The International Wildlife Film Festival once again drew members of the natural history industry to Missoula, U.S. For the 26th edition, however, the event boasted shiny new headquarters at the Roxy Theater.
From April 19 to 25, about 250 delegates debated the state and future of wildlife filmmaking. Panelists concurred that the heyday of the ’90s is over. ‘We have quite a bit of wildlife in inventory and not as many slots,’ said Maureen Lemire, exec producer at Discovery Channels. Some felt international affairs contributed at least in part to the downturn, but Mark Johnson, executive director of the Montana World Affairs Council and a former U.S. ambassador to the Republic of Senegal, challenged filmmakers to pursue war-related wildlife stories. ‘We never saw what happened to the oil-soaked birds and shrimp in Kuwait after Desert Storm, or to wildlife in Iraq or Afghanistan… Wars have a huge impact on the environment and those stories must be told,’ he said.
Despite a soft marketplace, projects presented at the pitch session managed to pique the interest of commissioning editors from the BBC, PBS, Discovery and National Geographic TV, to name a few. Newcomer Isaac Babcock’s film about wolves in Idaho was particularly well received. Said Kathryn Pastemak, supervising producer at Nat Geo TV, ‘We’ve done several wolf stories, but his is different and well conceived. We’ll continue talking to him.’
The IWFF also attracted wildlife fans to the Wilma Theater, where the festival’s films screened. BBC programs harvested a number of awards: Iguanas: Living Like Dinosaurs won best of the festival and best photography, and Cats Under the Serengeti Stars took best script and best sound design.
Indies also made a showing. Larry Zetlin of Gulliver Media in Paddington, Australia, took best independent and best music for Bilby Brothers: The Men Who Killed the Easter Bunny; Bristol, U.K.-based John Downer Productions won best TV series and best animal behavior for Weird Nature; and A Wild Dog’s Story garnered Tania Jenkins and Mike Holding of Afriscreen Films in Rivonia, South Africa, the award for top newcomer.