Featured Filmmaker: Tim Neary

tim-nearyWhat is your name and where are you based?

 

My name is Tim Neary and I work from Randburg which is close to Johannesburg in South Africa

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

Mostly I make short films on our natural history and that includes fauna and flora, but tend to avoid the “Big 5”

I am a naturalist conservationist and talk radio broadcaster and since 1995 have been involved in video. I am a storyteller through various mediums for conservation and the environment and try where possible to bring in indigenous beliefs, myths and legends. I also promote conservation projects and organisations / people whom I believe are often overlooked. I collect “situational video material” and make it available for reuse. Shooting second camera and when working as a fixer has also allowed me to meet some interesting and incredible people

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

I am most likely most inspired Sir David Attenborough and the way in which wildlife is depicted through observation rather than the more modern reality style. I grew up in a small village on the coast in South Africa and have been interested in the natural world since birth. This is not about money or any form of prestige but about sharing an inquisitive passion.

What has been your biggest challenge filming in the field?

Every new experience I think has its unique set of challenges due to the non-invasive manner of work I enjoy but the smaller the creature and the more creatures that share a system, such as a Sociable Weavers Nest, the greater the challenge. Some of the vetinary procedures have neem challenging to force yourself to be distant from the subject and proceedings.

Has technology hindered or enhanced your photography?

Technology has often been a hindrance from the fact of always needing the latest specification to be “acceptable” to the broadcasters, but there is no getting away from the fact that the new cameras are incredible in their clarity and there are now great small toys like the “Go-pro” for fun shots. Also the new edit programs have made it easier for folk like me who are self-sufficient.

What is your favourite place in nature?

Favourite place in nature is so varied, The Northern Cape and Kalahari with the Tswalu Kalahari Reserve, The Eastern Cape and the Karoo and then the West Coast of South Africa, often the desolate places are the most rewarding in my work.

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

The lack of attention and exposure for pollution of our water and sea. The sea hides its damage as we are fooled by it going through the motions every day of tidal changes giving an apparent view of “normality”. In South Africa the right political noise is made about our river systems, but this fails dismally as we do not protect the source and whole river system but tend to have “dog and pony show” days cleaning up a few hundred meters of a river and believing we have changed. As a country we are filthy and do not apply enough education to protecting our environments from pollution delivered daily by the man in the street.

We cannot too get away from the fact that South Africa has a horrible record for cleansing the farmlands of all wildlife unless it brings in money. Effectively if it has teeth and claws, eats of digs it is declared vermin and Gin Traps are still a legal way in so called “problem animal control. The lack of understanding of the holistic interconnectivity between man and planet is a huge concern.

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 believe that the media only report “the bad” and then as a “one shot wonder” and never follow a story again and so we don’t have a follow-up accountability. The media has an incredible opportunity, and I believe obligation to educate the public and inform government and this opportunity is missed. Again I speak for South Africa, but in general we have conservation and the environment reporting in obscure pages nobody reads. World leaders realise that this is one planet and thus your borders have no worth or meaning within the natural world and thus work in isolation at the peril of the planet.

World leaders see climate change as an opportunity to create a tax revenue stream and in doing this there is no encouragement to change as we simply add the cost to the consumer. A simple comment to the world leaders would be to view the total earth as a farm or reserve and look at how a well managed organic styled farm works and apply the same principle to man. It is no good reporting as to how many planets we need to survive, be it in the USA or a corner of Africa, simply we are not going to colonise other planets and grow produce, so how do we make this one work in a sustainable manner.

What are you working on at the moment?

I have written a number of stories around Tswalu Kalahari and presently doing the background work on them and then fun with the seed funding slog. Indigenous trees of the Kalahari, The Aardwolf, Aardvark, Cheetah, Sociable Weavers Nest and The Burrowers which is about the different creatures who enter and share the underground burrows. Combined these will keep me occupied for some 2 years.

