IT IS WRITTEN that no TV or film documentary venture involving underwater sequences should ever be embarked on without the presence of Richard Bull.
He is the go-to guy if you want the unpredictable to turn out smoothly, and seems to have been that guy since (as he puts it in this book not once but twice) Siebe met Gorman.
If you haven’t heard of him, check out the underwater supervisor credits next time.
Now Bull has taken 100 of the rough pencil sketches he drew to help brief divers on various underwater projects, added a commentary to each one and made a book out of it.
Bull makes no claim to being an artist, and when I call these rough sketches, I mean rough. You won’t buy this to revel in the artwork, but for the background notes.
So let’s get the functional downside out of the way first. As a renowned consultant, perhaps Bull could have taken a little advice himself about laying out a book.
Putting the text into a bold face set justified over the entire width of an A4 page, without paragraphs and against a grey background, doesn’t invite the reader to dive in – in fact it had the opposite effect on this one.
The bold type is particularly inappropriate against the spidery stickman sketches, knocking them even further into the background.
OK, reading this book may not be the easiest going, but it’s quite fun once you get past that. It’s a who’s who of leading pro divers and camera-facing celebrities, supervised by Bull on dives many of which I remember seeing on screen. Sometimes all goes well, but often it doesn’t.
The text is informally, not to say haphazardly, written, but there are lots of tasty snippets. Who knew that Alan Titchmarsh was such a natural diver? Find out what Bull thoughtlessly said to astronaut Buzz Aldrin and regretted straight away. Try to figure out which TV presenters this diver who doesn’t suffer fools rates highly (I’m guessing Miranda Krestovnikoff, Kate Humble and Paul Rose for starters?).
The briefing sketches are non-technical and easy to follow, as they were intended to be. However home-made this book might be, it does offer an entertaining insight into the life of a man who could be supervising a dive in a Staines pool one week and in Truk Lagoon the next.
And before you get too envious, consider the responsibility he bears on dives that are often hairy and hard to predict, and with marine life that doesn’t realise it is supposed to co-operate. As this book shows, if anything is going to go wrong on an underwater shoot, it will.
Richard Bull’s job is to use his skill as a visualiser to boost the chances of a safe and positive outcome, and that’s what his sketch-book reflects.
Steve Weinman

The Great Artiste
Softback, 112pp, £12