Janet Rose, the executive director of the 28th annual International Wildlife Film Festival, is a former investigative TV reporter and filmmaker. For years, she has watched filmmakers and community-based activists trying to promote conservation through their various trades with modest results. But with the advent of affordable new technology such as high-quality digital film cameras and Internet communications, she believes the goal has become more achievable.
“Major debates and discussions have always been about how can wildlife films have an effect on conservation,” Rose says. “It’s time for us to be more proactive.”
As the leader of the world’s longest-running wildlife film festival, Rose and the IWFF board discovered a window of opportunity. Through collaboration with the PBS television series “Nature,” this year’s festival will include an all-day media retreat west of Missoula where filmmakers, conservationists and government policy makers will discuss new ideas about the use of media as a tool for instigating audience action.
“This is a really important and terrific step for this festival to take a stand on,” says Mark Shelley, executive director of Sea Studios Foundation and a participant in the retreat. “Only recently have [wildlife film] festivals taken a stand for conservation and the environment in a serious way. As a filmmaking community we’re beginning to understand what we can do.”
The Tarkio Retreat, which takes place Wednesday, May 4, is essentially a one-day conference aimed at forging partnerships between an impressive roster of participants: National Geographic Television & Film, The Wildlife Conservation Society, Sea Studios, Discovery Channel, Ford Motor Company, United Nations Media & News Division, Sony, ABC Television News, the Justice Department and many others. The general public is also invited. The idea is to let festival participants network and brainstorm in a beautiful setting, far removed from the sterility of conference rooms.
According to Rose, utilizing the latest media outlets is a new challenge for this audience. “There hasn’t been a mechanism for audiences to take action in the past,” she explains. “Proactive programming”—documentaries with specific calls to action—is a recent development in wildlife films, and so is grassroots electronic communication (think of the recent advent of weblogs, political action sites like MoveOn.org and community organization tools like Meetup.com). Combining the two new elements opens up fresh possibilities for reaching out to sympathetic and energetic conservation audiences, which explains the impetus for a retreat such as Tarkio.
“We hope the retreat will help people think about using media as a primary tool to bring about more effective conservation efforts,” Rose says.
Sea Studios Foundation, based in Monterey, Calif., is in the process of using media to build a community it hopes can help solve the problems of invasive species, loss of predators and water pollution. The production company premiered “Strange Days On Planet Earth,” a documentary hosted by Edward Norton, on PBS April 20 and 27, and Shelley says the website and message boards associated with the broadcast can instigate community involvement that will ultimately benefit the environment.
“There are lots of ways people can get involved with these issues,” he says.
Shelley will also be a presenter at the Tarkio retreat, and is co-hosting a workshop on broadcast and media campaigns designed to drive audiences to action. His presentation will provide an overview of Sea Studios’ innovative efforts to fuse wildlife filmmaking and audience conservation efforts. The workshop, co-hosted with Habitat Media, will offer participants a working model for using broadcast media to get audiences off the couch and into action for the environment.
In addition to the Sea Studios and Habitat Media workshop, Tarkio participants will offer blueprints for effective regional campaigns using media, building successful community partnerships and creating successful conservation and media ventures. Dr. Shane Mahoney, a well-known research biologist and writer, will deliver the keynote address, “A Blueprint for Wildlife & Habitat Preservation.”
Shelley believes the retreat will produce some new ideas and expose participants to techniques and frameworks that have worked for other groups. “Things people haven’t done yet, but have been thinking about,” he says.
One of the most unusual aspects of the conference is the co-participation of government agencies and conservation activists. IWFF’s board members used their contacts to attract presenters and participants such as Robert Andersen, a federal prosecutor of wildlife crimes with the Justice Department. Rose points out that all participants work in the arena of protecting wildlife habitat, and once contacted they welcomed the opportunity to teach or learn about using media as an effective tool for conservation.
“We’re trying to carve out a special niche for this,” Rose says.
Janet Hess, the series editor for “Nature” and an IWFF board member says, “I’d love to see the event grow. I hope it gives everybody new ideas and will foster new, creative partnerships.”
The International Wildlife Film Festival begins Saturday, April 30, and the Tarkio Retreat will be held Wednesday, May 4. A full film schedule appears on this page and more information can be found at www.wildlifefilms.org.
IWFF Screening Schedule
All shows at the Wilma Theatre.
Saturday, April 30
2:30 PM The National Bison Range: Keeping our Bison Heritage Alive; Ride of the Mergansers; Massive Nature: The Deep; Echo of the Elephants: The Final Chapter?
5:00 PM The Eagle Odyssey; Wolf: An Ancient Spirit Returns
7:30 PM Mosaic of Diversity; Fishing on the Edge; Capuchins: The Monkey Puzzle; Strange Days on Planet Earth: The One Degree Factor
Sunday, May 1
2:30 PM Life in Peril: Montana’s Amphibians & Reptiles; Losing Tomorrow; Satoyama: Japan’s Secret Watergarden
5:00 PM Living with Giants; Monkey War and Peace
7:30 PM Farming the Seas; Mississippi: Tales of the Last River Rat
Monday, May 2
12:30 PM Wolves of Yellowstone; Life in Peril: Montana’s Amphibians & Reptiles; Tarantula: Australia’s King of Spiders
3:30 PM Mosaic of Diversity; Exotic Pets; Ants – Nature’s Secret Power
5:30 PM Remembered Earth; Fishing on the Edge; Mutant Bees
7:30 PM Oil on Ice; Whale Mission: The Last Giants
Tuesday, May 3
12:30 PM From Orphan to King; Reef Special; Tails of Mystery: Feathered Fury; Mosaic of Diversity; Tails of Mystery: A Refuge on the Rise
3:30 PM Massive Nature: The Exodus; Animal Medicine
5:30 PM Capuchins: The Monkey Puzzle; Strange Days on Planet Earth: Invaders
7:30 PM Pill Bugs: Ecosystems Sustain Forests; Jane Goodall’s State of the Great Ape
Wednesday, May 4
12:30 PM Heart of a Lioness; Ants – Nature’s Secret Power
3:30 PM Restoring America’s Serengeti; Massive Nature: The Deep; The Dinosaur Feather Mystery
5:30 PM Remembered Earth; The Good, the Bad, and the Grizzly
7:30 PM Strange Days on Planet Earth: Troubled Waters; A Boy Among Polar Bears
Thursday, May 5
12:30 PM Kratt Brothers: Expedition Bats; Tails of Mystery: Wildlife Whodunit; Wolf: An Ancient Spirit Returns
3:30 PM They Almost Got Away; Tarantula: Australia’s King of Spiders
5:30 PM Mosaic of Diversity; The Eagle Odyssey
7:30 PM Bat Women of Panama; Echo of the Elephants: The Final Chapter?
Friday, May 6
9:30 AM Kratt Brothers: Expedition Orangutan; A Moose Named Madeline; Talons and Tales: Rappers of the Rockies
12:30 PM Mosquito Man: Swamp Angels; Antarctica Revealed; The Good, the Bad, and the Grizzly
5:30 PM Losing Tomorrow; Exotic Pets; Giants of the Arctic
7:30 PM Restoring America’s Serengeti; Monkey War and Peace; Exotic Pets; Ants–Nature’s Secret Power
Saturday, May 7
2:30 PM Spider Sex; Fishing on the Edge; Last Stand of the Great Bear Rainforest; Capuchins: The Monkey Puzzle; Oil on Ice
5:00 PM Capuchins: The Monkey Puzzle; Oil on Ice
7:30 PM Farming the Seas; Satoyama: Japan’s Secret Watergarden