Climate Action

Looks Can be Deceiving—The Truth Behind Wildlife Filmmaking

Chris Palmer, famous for his 30+ years of work in the wildlife film industry, will release his new book, Confessions of a Wildlife Filmmaker, later this month. This book is the second that Palmer has written that exposes what he calls ‘the dark side of wildlife filmmaking,’ the other being his book Shooting in the Wild. When Chris Palmer is not writing books, he also serves as the Distinguished Film Producer in Residence at American University in Washington, DC. Confessions of a Wildlife Filmmaker gives wildlife film viewers an insight into some of the choices that filmmakers and producers make in their films, which often sacrifices their truthfulness in order to keep their viewers engaged. Palmer owns up to making some of these sacrifices himself in order to get the shot the viewer wants to see, such as using captive animals in staged shots or baiting animals to the camera to get the ‘perfect shot.’ Most of the methods used by filmmakers nowadays are used as a means of enhancing film ratings through sensationalism despite the great consequences that some of these actions have on wildlife behavior post-shooting and conservation. Palmer raises the important question of why were wildlife films even created in the first place? Palmer calls on viewers to question the films they watch and the people or networks that produce them. He says networks should revisit their original mission in creating wildlife shows and films and to check and if their current presence in the industry matches that mission. Palmer wants viewers to use social media to engage with filmmakers and supporting networks by using the hashtags #FakeTV and #WildlifeFilmEthics. He believes that the first step to moving the industry back towards its initial motivation—raising awareness about conservation and animal welfare through an ethical lens—will have to be spurred by film viewers as maintaining their interest is the reason that the industry is moving further and further away from the truth. So, what will you do to make the wildlife film industry more accountable?   Victoria Miller, Intern