We reached out to our festival filmmakers to ask them five questions about the experience of making their films.
What inspired this story?
Director and Producer Eric Sean Liner: Neil Rettig and Laura Johnson were the catalysts for pursuing this story their willingness to put so much on the line for eagle conservation really inspired us. Our second inspiration came from the staff of the Philippine Eagle Foundation – witnessing their relentless day in, day out commitment carried us through the multi-year production.
Describe some of the challenges faced while making this film.
ESL: The greatest challenges we faced had to do with the natural history shooting–specifically finding and filming a family of wild Philippine Eagles. The fact that there are so few birds remaining in the wild meant we didn't have many locations to choose from; because the eagles lay only one egg every two years, finding a viable nest during our production window was a low odds endeavor; and because we were dealing with a critically endangered and highly sensitive species, Neil and his team had to take incredible pains not to disturb the nest and risk harming the chick. It made for some very tense moments over the course of production.
What impact do you hope this film will have?
ESL: Our goal is to ultimately shift the way people in the Philippines relate to the eagle and we’re working with in-country organizations to produce an array of media to help make that happen. With so much of the Philippine forest destroyed during the mid to late 20th century, human persecution now ranks as the greatest threat to the species. While we may not be able to bring the forests back quickly, stopping the unnecessary shooting and trapping of eagles is an area where we believe we could have an immediate positive impact.
Were there any surprising or meaningful experiences you want to share?
ESL: We waited for over two-years to film the successful hatch of a captive Philippine eagle chick. Raising Philippine eagles in captivity is a difficult process and it was really emotional to experience that moment with the staff of the Philippine Eagle Foundation. Everyone was holding his or her breath, hoping nothing would go wrong.
Anything else you would like people to know?
ESL: Bird of Prey is just one part of a broad media initiative to help contribute to Philippine eagle conservation and provide conservation groups with the communications tools they need to be more effective.