Wildlife on Screen

Theme song: Mercy by Dave Mathews

I love going to the Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival. As a preliminary judge, I watched over 70 hours of wildlife programming- which is just a drop- there were ~600 films entered this year. The festival is an interesting interaction of wildlife conservation experts*, filmmakers, and network executives.

At the heart of the panel discussions was the struggle to find the right formula for a successful film- one that will intrigue the audience while saving its wild stars. Below are three of the festival winners and how each exemplifies a positive trend in the wildlife filmmaking industry:

1. Battle for Elephants won for best conservation program. This powerful film incorporated a market survey conducted before the film to target its conservation impact. This brilliant research uncovered a disconnect between ivory and animal cruelty. The film has since been screened to decision makers at CITES and other hearings.

2. Africa: Kalahari won for best animal behavior. Incredible footage of black rhinos at night prove that we are still discovering nuances about wildlife. There is continuing dialogue about how scientists and filmmakers can collaborate to benefit wildlife.

3. Earthflight received a special consideration award for camera work. I was enamored by every shot- tiny cameras on the backs of habituated birds! Most inspiring is that advanced film technology allows for unobtrusive filming.

*A sobering account of wildlife statistics was delivered by Jane Goodall, Daphne Sheldrick, and the Joubert’s, among others.