Footage of an orca whale flipping a harbour seal about 80 feet into the air has brought millions of eyes to the film company of a former Lambrick secondary school graduate.
Mike Walker grew up in Saanich and now runs Roll.Focus film production company with his wife Amanda Eyolfson. Walker shot the video on Oct. 23 while recording footage for client Eagle Wing Tours off the coast of East Sooke [he posted it the next day].
As of last week, the video had been viewed nearly five million times through Roll.Focus’ YouTube channel as well as the websites and social media services of Time Magazine, Global TV, CBC, Huffington Post, National Post, two Australian newspapers and more. It’s also aired on national TV stations in Canada and in Germany.
“It’s actually hard to keep track of as it’s in so many places,” Walker said.
“The biggest thing has been dealing with requests to use it from all corners of the globe,” Walker said. “We’ve had to hire a distribution company to take over that execution of it.”
Of course, the video isn’t without a touch of irony.
Walker and Eagle Wing owner Brett Soberg had made repeated attempts to capture the orca in Canadian waters so they could launch Walker’s drone camera (which required permission from the Canadian authorities).
The day of the seal flip, Soberg actually located a family of four transient orcas (known as T69), by checking the Race Rocks webcam. Having tracked down the whales, Walker sent up his drone and got 4K quality aerial footage of the T69 family swimming in the shallows just two metres off shore.
“The irony of the video going viral is that nobody cares about my opening aerial shot of the orcas swimming along Race Rocks, and it might be the best footage I’ve ever shot,” Walker said. “As far as I’m aware, no one has captured transient orca hunting from above.”
Soberg and Walker followed the transients from Race Rocks up to Whirl Bay where they spotted a bait ball, which is a huge school of fish corralled into a small area by a group of hunting seals.
But with hundreds of seagulls flying above, Walker was unable to safely launch the drone.
Walker settled for shots of the orca family from the deck. That’s when he watched the big male of the group, T69C, attempt to flip a seal twice.
“He missed twice which actually allowed me to figure out where he was and to be ready for it. I’m told [each] orca has its own personality and on that day, T69C was in a mood to show off.”
Walker and Eyolfson are thrilled at the free publicity the seal flip has brought their company and are happy to share it with Eagle Wing Tours, which happens to be their first client, he said.
Walker is the former PA announcer of the defunct Victoria Seals baseball team and was a colour analyst for the Victoria Royals hockey team. He left his full-time role as a CHEK TV sports reporter and anchor earlier this year to focus on Roll.Focus, which he launched in 2014 with Eyolfson.
Walker started his career in media as the PA announcer for the Mavericks senior men’s baseball team in his home neighbourhood of Lambrick Park.