After 25 years as a one-week-per-year event, the Missoula, U.S.-based International Wildlife Film Festival is launching a year-round initiative: the International Wildlife Media Center. The festival, which this year ran from April 20 to 27, will still happen annually, but the IWMC will fill the void during the other 51 weeks of the year, offering seminars, workshops, field classes, film tours and hands-on activities.
Says IWFF executive director Janet Rose, ‘We’ll make better use of our large film library and reach a broader audience. We’ll be working closely with schools, youth and civic groups to serve this region and the country.’ Part of the IWMC initiative includes a drive to purchase and retool a historic theater in Missoula to serve as a permanent home base – a US$400,000 undertaking.
The expansion attests to the IWFF’s ongoing popularity. A record 240 delegates participated in this year’s festival, where conservation in films and tv programs was a hot topic. Speaking on conservation, Tanya Hebert, president of the Wildlife Awareness Foundation, said, ‘If we don’t act now, what will be left for us to film 20 years from now? We need to make a difference with our films.’ Perhaps to add incentive, the Filmmakers for Conservation organization proposed a new award for notable conservation work by a filmmaker.
At the festival’s film awards, the BBC was the biggest winner with multiple first places and merit awards for Wild Africa and The Blue Planet. Newcomers also came away with awards, including Patricia Ortiz, who was recognized for the scientific content of her doc Mimicry, Sleep and Sex Life of the Micropezid Fly, and Dan Breton, who was a finalist for two conservation awards for Fish Out of Water, a largely self-financed film.
Jim Murray, IWFF co-founder and executive producer of The Nature of Things for Canadian pubcaster CBC, said newcomers like Ortiz and Breton made it worth the struggle to start and maintain the wildlife festival. ‘We wanted to encourage filmmakers to keep battling to bring nature into people’s homes and recognize their work, as well as provide a place to meet colleagues, share ideas and swap stories.’