Filmmaker Q+A with Geoff Luck, SVP Creative & Production of Wild Elements Studios
Q: What inspired this story?
Geoff: When we first spoke to Sheila Funnell about highlighting her work at Grevy’s Zebra Trust, she immediately started telling us about the work of others: these were the women who compiled the data that saved the zebra’s breeding grounds; here were the ones who supported girls in the communities as they raised awareness of the animals’ plight; and these others were replanting the degraded grasslands that are so crucial for both the zebras and the livestock the communities rely on. It was never about her. So we sought a way to weave their stories together in a way that spoke to the central message Sheila emphasized in our conversations: that women were changing conservation in a way that can benefit us all.
Q: What impact do you hope this film/program will have?
Geoff: There has long been a notion in conservation that people can be the primary threat to the survival of wild animals—that to make wildlife safe, we must expel all human presence from wilderness areas, and keep the two apart. But that perspective overlooks the fact that people have been part of natural systems for millennia, and that those who live alongside wildlife have often found ways to live that allow both to thrive. With this film, we hope to help reframe the dialogue to show the power that community-led initiatives can have in fostering coexistence.
Q: Were there any surprising or meaningful moments/experiences you want to share?
Geoff: Throughout production, we were struck time and again by the impact the women we were filming were having in their communities—and how their work was in turn changing their status there. Sentiwan’s story, told in brief in the film, was one of many. After starting her work sewing sanitary pads, where she sometimes met foreigners (and film crews), she became known as “one who sees far”: an individual who brings valuable perspective to the village. When COVID struck, she not only became a conduit for reliable information, but a source of protection when she and the other women in the group began sewing facemasks in addition to pads. When we were there, they had made and distributed over 3000 masks throughout the region.