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.

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