The 2022 Cheltenham Science Festival is due to begin on Tuesday, 7th June (2022) and the award-winning director James Morgan’s film “Sea Dragon” will be featured. This delightful short tells the story of Mary Anning’s ground-breaking fossil discovery that challenged the worldview of 19th century England.

The film will be shown as part of Dr Dean Lomax’s presentation entitled “Mary Anning and the Sea Dragons” which is taking place at the Helix Auditorium on the evening of the 8th of June (2022).

Sea Dragon - a natural history heist.
“Sea Dragon” – a natural history heist. The film is directed by James Morgan and produced by Terhi Kylliainen. Starring Kiara Holley-Paliano as Mary Anning, Harvey Dean as Joseph Anning and Nathaniel Parker as Mr Fairfax it tells the story of a fossil discovery in the cliffs along the Dorset coast and the ideological battle that commences when its significance is brought to light. Picture credit: Becklow Films, design by Matt Needle.

A Changing World – A Changing Society

Set in 1812, on the stunningly beautiful Dorset coast, young fossil hunter Mary Anning (played by Kiara Holley-Paliano) finds herself locked in an ideological battle with a devious auctioneer (Nathanial Parker) over the fate of an ichthyosaur fossil specimen.

The auctioneer considers the fossil skull to be from a crocodile, but Mary thinks differently, and our feisty protagonist sets out with her brother Joseph to rescue the specimen. This is the story of a young girl with the courage to challenge convention. A person not prepared to accept the doctrine of the time but to consider the evidence of her own eyes and in a beautifully conceived scene set in a Georgian drawing room, to confront the accepted view of the world.

Mary Anning "Sea Dragon""
Kiara Holley-Paliano as Mary Anning portrayed in the film “Sea Dragon” directed by James Morgan. Picture credit: Becklow Films.

Exploring New Worlds

At its heart, “Sea Dragon” is an archetypal story of how an individual can force society to change. Directed by James Morgan, an award-winning director of film and television, this short film explores new worlds both social and palaeontological. Mary Anning, who rarely received any credit for her discoveries during her lifetime, helped to erode established beliefs about how the world was ordered. She challenged Georgian society. Her contribution to the nascent sciences of palaeontology and geology eroded long held and established views as surely as the Dorset cliffs with their fossil treasures crumble into the sea.

Sea Dragon Movie Poster
Sea Dragon (short, 2021). A young fossil hunter Mary Anning makes a ground-breaking discovery, challenging the worldview of 19th century England. Picture credit: Becklow Films, design by rathbleedart.

Commenting on the significance of this short, Director James Morgan stated:

“I hope the film does justice to the spirit of Mary Anning, and also poses questions about the
assumptions that still lay buried in our own foundations. As the ground continues to move
beneath our feet – we can only hope that we have learnt to listen to the small voice in the
corner of the room. Because small voices with the courage to see things differently are the most
powerful catalysts of positive change.”

Film director James Morgan.
James Morgan the director of the short film “Sea Dragon”. Championing the small voice in the corner of the room. Picture credit: Ben Sadd.

Our thanks to producer Terhi Kylliainen for her assistance in the compilation of this article.

“Sea Dragon” will be shown as part of Dr Dean Lomax’s presentation entitled “Mary Anning and Sea Dragons” at the Cheltenham Science Festival 2022 (Helix Auditorium, 5pm on the 8th of June).

The film website: The Film “Sea Dragon”.

The website of the director: James Morgan Film Director and Photographer.

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