Wildscreen is launching a new endeavor, called the Wildscreen Exchange, to put the powerful tools of visual communications into the hands of the conservationists working to protect the planet. Filmmakers for Conservation got an inside look at how the Wildscreen Exchange will work, talking with Wildscreen Exchange Manager Lucie Muir:
FFC: As Sir David explains, the Wildscreen Exchange is a media database to empower conservation organizations to win hearts and minds in the war against climate change, poaching, wildlife trafficking, natural resource exploitation – and hopefully ourselves as well. How did Wildscreen begin this initiative?
Lucie Muir, Wildscreen Exchange Manager:
Wildscreen Exchange is a natural evolution for Wildscreen. For over 32 years, we have been gathering together and celebrating the world’s very best natural history filmmakers and photographers through our Festivals. Then we created Arkive, taking this amazing content online and making it freely available to all to explore our amazing natural world. Arkive is now our biggest public outreach initiative and attracts over 1 million unique users a month, which is amazing.
However as a conservation organisation, we felt there was more we could do for conservation and we wanted try and amplify the impact that our unique access to the world’s best species imagery can have on saving our natural world. Working together, the Wildscreen board and team came up with the concept of Exchange, positioning Wildscreen as an honest broker between our media donors and the conservation community. We then worked closely with a range of conservation organisations from around the world to establish the need. We then approached and consulted with a wide-range of content providers including broadcasters, production companies, picture libraries, independent filmmakers and photographers, passionate amateurs as well as our huge network of scientists and conservationists to determine if the concept worked for them. The whole community has been extremely supportive and generous. People are in the industry because they love our natural world and they want everyone to be as inspired by it as they are. With Exchange, we have the opportunity to massively amplify the impact that their imagery can have by putting it in the hands of the people working on the very frontline, the world’s conservation organisations.
FFC: So, environmental advocacy groups, conservation non-profits, and energy NGOs can use whatever photos and footage to promote their work? What are the requirements use the media? What’s to stop for-profit companies from using this footage in commercials?
LM: The Exchange will be targeted at international, national and local non-profit, non-governmental organisations, whose missions are centred on conservation of the natural world. Not-for-profit conservation and environmental organisations will be required to register and become members of the Wildscreen Exchange and agree to the user terms before they can use the content. Wildscreen Exchange content can only be used for non-commercial purposes, which is clearly stipulated within the user agreement. We have worked closely with the film and photo industries as well as other stakeholders in order to create industry-aligned standard user and donor agreements. After meeting Wildscreen’s safeguards and agreeing to the Wildscreen Exchange user agreement, approved organisations will pay Wildscreen a small membership fee in order to use the platform. Membership fees will be tailored according to an organisation’s annual income, making it affordable to all yet sustainable for Wildscreen to run.
Within Exchange there will be two tiers of content – free and premium (paid-for) content. We want to try and source as much free content as possible as conservation organisations have very limited budgets, however we do recognise that sometimes conservation organisations will require the very best imagery and that for many professional filmmakers and photographers, this is their livelihoods and therefore they would need to charge a fee for their content. We have therefore been working with commercial nature picture agencies to establish guidelines and rates for paid-for-content. As with membership, image rates will be tiered dependent upon a conservation organisation’s annual income so as to make it affordable for all and so to not undercut current sales for agencies and professionals.
If at any point a conservation organisation did want to use an image for commercial purposes, Wildscreen would forward the request onto the individual media donor, as we currently do for requests we receive for content in Arkive.
FFC: Are contributors paid, credited, receive tax exemptions? What is the incentive for contributors other than a moral obligation to participate in conservation causes?
LM: As mentioned above, contributors can choose to charge conservation organisations to use their content via the premium content tier. Within Exchange itself, copyright and credit details are displayed next to each image/clip and attached within the metadata as you would find with any commercial library. In addition, as part of the user agreement to which all member conservation organisations adhere to, any image used must credit the contributor.
As with all Wildscreen initiatives, Wildscreen Exchange will also act as a shop window for the content and the contributors who kindly share their images with Exchange. Exchange will be visible and searchable to all and therefore if anyone other than a conservation organisation finds an image or clip and would like to use it they can see the contributor/copyright holder. Arkive is the third highest referrer for one of the world’s leading nature picture agencies and therefore we hope that Wildscreen Exchange will follow suit. We are also planning on working with conservation organisations to commission specific content around particular themes or campaigns and we would look to work with our contributors, via a sort of match-making service, to connect the two groups together. We have in fact in the past few days just commissioned our first campaign film where we have matched a Wildscreen Exchange donor and Wildscreen Film Festival nominee with a conservation organisation in order to make them a film to promote their work. Watch this space!
