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Q&A with Tim Hochgrebe, Festival Organiser

So what was the inspiration for an Australasia-wide shoot out?

The idea really came from the desire to grow the current format of the Underwater Festival into an event with global recognition, an event that gets new divers involved and an event that has real positive consequences for our marine environment, both on the financial and educational level.

A shoot out of this scale has not been done before, what will be your major challenges as festival organiser?

There will be many challenges ahead including technological issues associated with huge amounts of data being submitted over a short amount of time and the judging of huge amounts of photographs. There will be issues with ensuring a code of conduct is adhered to when it comes to underwater photography and videography. Of course verification of the validity of entries on a number of levels is a major challenge as there won't be a centralised data vault that other shoot-outs can offer. The list of challenges is huge, but I believe nothing that can not be overcome, which is why planning for this event has started more than 18 months away form the beginning of the festival.

What sort of experience do you envisage UF11 participants having?

I want people to feel that they are part of creating a snapshot of the underwater beauty but also the issues of our amazing region and I want people to have lots of fun. The social aspect of the Underwater Festival has always been an important element of the event and by de-centralising the shootout part of the festival we had to bring much of the socializing on the large scale to our associated dive & travel trade show ODEX which is where the whole festival will come together to showcase and celebrate its achievements.

Is this a one-off event or will this be how the Underwater Festival will operate from now on?

The aim is that this format will be the new annual format of the Underwater Festival into the future. Of course this all depends on the success of the 2011 event, but wheels and thought processes are already in motion for 2012.

Do you think it's possible for an event like the UF11 to be too big?

I believe the fact that people can participate wherever they are in Australasia will never make it feel too big and the potential for massive participation without overcrowding is part of the concept of this new format of the Underwater Festival. Like an underwater Earth Hour, I would like to see 1,000s of people participate, share and help to highlight what needs to be seen by not just divers, the beauty and fragility of our oceans and the life within.

With thousands of entries to be submitted online, how will you police entries to ensure they were taken during the 10 days of the shoot out?

There are many ways this can be achieved and some of the procedures will remain totally secret so that no advance planning of cheating can happen. I can not go into detail on this point as naturally this is very important to the integrity of the event. Of course we hope that the number of people that will try to cheat in the Underwater Festival shootout will be very minimal, but rest assure there will be measures in place to find out the ones that try and those individuals will be publicly exposed.

Do entrants have to participate in Fringe Events or can they simply go out and shoot with a buddy?

Participants can dive anywhere in over 20 countries and across two hemispheres as long as they are diving during the designated shootout days 2-11 September 2011. Your favourite backyard dive, a fancy trip to a dive resort you always wanted to go, one of the many Festival Fringe Events that will be offered, the choice is theirs. We want to make it possible for anybody with any budget to participate.

What if a dive shop, dive club or individual wants to host a Fringe Event?

They can contact us and discuss their ideas. There a number of criteria that have to be met to become an official Fringe Event host, most of which relate to cross-promoting the event. We encourage every dive shop, resort, liveaboard or dive club to consider this as an exciting option for their 2011 calendar and the possibility for their customers or members to be part of this new event and share in over $100,000 in prizes as well as help some defined marine conservation projects. This is a win-win proposition for everyone that wants to get involved.

What does the partnership with ODEX mean for the 2011 Underwater Festival?

The Oceania Dive and Travel Expo which is co-organised by us, will become the showcase for our decentralised event. We understand that many shootout participants will not be able to make it to ODEX, but we still expect a large number to make the effort to travel to the show to see it all come together and of course join the Awards Night and Underwater Party which will be huge in 2011. ODEX will bring the Underwater Festival to a massive audience and the Underwater Festival will add an enormous attraction to ODEX - we think it is the perfect combination.

What will the UF11 do for marine conservation?

A significant part of the entry fees will be distributed to a number of marine conservation projects and every entrant can chose which project they prefer to support. Full details of these projects will become available on the Underwater Festival website and we invite submissions from not-for-profit organisations which have established defined conservation projects in our region. The money that is raised through this will have a real impact and participants will be able to see what was achieved with their contribution. There will also be a showcase of these projects during ODEX, where further awareness and donations can be raised.