Éamon de Buitléar

Éamon de Buitléar


ÉAMON de BUITLÉAR is Irelands best known independent wildlife filmmaker. He has dedicated his life to influencing public opinion and government policy on environmental issues, through his films books and engagement with the public.

Éamon de Buitléar has been making independent wildlife films since the early nineteen sixties. He began by writing and presenting radio programmes on traditional Irish music prior to the arrival of television in Ireland. His Amuigh Faoin Spéir series (Out Under the Sky) which he co-produced and originated with Dutch artist Gerrit Van Gelderen, was Irelands very first wildlife series. It was the very first time that Irish wildlife was beamed into Irish households and the effect was quite dramatic The programmes had a major influence on the Irish publics attitude to the environment. Later programmes included; The Natural World and The Living Isles ( BBC) and TV series such as Exploring the Landscape, Irelands Wild Countryside, A Life in the Wild ( RTE). Wild Islands) RTE, STV and S4C) Nature Watch (ITV), Éiníní and Ainimhithe na hÉireann (TG4).

He is the author of several books, including schoolbooks on Ireland’s natural history both in English and in Irish. A recent memoir Irelands Wild Countryside published by Gill & McMillan, coincided with the TV series of the same title.

In 1991 Éamon de Buitléar was awarded an Honorary Degree in Science (DSc.) by the National University of Ireland and in 1992 he was granted the UCD (University College Dublin) Lifetime Environmental Achievement Award – ?In recognition of a lifetime devoted to the achievement of the conservation and wise use of Irelands environmental endowment’.

His current projects include: ?Lost at Sea’ A documentary feature film on the Atlantic Salmon (www.atlanticsalmonlostatsea.net). He is also involved in a Government supported initiative replicating and reinstating Irelands natural wetland ecosystems that had largely been lost through land drainage.

These wetland systems are vitally important towards improving overall water management and associated biodiversity in Ireland. There is little doubt that Éamon’s de Buitléar’s success in influencing the Irish Government to adopt a conservation policy in respect of wetlands, is the result of his being so prominent in natural history filmmaking.


Website: http://www.eamondebuitlear.com

By Jason Peters

Richard Brock


Richard Brock studied zoology and botany at Cambridge University and upon graduation Richard Brockjoined the BBC Natural History Unit in Bristol. He worked in the BBC NHU for 35 years producing, among others, the highly successful Life on Earth and Living Planet series, collaborating with David Attenborough and gaining international recognition as an accomplished producer. Concerned by the Corporation’s lack of willingness to address the real current state of the environment however, he left the BBC and started his own independent production company, Living Planet Productions.

“These days it’s simply not good enough to use the old response, ‘If people know about it they’ll care for it and do something.’ Wrong. They’ll just go on being conned that it’s all perfect out there, with endless jungles, immaculate Masai Mara’s, and untouched oceans. What planet are they on about?”

Living Planet Productions has made over 100 films on a wide range of environmental topics, shown all over the world. As his archive of films and footage mounted up, Richard felt that there was something more, better, that could be done with this resource.

“When you consider the miles of footage and thousands of programs sitting in vaults out there unused, it seems tragic that the very wonders they celebrate are dwindling, often because no one tells the locals and tries to help. That is why I believe its Payback Time for the wildlife television.”

Determined to make a difference, he decided to set up the Brock Initiative, to use his archive of footage, and to ask others to do the same, to create new programs, not made for a general TV audience, but made for those who are really connected to the situation in hand: local communities, decision makers, even that one fisherman who uses dynamite fishing over that one coral reef. Its about reaching those who have a direct impact; reaching those who can make the difference.

“Showing the truth on some minority channel is not the answer. Showing it where it counts, is. It does not have to be expensive either. In fact it can be very cheap. These are not programs for broadcast to western audiences demanding BIG productions – you are often showing films to people who have never even seen TV. The effort comes in showing the right thing, to the right people, in the right way, and not about expensive effects, top quality cameras or cutting edge effects. Using donated archive footage cuts costs dramatically. New footage, important for putting a film in a local context, can be taken on small miniDV cameras and editing can be done on any home computer. In this way, it becomes feasible to put together a film even for a very small, but crucial audience.”

The Brock Initiative has successfully completed numerous projects in different countries. Aside from making a real difference in these areas the Brock Initiative hopes to encourage and assist others, both film-makers and those who can use film in their work, to do the same. It invites others to follow suit, to learn from our mistakes and success, to donate footage to us, to ask for footage from us; getting it to those who will really benefit from it. Using footage for a production for one village in Tanzania is not going to affect the commercial use of that footage, and can only improve people’s image, in a world increasingly aware about global responsibility.