We are also planning on working with conservation organisations to commission specific content around particular themes or campaigns and we would look to work with our contributors, via a sort of match-making service, to connect the two groups together.
FFC: What if a contributor objects to the way their footage/photos are used?
LM: We have worked very closely with the industry to make sure that our user terms are clear and in line with current industry standards. We therefore hope that by agreeing to the terms when becoming a member and each time they use an image from Exchange, that they will honour the agreement and rights of the donor. Wildscreen will also be screening new members and continually monitoring how the content is used. Within the system, we are able to put restrictions on who and where content is used. For example if there was the case where a contributor only wanted certain organisations to be able to use their imagery or organisations within a particular location, that is possible. The user agreement also specifies that if a user wants to use the images for anything outside the scope of the agreement, they must get approval from the library or the original donor.
FFC: How is the database managed? Will it include edited video sequences or will it focus on individual clips, and how will the beneficiaries be able to sort through the database?
LM: We have created the Wildscreen Exchange platform using an industry-wide used software platform. Therefore the system is really functional and user friendly, with good metadata and an easy search. In terms of content we have primarily been focussing on securing and processing photo content, but we have a good amount of footage on its way. The footage will be presented as individual clips. We will be listening, evaluating and monitoring at all stages to make sure users can find what they want easily and that we are providing the content that they need.
FFC: The Wildscreen Exchange inarguably meets a crucial demand to strengthen conservation agencies’ ability to connect with local communities, policy-makers, and broad audiences to promote their missions. While the digital age has facilitated an abundance of natural history content, providing for cameras that record limitlessly and the internet has connected story tellers all over the world with empathetic audiences, many producers report there’s diminishing funding for natural history programming. Now the Exchange might also reduce demand for NGOs and non-profits to contract filmmakers/photographers, as they would have a pool of high-quality content to tell their stories. Did the Exchange take the industry into account, and how will it affect one-off contracts for independent producers? Does Wildscreen have any figures for the non-profit sector’s role in the natural history industry as a consumer?
LM: We have been very considered in make sure that we consult the industry at all stages of development of Exchange. We want to support and promote the industry and make sure, working together that we can do our best for conservation.
From our research we found that in the future there will be a much greater appetite for commissions and video content within the conservation sector.
Through our research with the industry and conservation organisations of all shapes and sizes throughout the development process, we found that it was only really the larger conservation organisations who commission content, let alone purchase it. From our research we found that in the future there will be a much greater appetite for commissions and video content within the conservation sector. Large organisations are commissioning at the moment and there are many successful and well established relationships that Wildscreen of course would in no way want to impact. Wildscreen does and is increasingly getting approached by surprisingly large conservation organisations asking for recommendations on where to source archive footage, filmmakers, photographers and even post production services. We want to be able to connect the two sectors effectively. Small to medium conservation organisations which have much fewer resources and much smaller budgets are more of a focus for us, as they too have an increasing appetite for using imagery more within their communications but quite often do not have the internal resource or expertise in order to commission content or source expertise. We feel that due to the community Wildscreen has established over the past 32 years, we are in good position to help connect the two.
As mentioned we do have plans to commission specific content and will always look to support the industry associated with Wildscreen by making connections and using the amazing pool of talent that exists within the Wildscreen community. We have in fact just raised funds and commissioned our first mini film on behalf of a conservation organisation and are using an independent, Wildscreen 2014-nominated filmmaker from within the Bristol network.
We would of course support one-off contracts for independent producers working with conservation organisations – quite often archive footage is required for such projects and therefore hopefully we can assist these organisations and their producers in locating footage efficiently.
We did try and seek estimates on the non-profit sector’s role in the natural history industry but as the sector is so small, we were unable to get good estimates, particularly within the film industry. We found a lot of filmmakers generously do voluntary work between productions to support conservation organisations. In terms of photography, from our research non-profit conservation organisations only account for a very small percentage of sales, with only a large conservation organisations being regular purchasers of content. Individual filmmakers and photographers in particular, get requests all the time from conservation organisations to use their content but due to time and resource and quite often only able to help a few. If Wildscreen is able to essentially do the leg work in terms of fulfilment, however, the majority of filmmakers and photographers are more than happy to help multiple organisations.