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

If you want to make a small fortune, enter conservation with a large fortune. This is not about making money or prestige but about sharing a passion and hopefully encouraging young folk into this fascinating world…your learning will never end and your wealth of knowledge gained and opportunities cannot be bought or learned in an academic facility….in short “Go for it”!

What would you like to remembered for?

Not a question I really think about but it would be nice for the family if I was to be remembered for my honesty and integrity in my story telling and that hopefully it challenged a few people to relook and enjoy the natural world.

Featured Filmmaker: Eric Madeja

eric-madeja1What is your name and where are you based?

My name is Eric Madeja, I live with my wife Cheryl and my two daughters Andria and Alaisha in Sabah, Malaysian Borneo. We have been staying in Borneo for the past 12 years and considering it as our home.

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

I’m the co-founder and owner of Treasure Images Sdn Bhd, an independent production company based in Borneo. I preferable work on films or projects portraying people living in and around the marine environment and the challenges and issues they are facing. However there are a multitude of other undertakings I do, from wildlife photography to location services for foreign crews and even managing CSR programs for large corporates.

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

I get my motivation from the people I meet while traveling through remote coastal regions, islands and atolls. Quite often it is their actions and sometimes even more their optimistic outlook on life that inspires me. Since my childhood I have a passion for the ocean and living in the heart of South East Asia has made me deeply understand how directly dependent on the sea a large part of the 7 billion people on this planet are.

What has been your biggest challenge filming in the field?

Explaining people who make five dollars or less a day why I want to document their life. I feel miserable bringing thousands of dollars worth of equipment into a tiny wooden hut where a family with eight kids stays without electricity or running water. On the other hand the positive attitude and impartial hospitality I experience in exactly these situations is what keeps me doing it.

Has technology hindered or enhanced your photography?

Technology definitely has made many things easier and provided new ways of filming. Think about tiny cameras like HD Hero and the stunning angles you can shoot with it. Than who would have thought that cameras like the RED, fitting in a small backpack, will mark the beginning of the end for shooting on film. On location my Macbook Pro has become an irreplaceable tool to watch dailies, back-up data, edit footage and to keep track of the shooting schedule.

What bothers me is that we become more and more dependent on a ubiquitous power source to recharge all our new gadgets. Has anyone heard about a solar- or saltwater powered broadcast quality HD camera?

What is your favourite place in nature?

15 meters below the surface on a healthy tropical coral reef

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

In my opinion it’s wasting of resources. The corporate world is aware that only through deliberate wasting and discarding of surpluses they will be able to sustain the current system of having rapidly expanding and growing economies. It pushes many companies to close an eye towards the uncontrolled and inconsiderate depletion of our planet’s resources. Unfortunately most people don’t question the status quo and many more live in their own small world not aware of the bigger picture.

How do you think the media industry should be addressing environment and conservation issues?

I think its time for the media industry to take on more responsibility. Not only by reducing their own carbon footprint, but also by doing what they are really good in; promoting a certain way of living. Media producers of any genre should make sure that all their programs carry some kind of an “environmental awareness” message.

Soap operas for example are huge in my part of the world. Whole towns come to a standstill when a popular soap is aired on TV. Why not imagine cooperation between an environmental filmmaker and a drama series producer?

What are you working on at the moment?

One of my other passions is history and I’m currently researching some historical shipwreck stories around Borneo. Some “wreck hunter” friends of mine stumbled recently over a mid 19th Century British merchant ship in the South China Sea. If the shipwreck can be positively identified as what the explorers think they have found, than it’s an incredible story involving British aristocracy, pirates and large sharks. We are still looking for producers to get involved, please contact me if you are interested.

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

It really depends what the reason is you want to work in this industry. In most cases I would advice: “Set yourself a target but don’t have too high ambitions. Work hard and be happy for every step you reach”.

What would you like to be remembered for?

For being a good father to my children, teaching them that they don’t have to accept what is not right.

Links:

www.treasure-images.com

Featured Filmmaker: Neil Grubb

What is your name and where are you based?