“The very business that made such a success of the subject, surely, should now put something (I suggest a lot) back. It can’t afford not to, and they can afford to do it. And it would improve certain people’s image.”

Film is a powerful medium. In the right place and in the right way, film can be positive and effective conservation tool, instigating real change. This is something anyone can do, and many people should be doing. It doesn’t cost the world, but will go a long way to saving it.

“Not only must wildlife TV catch up, be realistic, it must also put a lot back with the very skills and footage that earned its success in the first place.”

Richard is a tireless conservation film maker who is making a real and tangible difference to the many causes he cares about whilst encouraging others to do the same. His passion for taking media where it will have the most impact is exemplary.

Other Achievements:

FFC Filmmaker of the Year – 2006


Richard Brock
Executive Producer
Living Planet Productions
Dumpers Cottage, Chew Magna, Bristol BS40 8SS, UK
Telephone: +44(0)1275 333187
Email: livingplanetproductions@googlemail.com

By Jason Peters

On Coal River


Coal River Valley, West Virginia is a community surrounded by lush mountains and a looming toxic threat. ON COAL RIVER follows a former miner and his neighbors in a David-and-Goliath struggle for the future of their valley, their children, and life as they know it.

Ed Wiley once worked at the same coal waste facility that now threatens his
granddaughter’s elementary school. When his local government refuses to act, Ed embarks on a quest to have the school relocated to safer ground. With insider knowledge and a sharp sense of right and wrong, Ed confronts his local school board, the state government, and a notorious coal company – Massey Energy – for putting his granddaughter and his community at risk.

Along the way, Ed is supported by his neighbors Bo and Judy, who are locked in their own battle with Massey Energy over their practice of “mountaintop removal” – blowing up mountains to extract coal. Together, Bo and Judy help Ed bring attention to the dangers at Marsh Fork Elementary, hoping that if they save the school, they can save the valley.

Positive results:

ON COAL RIVER is proud to have contributed to greater public awareness and policy maker scrutiny on the issues of mountaintop removal and coal slurry injection. The film screened in the US Capitol June 24 2010, sponsored by two members of Congress. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) personnel with authority over mountaintop removal were in the audience and said afterwards they were quite impacted by the film. One mining regulator commented that the film “hit him in the gut.”

ON COAL RIVER elicited public statements about mountaintop removal from celebrities Josh Lucas, Gloria Reuben, Woody Harrelson, and Hugh Jackman. Gloria Reuben personally gave her copy of ON COAL RIVER to Lisa Jackson, head of the US EPA. Shortly after our AFI/Discovery Channel – SILVERDOCS premiere, we helped facilitate an ongoing collaboration between Coal River Valley schools and the prestigious Sidwell School of Washington, DC, where President Obama’s daughters attend school.

In addition to the film, many non-profit organizations and individual activists have done a tremendous amount of work on the issue in the last few years. Although mountaintop removal has not yet been outlawed, the EPA is regulating the practice more closely, and a West Virginia state ban on the practice of underground slurry injection will soon be up for a vote.


Directors: Adams Wood and Francine Cavanaugh, Downriver Media
775 Haywood Road, Suite F, Asheville, NC 28806 USA
P: 1 (828) 230-7315,
E: info@oncoalriver.com

By Jason Peters

Dear Mr. President

Title: Dear Mr. President

In 2005, the Great Apes Film Initiative (GAFI) took Patrick Rouxel’s film “Losing Tomorrow” on road shows throughout SE Asia to create awareness of deforestation, palm oil plantations and support local solutions. One local community was so strongly affected by the content of a GAFI film on deforestation and the economic effect on the local communities, that they requested GAFI’s assistance to create their own film (entitled “Dear Mr. President”) to present their conservation concerns directly to their President.

Languages: Bahasa, English & French
Length: 10 mins

Positive results:

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono of Indonesia received the film and in response constructed a Conservation Strategy for Forestry and Orang-utans at the Climate Change Conference in Bali.

“Presidents Susilos’ response eventually was to use the beginning of the film at his presentation to the Bali Climate Change Conference where he announced his
governments strategy for the protection of forests and the orang-utans in Indonesia. It went down very well apparently.” –  Madelaine Westwood, Great Apes Film Initiative President


Producer: Professor Vernon Reynolds

Director of GAFI: Madelaine Westwood
2 Westfield Cottages, Westfield, Medmenham, Marlow, Bucks SL7 2HQ
Tel: 01491 575 017
Fax: 01491 579 335
Mobile: 07770 577 549
Email: info@gafi4apes.org

By Jason Peters

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.