FFC: What’s been the reaction among the larger broadcasters, and have they indicated their interest to participate in the exchange?
LM: The big broadcasters have been and are very supportive of Wildscreen and are a core part of the natural history industry. We have had detailed conversations with a whole spectrum of the film and photographic industries, including large broadcasters. The BBC for example supports the ambition of Exchange and is actively exploring to what it extent it can take part in it. Exchange is not just about independent producers, it’s for a whole spectrum of contributors.
FFC: How has Wildscreen coordinated with the non-profit sector to promote, implement, and exemplify how the Exchange can improve their visual communication strategies? Will their be an educational component to promote audience targeting, distribution and impact?
LM: We have been working with the non-profit conservation sector at all stages of development and will of course continue to do so. We have had a beta trial running since the summer to see how a spectrum of organisations use the platform so we can refine and innovate and will of course be doing this up until launch in May this year and for ever after! We now have good knowledge of where organisations are at in terms of using imagery and how they intend to use it in the future.
Through the Wildscreen Exchange, enews, and wider Wildscreen online and social platforms we will be sharing good case studies, not only helping to promote the conservation organisations and contributors but to share good practice from within and outside the industry to help. We will be commissioning content around particular conservation organisations and issues in order to show how imagery can help tell a conservation story and make campaigns much more effective in terms of awareness and engagement. In the longer term, we have plans to build an online community with practical guides, help and advice and access to expertise in order to support conservation organisations even more – we don’t just want to provide imagery we want to support and empower them to get the best out of it.
And of course everything Exchange will be supported by all our other initiatives, providing a platform for Exchange and conservation commnucations at our festivals and of course via Arkive to make sure the content is being seen by as many people as possible.
FFC: How can producers best participate in the Exchange?
LM: Get in touch with us! Let us know if you want to be involved and how – whether you want to share content, are interested in the commissioning aspect or want to work with conservation organisations. You can also keep up to date with all we are doing via the Wildscreen Exchange enews.
Wildscreen contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Wildscreen Exchange will launch in May of 2015
How many baby pandas does it take to make a conservation film a success?
Two? Four? Nine?
Hedging their bets, PBS, National Geographic and Passion Planet went with… 14!
In their upcoming series, Earth: A New Wild, viewers will get to ogle fourteen baby pandas, as Conservation International Executive Vice President Dr. M. Sanjayan guides them on a journey exploring the intrinsic nature of humanity’s role in nature. Filmmakers for Conservation was at a sneak peak of the upcoming series screened at National Geographic in Washington, D.C. – the five-part film promises to bring optimism to the conservation conversation to living rooms all over the country.
Dr. Sanjayan said he wanted to work on this series – and call it The New Wild – to remove the distinction between the natural and the human worlds. “We humans are part of nature,” he said, “and when you realize that, we realize saving nature is saving ourselves.” He said in certain areas it was impossible to film wildlife without getting humans in the frame, and he hopes by telling the story of how humans are part of nature – not separated from it – viewers will learn, “Just how much we need each other to survive.”
Filming over 5 years in 29 countries and 45 locations, the producers decided to separate the films based on habitats, with episodes covering “Home,” “Plains,” “Forests,” “Oceans,” and “Fresh Water.” The first episode explores “Home,” establishing the series arc that humans share our home with nature – and it goes big, with Dr. Sanjayan’s visit to the breeding center of the Bifengxia Panda Base in Wolong, China. Researchers there have determined when females are most fertile as part of their efforts to re-wild the iconic species, and after resisting the concentrated power of such adorable panda delight, witnessing the baker’s dozen of black and white babies roll around on the floor, Dr. Sanjayan dons a panda suit himself, as he witnesses the first-ever release of a captive-bred panda into the wild.
Along with Zhang Xiang’s historic amble, Dr. Sanjayan visits Dr. Jane Goodall in Tanzania, where new chimpanzees have entered the Gombe National Park, thanks to community initiatives to connect fragmented habitat by subsidizing border trees. But now the villagers report chimps have taken infants from their homes, highlighting the difficulty of life in the shared wild.
