We reached out to our World Wildlife Day Film Showcase filmmakers to ask them five questions about the experience of making their films.
Were there any surprising or meaningful experiences you want to share?
Director, Co-Producer and Writer Alex Burr: Perhaps the biggest take-away from the process of making this film was just how much people are intertwined with this place, for better or worse. Indigenous people harvested their food off the land while using fire to shape the landscape for thousands of years before Europeans arrived. These new settlers eventually converted much of this place to cropland, disrupting the natural systems beyond recognition. And now, anywhere where this is room for optimism for the future of the grasslands as a wild place, people are there. Whether it is ranching families adjusting their practices to make life better for sage grouse, biologists reintroducing extirpated swift foxes, or volunteer groups removing modifying barbed wire fences to allow pronghorn antelope safe passage, human intervention is of particular importance to the success of grassland conservation. People have been at the centre of this place’s ills, sure. But people will also be at the centre of fixing them.
What impact do you hope this film will have?
AB: The North American grasslands are the most endangered, least protected ecosystem on the continent and yet, are often overlooked as a wild place worth saving. Most people think of the prairies as fly-over places - nothing but farmland and wheat-fields. But beyond the continent’s cropland, there is still enough wildness left in the prairies to inspire awe, and some optimism. Our hope is that by showcasing the efforts of people working to save the wild prairie, and highlighting some incredible and unexpected wildlife stories, we may in our own way, help to protect what’s left of this amazing place.
What drove you as a filmmaker to focus on biodiversity?
AB: I believe that the best way to appreciate something as a whole is by gaining an understanding of its individual components. The film aims to shine a light on the biodiversity that exists at every scale on the North American grasslands - from pollinator moths to grizzly bears and everything in between. It is an ecosystem that has been irrevocably altered, with huge losses in biodiversity. From the removal of bison to the loss of grizzly bears and wolves to ongoing declines in species across the board, this is a system where the importance of each component is urgent and in clear view (without any trees or mountains obscuring the view!).