still rips. Photo by Scott Ruzzene

“This Is Not A Film About A Shark Attack”

How one young man’s horrific shark attack became a catalyst for growth and resilience.

features // Nov 14, 2021
Words by Ethan Davis
Reading Time: 4 minutes

Brett Connellan suffered a horrendous great white shark attack as a 22-year old at Bombo Beach on the South Coast of NSW. Brett was not your average, run-off-the-mill surfer — he fucking ripped — and if it were not for him suffering major injuries, he could have very well turned professional.

Brett’s attack was brutal. “He’s missing three-quarters of his thigh,” reported a paramedic on scene. One of Brett’s many operations required extracting his left lat muscle and sticking it in his thigh in the hope it would enable him to walk again. The likelihood that he would surf again? Next to nil. 

He wouldn’t hear it.

Yep, he can probably still deadlift more than you. Photo by Scott Ruzzene

Five years on, Brett is in the best shape of his life — sans lat and majority of his thigh. His surfing? Somehow, he’s ripping again. Brett now works as a mental health facilitator and keynote speaker and is currently training for the Molokai to Oahu paddleboard world championships. His recovery, which I have personally followed since the incident, has been fucking inspiring even from afar. 

The film that Brett is making alongside cinematographer Sam Tolhurst will be released this time next year. “It is not a movie about a shark attack, it’s about the shark attack being a catalyst for the person that Brett is now. He wants people to take away the message that you can have a life-changing event but it doesn’t have to define you,” says Sam. “There’s no shark politics or anything about shark control. Brett is pro-shark if anything. He has the utmost respect for sharks and the role they play in the ecosystem.”

“He has no resentment, no discomfort in the ocean,” says filmmaker and friend, Sam Tolhurst.

The idea for the film that will be feature-length, like many projects, was not intended to be a feature film. “After the incident, the media was going crazy for him to tell his story, and I didn’t want to derive any personal benefit from his misfortune. It was years later that Brett approached me asking if I could help him put together a web-delivered promo for his speaking presentations. Just a five-minute clip.” 

“When it was finished we both just kind of looked at each other and thought, ‘Nah there’s a lot more of this story that needs to be told, it needs a bigger platform. So we decided to make a feature film, form a production company, and buy a RED. We kind of went all in,” laughs Sam. 

Those eyes have seen some shit. Photo by Sam Tolhurst

Brett’s resilience is astounding, he’s now putting it to good use, helping counsel those going through mental rough patches. 

“I’ve just always been enamored with his resilience and his nonchalance towards it. He just accepted it as a part of his life. He has no resentment, no discomfort in the ocean. We were surfing at Whites a while back and we just saw a big old shark chasing fish nearby. He just calmly paddled in. I would’ve been white I think,” says Sam. “I’ve learned a lot from his general attitude and philosophy to life. It seems weird to call a mate inspiration but he really is.”

The boys have set up an Instagram page that will be updated as their project develops. Currently, they are hoping to get it to live on a major streaming platform such as Netflix but they could benefit from support from the surf community to attract sponsorship and help get a film crew over to Tahiti/Fiji and Hawaii to document Brett’s baffling ability to rip the shit out of big waves and paddle insane distances with less than a full-fledged physiology. 

Ever wondered what a great white will do to a leg? Photo by Sam Tolhurst

For brands, you can have the chance to get some stickers on his boards or produce some exclusive content to live on your channels. Otherwise, you can just help by following their insty page here to help build their online footprint. 

“We really believe in our ability and are proud of the product we’ve developed so far. We’re unproven as cinematographers. But we’re very determined to deliver this story justice.”

Pyrophytic (def): organisms adapted to tolerate fire


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