Neil Grubb, based in Roslin Glen, near Edinburgh, in southeast Scotland

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

I make films about local wildlife, focussing on the bird life of the Esk Valley and of Lothian Region, in southeast Scotland, to show at meetings of local and national wildlife, conservation, civic and community groups.

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

The main inspiration has been moving out of the city into Roslin Glen, which is a fantastic place to learn about the wildlife of Scotland. In particular, the sights and sounds in springtime and early summer have been the impetus for film-making.

What has been your biggest challenge filming in the field?

All of my films are done single handedly (with the exception of the music) so the biggest challenge is finding time, outwith my full time job as a cardiologist, to film, narrate, and edit these productions.

Has technology hindered or enhanced your photography?

In the main it has enhanced it, but I have resisted the temptation to upgrade my kit as I believe my productions will improve more by developing my camera and editing work in response to critique than by adopting the latest technology.

What is your favourite place in nature?

The Esk Valley in Midlothian, Scotland

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

Failure of some landowners to take a responsible view on habitat management

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?

A more balanced view needs to be presented. I find the relentless presentation of environmental issues in negative terms does not inspire change. My view is that it is important to present the positives about wildlife and then impress on the local public the importance of preserving and enhancing what is there.

What are you working on at the moment?

I have just completed a two year project, Outlands, which features the bird life of some of the more remote habitats in my area. I plan to produce a documentary which compares woodland birds of Massachusetts with those in Scotland.

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

I have no advice as I am an amateur and am not directly involved with industry

What would you like to remembered for?

Opening people’s eyes to what is all around them

Linkshttps://vimeo.com/channels/roslinnature

Featured Filmmaker: Alex Eilts

What is your name and where are you based?Alex_Eilts

My name is Alex Eilts, and I am currently based in Saint Paul, Minnesota, U.S.A.

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

I am an ecologist, and have only recently begun making natural history films. My interest in getting involved in filmmaking stems from my desire to help integrate science in a more in depth way to natural history films. I believe that nature films can not only inspire people to action but also inform their actions as well. I hope I can help other filmmakers to remember that science makes for a great story.

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

My interest in pursuing natural history filmmaking is relatively recent, but nature films have been an inspiration to me for much longer. The natural world around me as well as films with scenes from far off places influenced my decision as a child to pursue ecology. As an ecologist, I understand both the emotional and functional reasons for conservation. Conveying both of these rationales to people is necessary if we hope to preserve Earth’s biodiversity against immense opposing pressures, and film is a powerful tool to reach and educate a wide audience.

What has been your biggest challenge filming in the field?

Currently, I am out there on my own, therefore any situation where I am filming myself takes a little extra time. Even making sure I am in focus and in frame can be a bit of challenge. I film with a micro 4/3 camera and perhaps the most entertaining thing is when people see me delivering lines to what appears to be a still camera. I’m certain I look a little crazy to passersby as I apparently have an in-depth conversation with my camera; that or perhaps people suspect I have an advanced voice activated camera.

Has technology hindered or enhanced your photography?

Because I have no formal training in filmmaking, with either the equipment or the processes, technology has completely facilitated my endeavour to make videos. Digital video capture, computer editing, and social media all create the capacity to give a voice to a greater segment of society. This has allowed for unique stories to be heard, particularly in documentary style films. At this stage, I depend on these technologies to create a voice for myself, and as an avenue to get my message out there.

What is your favourite place in nature?

I think this is the most difficult question in the list. There numerous enjoyable aspects about any one place, and so many places from which to choose. When it comes down to it, I’m happy to be outdoors, especially if the bugs aren’t bitting too badly and it’s not terribly hot at the time. There are, however, a few groups of places that I simply love. Oceanic islands because they are such an evolutionary playground, with their unique forms and unusual combinations of species. Gondwanan remnant regions because they demonstrate the results of continental drift so clearly as well as species sorting. And Mediterranean climate zones because they display such wonderful extra-tropical biodiversity and convergent evolution.

