New book leads to greater impact in Conservation Filmmaking

ConservationFilmmakingCoverThe new book Conservation Filmmaking: How to Make Films that Make a Difference is both a crucial guide for new filmmakers and a helpful energizer for experienced filmmakers.

Co-Author Piers Warren draws upon his wealth of experience as the Principal of the WildEYE International School of Wildlife Filmmaking to provide clear, helpful instructions for how to get started making documentaries.

Beyond production, planning, and important guidance leading to sources of funding, however, Conservation Filmmaking also encourages filmmakers to screen their films with the local audiences who can truly make a difference. Too often in our world of natural history entertainment foreign film crews come in to document the beauty of an area and neglect sharing what they’ve seen to inspire those who live in such areas to care for them in new ways. That’s one of the ways co-author Madelaine Westwood adds her experience to Conservation Filmmaking. As the founder of the Great Apes Film Initiative and the Pedal Powered Cinema Project, Westwood’s spent her career making sure people in remote areas have access to such film projects, and encourages all filmmakers to do the same. Conservation Filmmaking also includes advice for how to monitor the effectiveness of your films.

Conservation Filmmaking includes a comprehensive list of case studies of successful wildlife filmmakers and conservationists, showing how with the instructions included in this book and a great amount of passion, we can all make a difference whether you’re the head of media production for Greenpeace or if you just simply refuse to stand by as nature suffers, like 19-year-old Abbie Barnes. Founding members of Filmmakers for Conservation, Warren and Westwood close out the book promoting the ethical filmmaking guide FFC developed to ensure readers go out there with enthusiasm and restraint.


Cheers to Piers, Madelaine, and the crew at WildEYE for continuing to inspire, train, guide, and lead future conservation filmmakers to make a difference, and to continue to inspire the natural history industry to do more to protect biodiversity around the world.


If Not Us, Then Who?

The Question, is at the back of our minds,

as we waltz into an era of global struggle. As the music speeds up to a frantic pace, however, we continue to dance, ignoring the warning signs just to enjoy our evening of overindulgence on this planet, a little bit more.

 We know our overconsumption, thirst for fossil fuels, deforestation, and the toxic effects of our resource lust will be a real pain to clean up in the morning, but we hold out, collectively thinking, “someone really should do something about the state of our Earth.”

Sadly, not everyone has been invited to the party. Peoples all over the world who live closely to the land, who depend on a healthy environment for their livelihoods, and who suffer through the damaging consequences of natural exploitation have been fighting to survive through the night.

As the victims of environmental injustice often live in remote environments, filmmakers play a critical role in amplifying their voices. Paul Redman, of Handcrafted Films, has been traveling throughout Central America, Peru, Brazil, and Indonesia to unify defiance against ecological abuses as part of the “If Not Us, Then Who?” campaign. Redman and his team work with indigenous communities to listen to their stories, help them document their troubles, and use the rapidly-produced yet emotive, beautiful, and effective short films to build support towards a solution.

“The aim of the project is to promote indigenous people as the most viable solution to the long term protection of forests.” Redman writes FFC. “We are also developing various events in partnership with international and national NGOs and have so far launched in New York, Lima and Indonesia.”

One “If Not Us, Then Who?” story is about the murder of an indigenous Peruvian activist named Edwin Chota, who fought against illegal logging in his Asheninka community:



“I filmed the widows of the four murdered Ashanenka leaders at the end of last year and we promoted the film in partnership wth Global Witness & Rainforest Foundation US in Lima,” Redman writes.


After showing the photos and film at the Lima Itinerant Film Festival in November of 2014, and bringing in Ashanenka leaders, the Peruvian government finally listened.

“The villagers of Saweto have since been granted land title to over 80,000 hectares of their traditional forests, which is a real success story for everyone involved.” Redman writes. “But we are still working to ensure more land titles are granted to other Ashanenka communities and we are exploring ways to do that later this year.”

Since screening the film in Peru, Redman left the materials with local NGOs and he and his team moved on to Indonesia to fight monoculture eucalyptus plantations:

The campaign is fully funded by the Ford Foundation and the Climate & Land Use Alliance (CLUA), and is aiming to bring these voices to The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

“We have further promotional events in Germany and Paris later this year to build awareness before the UNFCCC meeting in Paris,” Redman writes.

Now that the music sounds a bit slurred, and we realize that our waltz cannot last forever, what can we do? To help right these injustices,

  1. Don’t buy products that use tropical hardwoods, as many logging operations forge the documents to export their wood as though it came from legal concessions – with up to 80% of wood being fraudulently claimed as legal, according to Greenpeace Brazil
  2. Don’t buy products that use palm oil, as palm oil plantations contribute to the deforestation of Indonesia, Malaysia, and the forests of many other peoples
  3. Sign petitions to protect indigenous people and rainforests here, at


And thank Paul Redman and his team, for answering the question “If Not Us, Then Who?” with resounding action!



Conservation Films honored with Oscar Nominations

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has nominated two conservation-themed films for Oscars.

