Exclusive Interview – Tanya Petersen

Tanya Peterson:

Thinking Out of the Box: How can Film and Television deal with “hot” issues like climate change?

Tanya Peterson is a former Co-President of Filmmakers for Conservation. 

She helped found ClimateWorks Australia, served as the Head of TV and Film for WFF International in Geneva for eight years, and is currently the head of Marketing for the The Gold Standard Foundation, “a certification organization pioneering Results Based Finance approaches to clean energy deployment, conservation and broader development.”

Featured Filmmaker – Justin Jay

What is your name and where are you based? Justin Jay

Justin Jay, Charleston, South Carolina

What kind of films do you make? How would you describe what you do?

I have recently finished my first film and it is a conservation awareness film about the drill monkey. It is an educational film for the people of Equatorial Guinea showing them the beauty of their wildlife and the importance of biodiversity. It is told from their perspective and narrated in Spanish by a native Guinean. I would love to make more films like this in the future, films that share a conservation message with the people directly involved with those issues.

Who or what inspires you in your photography and why cover nature and conservation issues?

I started my career as a wildlife biologist in order to try to help understand our impacts on the environment. After realizing that my skill set could be used to help share this issue with others, I decided I would try my best to contribute as much as possible. I have gained inspiration from the scientists and conservationists that I have spent years working with. They sacrifice themselves to do what they feel is right. Many of them are over-worked and underpaid for a job that many times falls on deaf ears. I feel like I owe it to them to help people listen.

What has been your biggest challenge filming in the field?

My biggest challenge of filming in the field is being away from my fiancé. We have been together for eight years. I love every minute of being in the field other than that. Technically, the lack of gear and support that I am able to bring into the field hinders my filming. It is pretty much what I can carry on my back so I hope nothing breaks and I can just forget about any special camera shots.

Has technology hindered or enhanced your photography?

Technology has definitely enhanced my photography by simply being more accessible. With the advent of consumer grade digital cameras I was able to purchase all of the necessary gear in order to undertake my photography endeavors. Without this technology I wouldn’t have been able to go out by myself and develop my skills as a filmmaker.

What is your favorite place in nature?

This is a pretty ambiguous question. I will try to answer it the best I can. My favorite place in nature would have to the forests of Bioko Island. If you sit still long enough you can feel every inch of forest come alive around you. Once this happens it is as if the forest welcomes you back to exist as just another organism within creation rather than as a separate entity, as in nature and man. You realize there is only “nature”. It is very existentially refreshing and therefore my favorite place in nature.

From your field experience, what is your biggest concern when it comes to the environment?

The loss of Biodiversity. This can be attributed to many causes but the loss of diversity is driving us to a weaker planet, robbing us of the beauty of life and is going to result in catastrophic consequences for humans.

How do you think the media industry should be addressing environment and conservation issues? And if you could give one message to the world’s leaders on climate change, what would it be?

I think the media should be addressing environmental and conservation issues without fear of driving away viewers. I feel like there is a lot of programming that isn’t even given a fair shot to succeed because it might not fit the mold of high-earning shows that put less significance on conservation. Without a strong presence of comprehensive and ethical coverage of these issues it is easy to be entrenched in a paradigm that doesn’t value critical views for fear of being too extreme for moderate audiences.

The message I would give the world’s leaders would be: Listen to your scientists. They are in agreement on this issue. The danger is real and present. Every day that you fail to act brings us one day closer to full collapse.

What are you working on at the moment?

I am working on our second film about the drills of Bioko Island. This film will follow our efforts of trying to film one of the largest and rarest species of monkeys as we work with scientists and conservationists to help preserve their species.

What advice do you have to someone wanting to break into the industry?

Get out there and do it. There is plenty of consumer gear that can get the job done. No matter how much you read about it or study it, there is no substitute for just going out there and trying your hand at it.

What would you like to remembered for?

I would like to be remembered for making ethical films. I really want to move in the opposite direction from current wildlife programming and hopefully change some minds about what is entertaining. Not that I have achieved any of this, but it is a driving force for me wanting to get into this field.