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

The disenfranchisement of the public in relation to science and conservation is a primary concern of mine, and the motivating factor for my involvement in film. In a democratic society, it is the right of the people to decide conservation, education, and science are of no value. The corollary of this is that it is the responsibility of those with the knowledge and those who care about these topics, to keep them in the public eye, so that their utility and importance are “plain to see” to everyone.

How do you think the media industry should be addressing environment and conservation issues?

The general media has a tendency to underestimate their audience and “dumb down” science, leaving people confused as to what data supports conservation – amongst other – decisions. This is confounded by pseudo-symmetry in journalism, where fringe opinions are given equal time in an effort to create apparent balance. For science and environmental issues, this creates the perception of a lack of general consensus on a range of topics where it may, in fact, exist. This can leave an intelligent audience believing that basic facts are actually unknowns, which is a disservice to everyone.

If you could give one message to the world’s leaders on climate change, what would it be?

I don’t think the political will to come together and make global scale changes will come from our leaders. I believe it will need to come from people. So, I hope that by helping communicate the science behind headlines to the public, and arming people with information to create political pressure, I am speaking to those who will make the difference.

What are you working on at the moment?

I am working on a web-series called “Decoding Diversity” which examines the factors that lead to the observed biodiversity in different locations. Though I film the episodes in locations which illustrate the patterns most clearly, the ecological principles are broadly applicable.

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

I wish I knew. I am currently trying to find my place in the industry. If I do find my way, I’ll be happy to share the secret.

What would you like to be remembered for?

If I could contribute to people having a better understanding of the science behind what we know about our natural world, and how that informs our conservation priorities, I would be pleased.

Featured Filmmaker: Carl Battreall

Carl-Battreall1What is your name and where are you based?

My name is Carl Battreall and I live in Anchorage, Alaska.

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

I help local non-profits make modern looking and entertaining educational films. I also explore the relationship between artists and the environment. I work on a very local level. There are a hand full of major issues in Alaska that are covered by the big media groups and the famous photographers. And though these issues are very important, they over-shadow the many issues that concern Alaskans.

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

The son of two Forest Service employees, I grew up in and around the mountains. The wilderness inspires me, without it, I and the rest of this world would fall into chaos.

What has been your biggest challenge filming in the field?

I usually work way off the beaten track, unsupported. So the biggest challenge is telling a complete story using a minimal amount of equipment. In Alaska, the weather is always an issue!

Has technology hindered or enhanced your photography?

I always wanted to make films. But that was impossible when I began my career, so I focused on still photography. Technology now allows me to create films as an independent filmmaker. When I started, twenty years ago, I was told I would need to risk everything and go in debt, borrow money from everyone I knew, just to make a movie. I wasn’t willing to do that and now I don’t have to.

What is your favourite place in nature?

On the tundra, right at the base of a towering peak or descending glacier.

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

The biggest issue is a lack of connection with the environment. Lots of people use the wilderness as a playground but they never make a bound strong enough with nature to change their ways of living. Even more discouraging is that many of the people I know have slowly lost their drive to fight. The burden is too heavy, the enemy too strong. They just recycle, donate to a few non-profits and call it good, they have given up.

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 mainstream media industry is useless, their system is all about ratings and making money! How can anyone be honest and tackle the seriousness of the problems when you depend on advertising and you can’t politely offend or challenge anyone? Same issue with the world leaders. My message is to the people: We have to change, we can’t depend on the governments to save this planet!

What are you working on at the moment?

I just finished a project for the Bristol Bay Native Corporation titled a Day in Our Bay. Instead of a bunch of filmmakers filming the lives of the natives of Bristol Bay, I and a handful of local filmmakers went to remote villages and instead of filming, we taught them how to make their own films. So now they can share what is important to them, not what we think is important to them.

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

Stay local and tackle issues that are important to the local population. That is where the funding is for indie and first time filmmakers and that is where real change can be made.

What would you like to remembered for?

Being a nice person who did his best and led by example.

Links: 

www.photographalaska.com