Oscar Nomination for Documentary Feature: Virunga

Oscar von Einsiedel and Joanna Natasegara, Grain Media

Von Einsiedel and Natasegara are the producers behind Virunga. The powerful Netflix documentary chronicles the Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and the community’s battle with the British oil corporation determined to access its illegal explorative concessions. The park is Africa’s oldest, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and “a home to thousands of people and the last mountain gorillas.” To its protectors, it is more; Virunga’s rangers have dedicated their lives to protect the park, and they take salvation in their mission. They cannot allow its exploitation.

Through intimate, surreal cinematography, von Einsiedel witnesses a clash of greed and virtue, of love and ignorance. Virunga’s warriors brave undercover surveillance to expose army officials and security contractors of blatant corruption, providing condemnable visual evidence of a corporation acting in vigorous disregard for the park’s people and wildlife. Von Einsiedel runs alongside the people of Goma as they flee a rebel militia, he stands with Virunga’s rangers as they hold their ground, and suffers with the park’s orphaned gorillas through the thunder of warfare.

“You have to justify why you are here on this earth. Gorillas are why I am here. Gorillas are my life. So if it is about dying, then I will die for the gorillas.” – André Bauma, Gorilla Caretaker


Winner of 23 international awards, subject of over 300 articles including a cover story on The New York Times, Virunga has focused global attention to the park, contributing (with WWF UK) to the British company SOCO to publicly declare they would not drill in the Virunga National Park.

Watch Virunga on Netflix


Oscar Nomination for Documentary Short Subject: White Earth

J. Christian Jenson

Trains, trucks and men have flooded White Earth, North Dakota. They’re there to get the natural gas out of the frozen ground. Some have brought their families with them. They live in campers with wooden sheds. The men go to work, and the rest adjust to life in White Earth.

Christian Jenson made White Earth as part of his M.F.A. in Film and Video at Stanford University. It’s an eloquent deliberation of small town America, the tides of fortune, and whether or not its better to leave the “stinky oil” in the ground, as pondered by a lonely boy who must entertain himself with the neighborhood dogs, a “native” who wonders how her White Earth will change, and an immigrant family weary of chasing stability. White Earth offers new insights into the life on the ground of a national debate.

Watch White Earth on Vimeo


Filmmakers for Conservation congratulates Orlando von Einsiedel and Joanna Natasegara of Grain Media and J. Christian Jenson for their Oscar nominations!

Stay connected for a Q&A with Joanna Natasegara about her role as Virunga’s Impact Producer

Madelaine Westwood

Madelaine Westwood


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!


GAFI Website:
YouTube Channel:
Twitter: @GAFI4Apes
The Bike That Helps Save Gorillas – GAFI in Uganda:
Director of GAFI: Madelaine Westwood
Tel: +44 1491 575 017″ Fax: +44 1491 579 335″ Mobile: +44 7770 577 549
For information on volunteering, please contact Madelaine:
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.


Email: &

Websites:, &

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!!


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

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,

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

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


Address: C-18, Chirag Enclave, New Delhi – 110048, India
Phone: +91 11 26410684/26216508 Fax: +91 11 26216508
Websites: &
Earth Matters Foundation:
Email: or
You Tube: Mike Pandey: Films For Change – See an interview with Mike in a short film about his film-making life here:
A date with Mike Pandey:


Mike Pandey in the news:

Mike Pandey receives Prithvi Ratan Award-Vatavaran 2003:

Mike Pandey documentary has wildlife species protected:

Mike Pandey heads international jury of Brazil Film Festival

Time Magazine – Heroes of the Environment 2009:,28804,1924149_1924152_1924199,00.html

Devoted Wildlife Conservation Filmmaker Mike Pandey:

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.”

Telephone: +91 44 244 15744

By Jason Peters

Sir David Attenborough

Sir David AttenboroughBiography:

David Attenborough is Britain’s best-known natural history film-maker. His career as a naturalist and broadcaster has spanned five decades and there are very few places on the globe that he has not visited.

Sir David joined the BBC in 1952, as a trainee producer, and it was while working on the Zoo Quest series (1954-64) that he had his first opportunity to undertake expeditions to remote parts of the globe to capture intimate footage of rare wildlife in its natural habitat.

He was Controller of BBC2 (1965-68), during which time he introduced colour television to Britain, then Director of Programmes for the BBC (1969-1972). However in 1973 he abandoned administration altogether to return to documentary-making and writing.

He has established himself as the world’s leading natural history programme maker with several landmark BBC series, including Life on Earth (1979), The Living Planet (1984), The Trials of Life (1990), Life in the Freezer (1993), The Private Life of Plants (1995), The Life of Birds (1998), The Life of Mammals (2002), Life in the Undergrowth (2005) and Life in Cold Blood (2008).

