A new documentary, ‘Breakwater’, celebrates the South West’s efforts in leading a local-to-national scale reduction in marine litter, produced by Emma Askew

Emma Askew

I am a young environmental researcher, film-maker and South West rep for the national charity Surfers Against Sewage. My drive to produce my first documentary was cemented after I wrote to David Attenborough two years ago for career advice. He replied stating that I should create my own production company, which gave me the courage to be proactive and to self-drive the production of ‘Breakwater’. After I organised a small production team, I decided that I wanted the documentary to explore a topic that I have vastly researched and have a strong personal connection with, that of ocean conservation.

After working with Surfers Against Sewage, I was utterly inspired by the way the charity operates and places responsibility within society to lead action against marine litter. I decided that I wanted to create a production that celebrates the hard work of society, including the team and volunteers of Surfers Against Sewage. Importantly, it was brought to my attention that we are faced with many overwhelming and devastating facts concerning marine litter, so I have been extremely determined for this documentary to capture the optimistic and successful side of ocean conservation. I aim for it to fill people with a powerful sense of responsibility.

Watch the trailer


The documentary will be premièred on the 17th August at the Exeter Phoenix in association with Surfers Against SewagePlastic Free Exeter and Thorfest Festival. The event itself will raise awareness on what we can do as individuals to reduce marine litter, including stories and advice from local environmentally-conscious businesses. I wanted to structure the event to ensure it is both eye-opening and educational, so it will involve ‘Question and Answer’ interactions after the documentary to encourage discussion across the topic.

For the documentary, I have worked closely alongside an extremely talented cinematographer, Matt Bell, to capture local action in a cinematic and uplifting way. Matt has not only captured the natural beauty of the south Devon coast, but has captured the pure charm and dedication within community action. Together Matt and I have worked with many school students and professional experts to ensure the importance of local action is addressed, which is the single most vital step to reduce ocean pollution at a global scale. It explores this topical environmental issue through different human case studies, including experiences from a Professor of Zoology, two environmentally empowered school students and a driven Geography postgraduate. With this, the aim is to make marine litter a relatable issue for all different age groups of society. The documentary title itself is a term that I have invented to encourage social engagement, with ‘Breakwater’ describing a modern movement where local, societal efforts can act as a barrier between marine litter and the ocean.

Plastic is everywhere on the beach
Just so much plastic everywhere!

The documentary acknowledges that the marine litter issue has been largely researched, documented and broadcasted globally, in which there has been many changes made across schools, businesses and society that need to be celebrated. I have largely focussed on the efforts made across the South West (from beach cleans to evolving plastic-free communities, such as Exeter) because I wanted it to capture an accurate representation of my experience of local action in my area. However, further to these efforts, I aim to motivate future action by addressing the long-term individual changes that society needs to make to prevent damage to human health/well-being, as well as the environment and economy in the most effective way. With this, I strongly believe that it is crucial to address the problem from a new perspective by humanising the marine litter issue. By focussing on human impact and action, I hope to enhance the appreciation of how marine litter will impact us as humans, ensuring it will really hit home for the individuals watching.

See Emma’s website for more information.

Editor – what a brilliant initiative by Emma and her associates, more power to their elbow we say!