Q: What inspired this story?
Executive Producer Jared Lipworth got word that Gorongosa National Park in Mozambique was planning on reintroducing a top predator - African Wild Dogs - back to its ecosystem. He realized that this would be a rare opportunity to tell the story of the key role predators play in the natural world and set about putting the team together that could help make the most of it.
Q: Describe some of the challenges faced while making this film/program?
The main production challenge was in capturing the African Wild Dogs in their natural element. They move constantly, they move swiftly, and these packs in particular moved unpredictably since they were just exploring their new home - a diverse African landscape the size of the state of Rhode Island. The biggest story-telling challenge was to integrate the larger scientific investigations within the very specific narrative of these particular African Wild Dogs. In order for us to tell our true story, the "landscape of fear" scientific theory needed explaining and contextualizing, the park's history needed to be laid out, and the various human characters needed to be introduced and profiled all the while not losing the momentum of the narrative.
Q: What did you learn from your experience making this film/program?
I learned that African Wild Dogs – otherwise known as Painted Wolves or Painted Dogs – are an incredibly charismatic and tragically endangered species. Like many predators, they have been targeted for extermination in the past. Fortunately, there are some heroic efforts underway to reintroduce them to appropriate areas, including Gorongosa. In making this film I also came to a deeper appreciation for the role of predators in wild ecosystems and their importance in establishing and maintaining a healthy balance between the various species.
Q: How do you approach storytelling?
I approach storytelling as a journey. I was an English major in college, but I firmly believe that the truth is always more interesting and useful than anything you could make up. With each project I am learning something new, meeting new people, exploring a new part of the world. For me, the most successful projects are the ones that somehow take the viewer on the same journey I have gone through and allow them to share in the discovery, excitement, and surprise I have experienced along the way.
Q: What impact do you hope this film/program will have?
I hope people who see Nature’s Fear Factor will have a greater appreciation for nearly everything in the film – the role of predators in general and African Wild Dogs in particular; the importance of national parks like Gorongosa; and the dedication and intelligence of the scientists and conservationists who devote their lives to wild places and the animals who depend upon them. I also hope viewers will come away with a sense of hope, that rewilding can succeed and that Nature can rebound if given the chance.