Alongside the “Life” series, David narrated every episode of Wildlife on One, a BBC One wildlife series which ran for nearly more than 250 episodes between 1977 and 2005. At its peak, it drew a weekly audience of eight to ten million, and the 1987 episode “Meerkats United” was voted the best wildlife documentary of all time by BBC viewers. He has also narrated over 50 episodes of Natural World, BBC Two’s flagship wildlife series. (Its forerunner, The World About Us, was created by Attenborough in 1969, as a vehicle for colour television.) In 1997, he narrated the BBC Wildlife Specials, each focussing on a charismatic species, and screened to mark the Natural History Unit’s 40th anniversary.

As a writer and narrator, he has continued to collaborate with the BBC Natural History Unit into the new millennium. He narrated The Blue Planet (2001), the Unit’s first comprehensive series on marine life. The same team reunited for Planet Earth (2006), the biggest nature documentary ever made for television, and the first BBC wildlife series to be shot in high definition. In 2009, Attenborough wrote and narrated Life, a ten-part series focussing on extraordinary animal behaviour, and narrated Nature’s Great Events, which showed how seasonal changes trigger major natural spectacles.

By the turn of the millennium, Attenborough’s authored documentaries were adopting a more overtly environmentalist stance. In State of the Planet (2000), he used the latest scientific evidence and interviews with leading scientists and conservationists to assess the impact of man’s activities on the natural world. He later turned to the issues of global warming (The Truth about Climate Change, 2006) and human population growth (How Many People Can Live on Planet Earth?, 2009). He also contributed a programme which highlighted the plight of endangered species to the BBC’s Saving Planet Earth project in 2007, the 50th anniversary of the Natural History Unit.

Attenborough continues to work into his ninth decade, and is currently involved in a number of projects: He wrote and presented Frozen Planet, a major series for BBC One which examines the impact of a warming climate on the people and wildlife of the polar regions. He has also recently completed two projects for BBC Two. Madagascar (which first aired weekly between the 9th to 23rd February 2011) a three-part series giving an overview of Madagascar’s unique wildlife. The accompanying documentary Attenborough and the Giant Egg (which aired on the 2nd of March 2011) features the elephant bird egg which Attenborough discovered on his first filming expedition to the island in the 1960s.

The importance of Sir David Attenborough’s contribution to wildlife film making is beyond doubt as his huge catalogue of programmes have been seen by millions of people worldwide and stirred up massive interest in the natural world. His contribution to conservation film is widely regarded as one of the best due to his authoritative presence and well-respected command of the issues pertaining to important environmental concerns… His long-time commitment to wildlife film and commentary on environmental issues have proven him to be a filmmaker that truly has made a very significant difference!

Other Achievements:

From 1983, Attenborough worked on two environmentally themed musicals with the WWF and writers Peter Rose and Anne Conlon. Yanomamo was the first, about the Amazon rainforest, and the second, Ocean World, premiered at the Royal Festival Hall in 1991.

They were both narrated by Attenborough on their national tour, and recorded on to audio cassette. Ocean World was also filmed for Channel 4 and later released.
In 1982, he received the Panda Award for Outstanding Achievement at Wildscreen.

He serves on the advisory board of BBC Wildlife magazine; is Wildscreen Patron; a Trustee of the British Museum and the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew; an Honorary Fellow of Clare College, Cambridge; a Fellow of the Royal Society and was knighted in 1985.

By Jason Peters

Wetland Legacy


This is a short film made by Conservation Media, a green production company. It was originally made for an EPA water quality video contest. It was a lot of fun to make and we were terribly lucky to catch not one, but two acts of wetland predation to show how all the players are connected. We mostly dissected an older relatively unused 10-minute film we made a few years back for Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge. The new editing and shorter length work a lot better here.

Positive results:

It has been made available online to be freely reposted across the internet in order to spread awareness about wetlands. The film recently won TWO Silver Telly Awards, for Nature/Environment and for Cinematography.


Director Producer: Jeremy Roberts
Link to film:

By Jason Peters

The Truth About Tigers


India’s National Animal, the tiger, is disappearing at an alarming rate from its forests. Government estimates reveal that there may be fewer than 1500 left. Why have these big cats declined so drastically? What exactly are the problems facing their conservation? And are there any solutions to the crisis? These and many other questions are answered succinctly in ‘The Truth about Tigers’, a pro bono, ‘first-of-its-kind’ educational documentary on tiger conservation. The film also provides useful pointers on how ordinary citizens can contribute towards saving the tiger.

Two years in the making, the film combines stunning footage shot by some of the world’s leading cinematographers (and donated by various production companies and individuals) with deep insights from experts. It takes viewers through the tiger’s life – from birth to death – and illustrates how different human activities impact the survival of this great predator. Renowed English composer David Mitcham contributed music and Internationally acclaimed actor, Roshan Seth, provided the narration.

Produced first in English, the film has now been translated into 5 Indian languages. Over two hundred screenings have taken place around India during the past year and over 25,000 DVDs have been distributed free of cost through an accompanying website.


Producer: Shekar Dattatri
Duration: 40 minutes
Format: 16mm/Various
Country: India
Production Year: 2010

By Jason Peters