Links: www.thedrillproject.org

Madelaine Westwood

Madelaine Westwood

Biography:

The Great Apes Film Initiative (GAFI), set up by Madelaine Westwood in 2005, uses the power of film and other media in the service of conservation. They have three target audiences: Presidents and Government Ministers, National Television Audiences and Local Communities (including schools, universities, karaoke bars, river boats, wildlife management centres, army & national park rangers). They currently work in 17 of the 23 great apes range states across Africa and SE Asia and approximately 300 million people have seen, through GAFI screenings, donated films made by the BBC, National Geographic and many independent producers. To measure the impact of these films, they do questionnaires at community screenings and then support the local solutions requested. As a result, projects alongside the screenings take place… Things like tree planting, training NGO’s to make their own films in local languages, alternative income revenue support (e.g. bee keeping!) and educational talks.

They have also created, alongside technical partners, the first pedal powered cinema for the field which allows them to take the films to remote communities where there is no power… 2010 saw the first pedal power project in Uganda being so successful, they’ve had many requests from other NGOs and organisations to provide one for their projects too!
GAFI & Madelaine Westwood, utilising films that would not necessarily have otherwise affected change, are making innovative and engaging use of them at grass-roots level to make a difference by inspiring huge numbers of people to take action, find sustainable solutions to their problems and preserve Great Apes along with their environments… An example of films that are truly making a difference!

Contact/Links:

GAFI Website: www.gafi4apes.org
Also: www.nutshellproductions.co.uk/gafi/difference.html
YouTube Channel: www.youtube.com/user/GAFIforApes
Twitter: @GAFI4Apes
Facebook: www.facebook.com/GAFI4Apes
Blog: http://greatapesfilminitiative.blogspot.com/
The Bike That Helps Save Gorillas – GAFI in Uganda: http://youtu.be/mkFeFJ16CgA
Director of GAFI: Madelaine Westwood
Tel: +44 1491 575 017″ Fax: +44 1491 579 335″ Mobile: +44 7770 577 549
Email: info@gafi4apes.org
For information on volunteering, please contact Madelaine: m.westwood@btinternet.com
By Jason Peters

Paul Redman

 Paul RedmanBiography

As director, lighting cameraman, editor and activist, Paul Redman has been a campaigning filmmaker in the environmental movement for more 10 years, with the Environmental Investigation Agency and, since 2006, also with Handcrafted Films.

His work has involved directing, filming and editing a variety of short films for advocacy on a range of issues including the international illegal trade in tiger parts, the whale and dolphin trade, illegal logging and the ivory trade.

This work has involved extensive travel in hazardous environments as part of a small crew using both open and covert filming techniques.

Paul’s footage has been used in news features and for programming on BBC, Sky, CNN and a number of other major broadcasters; in 2011, he appeared in front of the cameras during the filming of an undercover investigation in Japan for National Geographic’s Hunt for the Whalers documentary.

In February 2012, he directed and edited the 52-second film Amazon Sells Whale Meat, released as a key element of EIA’s campaign to urge internet giant Amazon to stop selling cetacean products via its subsidiary Amazon Japan; the company backed down and withdrew all such products within 24 hours, after the film had been widely shared, embedded and viewed thousands of times. He has also trained activists in media-based campaigning techniques in Indonesia, Papua, India and Tanzania as part of extensive UK Government-funded training programs. Paul’s directing work with Handcrafted Films, which he co-founded, has produced a number of award-winning short films for major development funders (UK DFID, European Forestry Institute) and non-governmental organisations (Amnesty, WSPA).

He has been nominated three times for the Filmmakers For Conservation ‘Filmmaker of the Year’ award.

Contact/Links:

Email: paulredman@hancraftedfilms.net & paulredman@eia-international.org

Websites: www.eia-international.org, http://paulredman.net & www.handcraftedfilms.net

By Jason Peters

 

Mike Pandey

 Mike PandeyBiography:

Mike Pandey is one of India’s foremost wildlife and environmental filmmakers with over 300 national and international awards. Several of his films, such as Shores of Silence, The Last Migration, Broken Wings and The Timeless Traveller, to name a few, have been directly instrumental in bringing about legislative changes to protect species such as whale sharks, elephants, vultures and horse-shoe crabs.

