November 2022


Case study

In March 2020, Matt Scantland had taken a break from work, considering his next adventure when the global pandemic hit. “I’d hoped to do a big cave exploration project somewhere in the world, when our options suddenly narrowed,” Matt described.

A scuba diver since the age of 12, Matt became obsessed with cave diving. A passion that allows its practitioners to explore the inner part of the Earth, while also seeing into the inner part of the soul. 

Matt was living with his family at Rosewood Mayakoba, a resort in the northern part of the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico, when he had a moment of clarity.

“The exploration project could be right here at Mayakoba!”

Soon after, Matt assembled Team Proyecto Mayakoba, a group of explorers that would take on two main objectives:

  1. To raise awareness of the Yucatán Peninsula’s natural environment and unique cave systems, promoting environmental conservation of this precious and fragile ecosystem.
  2. To expand knowledge of the caves at the property, and to create a greater appreciation of their unique value among visitors.

“Large passion projects like this don’t get finished very often.” Matt proclaimed, “It’s tough to sustain a project of this scope and length. This was a project that was so much bigger than ourselves.” Project Mayakoba needed a storyteller up to the task and Eric Heiland was the perfect fit. 

Pre-production started with Eric writing a script for the documentary. Many people wonder, why would you write a script for a documentary? In Eric’s words, “a script helps get my ideas on paper, so I can visualize what the audience will experience, what story needs to be told.” Eric also developed extensive shot lists for underwater and above-ground cinematography, serving as useful guidelines for b-roll capture on-location.

Production of the documentary film was certainly an adventure. Eric flew down to Mexico in January 2022 and in two weeks time, he conducted six interviews and captured multiple hours of b-roll footage for the film. SJ Alice Bennett, the underwater cinematographer for the project, took visual direction from Eric. She captured stunning underwater video that currently stands to be the most beautiful and high-quality, underwater submerged cave footage that exists in the world today!

Eric's checking his camera

Editing of the film took six months to complete. Finished on-schedule for the world premiere at Rosewood Mayakoba, Thanksgiving 2022. The film is described as “full of heart and adventure, Cenotes of Mayakoba calls for awareness and protection of these unique cave environments.” 

100% of film proceeds go toward water quality and cave conservation through partnership with the non-profit Project Baseline.

Directed and Edited by Eric Heiland

Produced by Matt Scantland

with diving, images, and lighting by the Proyecto Mayakoba team of SJ Alice Bennett, Henry Frawley-Fulcher, Ivo Chiarino, and Matt Scantland.