AARON'S BLOG: Wild Talk Africa
Not many people have lived deep in the Alaskan Wilderness with grizzly bears, penetrated the underwater lairs of the Nile crocodile, or dived 65m into the depths of our oceans on a single breath. Wild Talk Africa is the place that these extraordinary souls come together.
Wild Talk Africa is one of the world’s leading wildlife film festivals and takes place biennially in South Africa. It offers a forum for networking, debating and negotiating with commissioning editors, distributors and producers. The last Festival, held in 2009, attracted 350 delegates from 22 countries. This year the event was held from March 28-March 31, at picturesque Spiers - the ideal backdrop to hear tales of man’s remarkable relationship with nature.
Day one commenced with an open discussion with the leading players in the world of wildlife filmmaking. Cameraman and presenter Richard Terry amused the crowd with his stories of encounters with wild Alaskan wild bears during his filming of Stranger Amongst Bears; Roger Horrocks relayed the sheer terror of following gigantic crocodiles deep into their underwater tunnels in Into the Dragon’s Lair; and Hanli Prinsloo spoke eloquently about free diving with vast shivers of sharks.
Filmmakers and aspiring filmmakers converge here from all corners of the globe, hoping to turn their dreams into tangible products. Pitching sessions throughout the festival allowed these hopefuls the opportunity to showcase their work in front of commissioning editors from the major wildlife television networks.
I was at Wild Talk to pitch our new film on the shark finning industry, Shiver, which you will have read about in my blog. Every year 100 million sharks are butchered for their fins. At this rate, our oceans will be empty of sharks within 10-20 years. Our plan is to get deeper into this brutal trade than any film crew has ever gone in a bid to cease the demand for shark fins from South East Asia.
Other pitches focused on wild dogs of the Transkei, a sanctuary for rescued lions, the adventures of two crazy pilots, and rhino poaching. The session was held in front of an esteemed panel of judges that included Andrew Jackson from the BBC, Michael Mavretic from National Geographic and Vyv Simpson from NHU Africa.
Nerves in the room were frayed; five minutes to summarise years of hard work seemed an impossible task. Thankfully it went as well as we could have hoped, with our pitch receiving unanimous support from the judges. Since then, major distributors have shown interest in funding Shiver. Fingers crossed we will commence shooting very soon.
Along with nerve-wracking pitching sessions, delegates attended workshops on everything wildlife - from scriptwriting and storytelling, through to camera work and marketing. The latest filming technology was showcased, with a lot of hype surrounding 3D cinema and television. The crowd even got to meet a tame cheetah during one of the evening functions and eat their way through lavish banquets.
With the networking over, the industry had the rare chance to scrub up and let their hair down for the prestigious ROSCAR’s awards ceremony, the wildlife equivalent of the Oscars. It is our hope, our dream that the next ROSCAR’s will feature a certain film on shark finning. And then it will be us up on stage, smiling proudly as we cradle an award.
To see the pitch for Shiver, please visit www.aarongekoski.com.