When Mike DeGruy died in February 2012, it seemed like the world stopped for many us. He was one of the most irrepressibly passionate people I’ve ever met whose joie de vivre about all things, but in particular the sea, inspired many. DeGruy filmed the oceans for more than three decades, becoming as famous for his on-camera storytelling as for his glorious, intimate visions of the sea and the creatures who live in it.
His widow, Mimi Armstrong DeGruy, is now carrying on with Mike’s message by directing, writing, and producing a documentary about him called Diving Deep. She’s in the middle of Kickstarter campaign to help cover the costs of finalizing the film, which includes composing the soundtrack, licensing footage, and sound editing, amongst other tasks. I’ve seen part of the film, which is full of breathtaking footage shot by Mike and in-depth interviews with Sir David Attenborough, James Cameron, and Sylvia Earle, among many other DeGruy collaborators.
A documentary filmmaker in her own right, Mimi worked with Mike producing numerous hours of award-winning television for the National Geographic Channel, the BBC, and other broadcasters. Prior to working with Mike, she worked for CNN, on Turner Broadcasting’s “Portrait of America” series, and on the PBS series “The Infinite Voyage.”
I’m deeply humbled to consider Mimi one of my best friends. She’s a truly incredible listener who will pick up the phone and give you open, honest advice when you need it most. She also cares deeply about Santa Barbara, and is involved in many causes and nonprofits in town.
I greatly admire how she faced the tragedy of losing her husband head-on. She continued to raise their children as astute, impassioned observers of the world like their father, and is now making sure that Mike’s legacy continues to reach as many people as possible.
The unsinkable Mimi DeGruy answers the Proust Questionnaire.
Who do you most admire?
Well, there are many, but right now I would say Sylvia Earle and Jane Goodall. Those two are tireless advocates of the natural world as we face our biggest crisis, climate change. I am in awe of their dogged, smart persistence.
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
I’m always trying to be a better and more compassionate listener, to love more deeply, and to appreciate the here and now. Life can change in an instant.
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Being with my kids in the ocean, near the ocean, on a mountain top, somewhere dwarfed by the majestic natural world, remembering we too are animals trying to survive and feeling compassion for the rest of the everything out there, humans included.
What do you like most about your job?
What is my job, anyway? Sometimes it seems, as a filmmaker, my work is indistinguishable from my life, by design. I love asking questions, hearing stories, learning about people, places, animals, science, anything. Then trying to weave all that together into a film in an entertaining way. I am a perpetual student so it’s a blast.
What is your greatest fear?
I really don’t want to talk about that. Sorry.
What is your greatest extravagance?
Getting my sheets ironed by Ablitts! Haha!
What is your current state of mind?
A busy mix of worry and impatience. No time to waste when it comes getting to work on the issues that face us.
What is the quality you most like in people?
Humor, authenticity, loyalty, loving kindness, and forgiveness.
What is the quality you most dislike in people?
Humorlessness and small mindedness.
What do you most value in friends?
Loyalty, love, empathy, and patience.
What is your most marked characteristic?
I’m a pretty good worrier (not a good thing). But I am also conscientious, a hard worker, loving, kind, and positive and judging by this long list, apparently modest (not).
Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
Seriously? You’ve got to be kidding!
Which talent would you most like to have?
To be able to sing like Allison Krauss or Renee Fleming
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
They are great on their own, but I’m pretty darn proud of my kids.
Where would you most like to live?
Right here, now, in my own skin. Santa Barbara is pretty great too.
What is your most treasured possession?
My health, my sense of humor, and most of all, my really wonderful family although I don’t feel I possess them.
Who makes you laugh the most?
Have to say it was Mike deGruy and my kids too.
What is your motto?
We can do this!
Which historical figure do you most identify with?
There are so many I find it impossible to list just one. The common denominator would be anyone who speaks the truth, stands up for what they believe against great odds, someone smart and someone who inspires us to see beauty in the smallest of ordinary things. I love great poets, people who remove that thin veil between the here and the there. Poets who help us understand what it means to be human and who help us be bigger spirited than we might otherwise be.
On what occasion do you lie?
Well… I don’t think I want to tell you because then everyone would know, wouldn’t they?