We reached out to our festival filmmakers to ask them questions about the experience of making their films.
What inspired this story?
Co-Director and Producer Susan Todd: Our micro-movie grew out of our experiences and observations in the woods around our backyard in Westchester, NY. We’ve lived in the same place for two decades, and we’ve spent a lot of time with our kids making gardens and exploring the ponds, wetlands, and forest. The spring migration of the spotted salamander and all the other miracles of nature became the subject matter that we wove into this story. As filmmakers, the need to reconnect to our environment is something we felt an urgency to communicate because it’s critical for children to get off their screens and get outside more. Our micro-movie is an introduction to a Giant Screen/IMAX film project and educational outreach called Backyard Wilderness.
Describe some of the challenges faced while making this film.
ST: Working in snow and freezing temperatures, filming at night, in the rain, 70 feet up in trees, and waist deep in vernal pools; these were some of the challenges of filming this movie. Perhaps the most challenging thing of all was working with the timing of animal births, like the hatching of the wood ducklings. We had to be very patient and calculate gestation periods.
How do you approach storytelling?
ST: We tend to work in two directions. With the animal sequences, we go after the natural behaviors we’ve researched that make for the most drama and important science and ecological impact. For the narrative arc of the story, we wrote a script that incorporates these sequences into the activities of the human family living in their midst.
What impact do you hope this film will have?
ST: We hope this film will help launch a campaign to get kids to put down their screens and get outside to appreciate the nature around them. There has been a huge increase in obesity, depression, diagnoses of ADHD, and there is clinical evidence that increased exposure to nature actually reduces these problems and helps people heal. We’ve been developing a multi-platform educational outreach and collaborating with other not for profits as a way of expanding our message.
Were there any surprising or meaningful experiences you want to share?
ST: The footage in this micro-movie spanned three years and during that time we observed that the Spring seasonal migration of the salamanders and the wood frog breeding came earlier each year. It gave us pause thinking about climate change and the impact our human presence was having on this ecosystem.
Anything else you would like people to know?
ST: The human family in the movie is actually our family and its our home. Andy and I play the parents in the film and we are very grateful to our kids (Walker, 17, and Clara, 12) for participating in this movie as actors, and having the patience to deal with camera crews in the kitchen!