The “Plains” episode introduces the theories of Rhodesian-born biologist Allan Savory, about the need to restore to the plains the millions of herd animals who once kept them healthy. Dr. Sanjayan visits the Russian steppes, where the proboscises of saiga antelope once roamed with more snouts than the wildebeest of the African savannahs. With their floppy schnozzes warming the frigid air, the saiga roam, eating and dispersing 100 plant species. After the fall of the Soviet Union, poachers ravaged the herds from numbering two million down to 20,000, hunting their horns for traditional Chinese medicine. A boom in irrigated agriculture has also led to their home pastures in Kalmykia to become the first manmade desert in Europe, as 80% of the arid region has lost plant coverage. Dr. Sanjayan tries to show that hope abounds, meeting researchers who are tracking the saiga’s numbers, and finding ways to protect them from poachers.
The “Plains” episode also offers the most bizarre human-wildlife interaction, as Dr. Sanjayan travels to northern Scandinavia, where the Sami people were possibly the first to domesticate herd animals. Those who still live the traditional, semi-nomadic lifestyle, follow their herds of reindeer throughout the winter. The males can get very aggressive in the rutting season, however, and after the autumn battle for females they are so exhausted that nine in ten will perish in the following winter. Well… ancestral knowledge was quick to incorporate anatomy into the equation, and Dr. Sanjayan’s Sami hosts invite him to participate in the traditional cure:
The Sami call their modified male reindeer the “Gentlemen of the Tundra,” as they spend the winter helping the females dig through the snow for those last remaining morsels to munch…
Dr. Sanjayan kept the “Forests” episode under wraps, but FFC did catch glimpses of the final “Oceans,” and “Fresh Water” films, in which Dr. Sanjayan goes fishing in the mangrove nurseries of Florida for pregnant and newborn lemon sharks, and then kayaks the Colorado River to its end with photographer Peter McBride, where the mighty river painfully dies in the dusts of Mexico’s Sonora Desert. Although Mexico receives less and less of the Colorado’s life-force, not far from the dried-up wetlands it once watered Dr. Sanjayan and McBride fly over the Cienaga wetlands, where 40,000 acres of new life has sprung from farm water run-off somewhere upstream. Dr. Sanjayan points out nature’s resiliency: as one door closes, another opens.
Earth: A New Wild will air on PBS starting on Wednesday, February 4, at 9/8c PM. Now that you’re warned of the carnage of cuteness of 14 baby pandas, enjoy the programming, and let us know what you think!
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.
Oscar Nomination for Documentary Short Subject: White Earth
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.
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
Comedian and – most recently, director – Jon Stewart earned the title “America’s Most-Trusted Newsman” for his exasperating exploration of truth-is-stranger-than-fiction moments in national politics and media coverage. He exposes politicians, corporatists, and the media for their contradictions, keeping them honest and educating his audience with information useful to a functioning democracy.
On his Nov. 12, 2014 episode, Stewart explained how terrorist organizations are increasingly poaching elephants to sell their ivory on the black market. He emphasizes that the demand for ivory is driving the trade, and that the United States is the second largest market for elephant ivory. Acknowledging the devastation to elephants, Stewart also questions why Americans would vow to fight terrorism yet buy their black market products.
The United States has banned the sale of ivory, but dealers can claim their product is an antique, and stop investigators from seizing their illicit product. That’s why the Obama administration has proposed a rule that shifts the burden of proof onto the sellers to show the ivory actually is antique. Wildlife trade is only surpassed by weapons smuggling, the drug trade, and human trafficking on the black market, and to cut down on a mechanism to fund acts of terrorism, most members of Congress support the regulation. As Stewart flutters,
“We have just witnessed something rarer than the African Elephant: Bipartisan commitment on an issue.” – Jon Stewart
But there’s one problem: many guns and knives have ivory handles, and the National Rifle Association got up in arms about regulations that would prevent ivory-gun owners from selling their inherited weapons. Knife Rights Chairman Doug Ritter warns, “This investment that you just inherited is worthless.” He claims the proposal is designed to “make the owners criminal,” while attorney Rob Mitchell warns it’s “designed to hurt Americans.”
“So I guess the only thing that should be hurt here are are giant land mammals and victims of African terrorism.” – Jon Stewart
Unfortunately for elephants, the NRA finds a voice in Congress through Tennessee Republican Senator Lamar Alexander. He warns the regulation would allow the Obama administration to take away your guns:
Sen. Alexander’s phone number: (202) 224-4944
Senator Alexander continues, personifying how the “confusion and uncertainty” of the Fish and Wildlife Services ban on interstate commerce of ivory products already has “a significant impact on businesses and families alike,” with the example of John Case, “who owns and operates a small family antique business with four employees in Knoxville, Tennessee.”