Mike was born in Kenya. The Nairobi National Park, which was situated at the back of the Pandey household in Kenya, proved a rich source of inspiration for both him and his brother I. C. Pandey. His dalliance with the camera started when he was barely seven when an uncle presented him a Kodak Browning Box camera on his birthday. He still owns that heirloom.

Trained and educated in the UK and US the brothers experiences have been wide and varied from training in Hollywood, USA as interns and to Director of special effects and war scenes in films like Razia Sultan, Betaab, Gazab etc. in India. But the call of the wild was strong and Mike’s passion and care for the natural world pulled him into the vortex of Indian wildlife.

In 1994, he became the first Asian producer / director to win a Wildscreen Panda Award, also known as a Green Oscar, for his film The Last Migration – Wild Elephant Capture in Sarguja.

In 2000, his film Shores of Silence – Whale Sharks in India, won a ‘Green Oscar’ for the second time. The film also led to the ban on the killing of whale sharks on Indian shores. This film has also won a National Award for Best Film in the “Exploration & Adventure” Category, 2005.

On October 2004, he did India proud once again by winning a Panda Award for the Third time for his film Vanishing Giants – a story of his passion and involvement with elephants. This film also led to the ban of cruel and outdated techniques of elephant capture in India.

And in 2009, for the fourth time, an endangered wildlife species has been given protection by the Government of India, thanks one of Mikes’ documentary films.

After persistent efforts following the film, Timeless Traveler – The horseshoe Crab, believed to be the oldest living being on earth (reportedly older than the dinosaurs), horseshoe crabs have been put under Schedule IV of the Wildlife Act. This means that it can be used for research but cannot be killed or poached by anyone including private collectors.

The prestigious United Nations International Award For Outstanding Achievement In Global Conservation, the PRITHVI RATAN or ‘Son of the Earth’ was awarded to Mike at the Vatavaran Film Festival in November 2003, for his outstanding contribution towards generating awareness, which led to the conservation of a global heritage – the Whale Shark. Mike was also presented with the Award for Cinematic Excellence by Western India’s Cinematographers Association in Mumbai, 2005.

His powerful films are living proof of the difference a film can make in bringing about changes locally, nationally and globally.

Riverbank Studios has produced some of India’s most popular programmes like Earth Matters, aired on Doordarshan, Indian national TV for 13 years, so far reaching over 800 million viewers and Khullam Khulla for children and has won scores of awards – both National and International.

In 2004 Mike had a Panda Award nomination for The Filmmaker for Conservation Award – one of the highest awards at the Wildscreen Film Festival – bringing India at par with the worlds top filmmakers and films on natural history, wildlife and environment.

Time Magazine listed him as third place in its’ list of Heroes of the Environment 2009!

To raise global concern for ecological and wildlife conservation, he established Earth Matters Foundation to promote his inspiring films. The Foundation has set up a website to introduce these valuable documentaries to the whole world.

Mikes’ films truly have made a difference with real and tangible results… Species have found themselves better protected and understood… He is a prime example of a filmmaker that has made, and continues to make, a difference!!

Appraisal:

Mike Pandey, one of the country’s most revered natural history documentary makers…” – Guardian, October 3, 2004, www.guardian.co.uk

Mike Pandey, one of India’s most accomplished nature filmmakers” – Outlook Magazine, July 2004

I use Mike’s film wherever I go… he is an iconic film-maker who has shown the world the way” – Nick Gordon, Wildlife Film-Maker

Mike Pandey, twice winner of the Green Oscar for his films on environment, would perhaps balk at the title of a ‘crusader’, but his silent camera has done more for conservation than a thousand words” – Ranjita Biswas, Trans World Features, TWFIndia.com

It takes special individuals to raise the levels of consciousness around them. Mike Pandey is one such person” – Shloka Nath, mid-day.com

Pandey is a one-camera army fighting to preserve India’s wild-life heritage” – Namita Bhandare, Man’s World, April 2003

Nature’s Guardian Angel” – the Sunday Statesman Magazine, July 2003

Contact/Links:

