Q: What inspired this story?
This story is a passion project for us. We had never seen a beaver before we moved to Austria and so we wanted to find out more about these hard-working animals and what secrets they might have, living in the city of Vienna. After months of trying to find the best filming location, we realised one day that there was a family of beavers right below our feet, living under the very steps we were standing on. Once we had discovered this family we followed them on their early morning, evening and night time adventures and created Beavers About Town.
Q: Describe some of the challenges faced while making this film/program.
We both worked on this film around our jobs, with only a minimal budget. This meant we had to get creative with the gear we had. We converted our Canon 5D MKIII into an infrared camera, after following a tutorial online. We had to tie down our GoPro with branches and stones to get the underwater footage of the beavers. We then had beavers stealing and moving our underwater GoPro, which meant unplanned dives in the Danube in order to retrieve our gear - the water was about 10 degrees celsius at the time! When we started creating the film we faced covid curfews at the hours beavers were most active, majorly restricting our filming. And in order to get to the beavers we had to travel for an hour on public transport. But as these beavers are active so early in the morning in the summer (before the trains are running), this meant a 13km bike ride through Vienna, at 3am with our gear on our backs. And then cycling back 13km at 8am, ready to start work for the day.
Q: What is your favorite shot and why?
When we filmed the beavers on their “summer picnic”. A beaver swims up to a tree in the water and reaches up with its hands to strip bark from the tree and eats it. The light was perfect that evening and the reflections were incredible. It was also the closest a beaver had physically come to us whilst filming, and was the beginning of the film becoming a reality for us.
Q: Did the film team use any unusual techniques or unique imaging technology?
We wanted to film the beavers living under the stairs without them even knowing we were there. As mentioned, we converted one of our cameras to see infrared light, which is not a visible light for beavers. We found a gap in the steps just big enough to fit our camera and an IR light in, which we placed inside while the beavers were out feeding. Then as they came back one by one we filmed them grooming, eating and falling asleep without them even knowing we were there. We also used the IR camera to film the beaver inside the boat. For this we had to tape the camera and lights to a branch that the beavers had stripped the bark from, and hold it as steady as we could while the beavers swam into the boat and cleaned themselves.
Q: What impact do you hope this film/program will have?
We hope this film is an inspiration for how wildlife can thrive alongside us in our urban environments; and shows that the beaver is a living example that we can still bring animals back from the brink of extinction. And for the continued beaver controversy out there - we hope that it proves the beautiful, resourceful, loving and peaceful animals that beavers are.