Case claims he’s missed out on $156,000 on ivory sales because of the F&W regulation, which represents 11% of 2013 revenue. His store features 118 pages of search results for items containing auction, with the note: “this lot contains a substance which is protected and restricted in the United States and by international convention and can only be shipped within the United States.”
Senator Alexander has introduced legislation: “THE LAWFUL IVORY PROTECTION ACT OF 2014, TO STOP THE ADMINISTRATION FROM TAKING AWAY OUR LEGAL GUNS, FROM TAKING AWAY OUR LEGAL GUITARS, AND FROM TAKING AWAY OUR LEGAL ITEMS THAT CONTAIN LEGAL IVORY IF WE TRY TO SELL THEM.”
To which Stewart can only lament,
“This is why we can’t have nice things… like elephants.”
…before going to commercial and ending the segment, defeated.
But not finished. A few weeks later, on his 12/9/14 show, Stewart puts the plight of poaching elephants back in the spotlight, inviting Academy Award-winning Director Kathryn Bigelow on the show and screening her new PSA with WildAid, Last Days of Ivory:
Bigelow directed the 2010 Oscar-winning Best Motion Picture, The Hurt Locker. She and former Deputy National Security Advisor Juan Zarate explain to Stewart how terrorists have industrialized elephant poaching, how ivory sales fuel terrorist acts like the 2013 al-Shebab attack on the Westgate Mall in Nairobi, and that elephants may only have a decade left in the wild.
The Daily Show averages around 1.3 million viewers – hopefully some are in Tennessee, and will write their senator urging him to prioritize saving elephant – and human lives – over antique sales.
For highlighting this important issue with his powerful lens, we salute Jon Stewart and The Daily Show staff and producers!
“Fracking?! That sounds like scary Lisa language!” – Homer Simpson
In its 26th and final season, The Simpsons isn’t finished fighting yet. The show continues to push (and frequently mock) the boundaries of distributor Fox, addressing hot-button issues like natural gas extraction through hydraulic fracturing.
In S26Ep5, Homer must endure hosting his despised sisters-in-law, Patty and Selma, and installs smoke detectors all over the house to catch the chain smokers damaging the kids’ lungs. They seek refuge in the bathroom – turning on the sink for a cover – and when they light up – BOOM! The bathroom explodes, and Lisa starts digging into why their house’s water would catch on fire.
Lisa pulls out her tablet and flips through a list of depressing environmental documentaries she’s seen before settling on a “Simpsonsfied” version of Josh Fox’s Gasland.
Lisa finds out it’s none other than C. Montgomery Burns behind the fracking, and writes her favorite State Assemblywoman, Maxine Lumbard (voiced by Jane Fonda), who goes after “his exxxcccelency” Burns. In turn, Burns gives Homer a promotion and a flannel shirt to convince the community why they should sell their mineral rights so Burns can continue fracking under their neighborhood.
Throughout the episode, however, Marge is heavily hit by the scary thought of what fracking has done to her family’s water. Her refrain: “Our water was on fire.”
Ignoring the lure of money, the hype of creating jobs, and even the detailed explanations of Professor (HOIYVEN-KLAYVEN) Frink, Marge saves her family from a fracking-induced earthquake, and convinces Homer to heed the omen of flammable water:
The episode, “Opposites A-Frack” is a strong reminder that sometimes the clear signs of unnatural balance are hard to ignore – even if they must be shouted over an earthquake caused by blasting rock formations with water to squeeze out drops of profit. Fracking has dangerous and unknown consequences – even Homer Simpson gets it.
Watch the full episode on Hulu
In 2008 FFC worked with the American University in Washington DC to develop the Code of Best Practice in Sustainable Filmmaking. While there were already ‘green’ filmmaking guides available, few, maybe none, were developed through detailed research or submitted to peer review. Thanks to support from The Ford Foundation and WWF UK, authors Larry Engel and Andrew Buchanan, both FFC members, were able to research and write the Code and put it through the review process. The principles in the Code are the basis on which checklists and carbon trackers were developed to help filmmakers reduce their carbon emissions and their damage to the environment.