Address: C-18, Chirag Enclave, New Delhi – 110048, India
Phone: +91 11 26410684/26216508 Fax: +91 11 26216508
Websites: www.mikepandey.org & www.riverbankstudios.com
Earth Matters Foundation: www.earthmattersfoundation.org
Email: wildlife@vsnl.com or info@riverbankstudios.com
You Tube: http://www.youtube.com/user/themikepandeychannel
www.youtube.com/user/Riverbankstudioindia
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mike_Pandey Mike Pandey: Films For Change – See an interview with Mike in a short film about his film-making life here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4_eZdacUkIg&feature=colike
A date with Mike Pandey: http://www.videosurf.com/video/a-date-with-mike-pandeypromo-107258732

Articles:

Mike Pandey in the news: http://www.mikepandey.org/inthenews.htm

Mike Pandey receives Prithvi Ratan Award-Vatavaran 2003: http://www.wildlife-film.com/Wfn/wfn54.htm

Mike Pandey documentary has wildlife species protected: http://www.indiantelevision.com/aac/y2k9/aac833.php

Mike Pandey heads international jury of Brazil Film Festival http://www.mikepandey.org/ar_12.htm

Time Magazine – Heroes of the Environment 2009:http://www.time.com/time/specials/packages/article/0,28804,1924149_1924152_1924199,00.html

Devoted Wildlife Conservation Filmmaker Mike Pandey: http://godsdirectcontact.org.tw/eng/news/200/bp_79.htm

By Jason Peters

Shekar Dattatri

Shekar DattatriBiography:

An avid naturalist since the age of ten, 47-year old Shekar Dattatri is one of India’s leading wildlife filmmakers. An internationally respected and frequently awarded producer/director/cameraman of blue chip natural history films, he consciously turned his back on television at the height of his professional career in 2000, to work with conservation NGOs in India.

Armed with a Canon XL-1, the determination to make a difference, and a nuanced understanding of India’s conservation problems, he embarked on a series of hard-hitting films that were edited on a PC at home. Some of these films, such as ‘Mindless Mining – The Tragedy of Kudremukh’ and ‘The Ridleys Last Stand’ bolstered the efforts of conservation advocacy groups and helped bring about change. ‘Mindless Mining’, in particular, played a pivotal role in bringing to an end a government run iron ore mining operation in the heart of a rainforest ecosystem in south India’s Western Ghats mountain range.

His other significant conservation films in the last decade include ‘SOS – Save our Sholas’, about the vital need to protect the ‘shola’ forests of south India’s Western Ghats, and ‘The Truth about Tigers’, a revelatory 40 minute pro bono film that illustrates the problems and solutions in conserving India’s dwindling tiger population. Thanks to contributions from well-wishers, he has been able translate his films into several Indian languages and distribute thousands of DVDs of his films free of cost to educational institutions, NGOs and conservationists across the country. While continuing to make conservation films, he now also mentors aspiring wildlife and conservation filmmakers in India, besides giving dozens of talks on nature and conservation to varied audiences.

In 2004 he received a Rolex Award for Enterprise for his work, becoming the first conservation filmmaker to win this coveted recognition. In 2008, he received the Edberg Award from the Rolf Edberg Foundation in Sweden. The award’s citation reads: “The Edberg Foundation has decided to award its annual Edberg Award to filmmaker Shekar Dattatri, for his important work with conservation and environmental awareness in India. The Edberg Foundation notices how a world-class filmmaker has decided to forego international fame and well funded film projects for broadcasters worldwide, to pursue national, regional and local projects in India. In due time his efforts will reach a wider audience outside India, but its immediate effect on local conservation initiatives creates an example which the Edberg Foundation wants to acknowledge and praise as a model for other regions of the world. With his camera, his deep knowledge of Indian wildlife, and his great enthusiasm and belief in local action to solve environmental issues, Shekar Dattatri has set an example for the world to follow.”

Contact/Links:

http://rolexawards.com/en/the-laureates/shekardattatri-home.jsp
Website: www.shekardattatri.com
Email: shekar.dattatri@gmail.com
Telephone: +91 44 244 15744

By Jason Peters