Our Mexico production crew - from left to right - Joe Shull, Brenda Razo, and Matthew Podolsky.

Our Mexico production crew – from left to right – Joe Shull, Brenda Razo, and Matthew Podolsky.

Episode Summary:

Today on the podcast we have the fourth installment of our ongoing series, From Field Biologist to Filmmaker, in which I share personal stories about lessons that I’ve learned through the process of transitioning from working as a field biologist to a full-time filmmaker. The focus of this fourth edition of the series will be how to plan for and execute a successful documentary shoot outside of the US.

This seemed like a natural topic of discussion, considering I just returned from a three week long shoot for our feature length film Souls of the Vermilion Sea in San Felipe, Mexico. This was my first documentary shoot in Mexico, and the first major documentary project I’ve worked on outside the US (Although I did shoot some footage for our Vultures of East Africa series in Kenya back in 2010).

This shoot was a learning experience for me on multiple levels. First of all, I learned a tremendous amount about the issue that is the central focus of our film – current efforts to save the vaquita from extinction. Although I’d been involved on some level with Souls of the Vermilion Sea for more than six months before traveling to Mexico, it can be difficult to understand the true nature of a conservation issue without being at ground zero. I discovered that this is especially true with this issue – I was overwhelmed by the layers of complexity that we uncovered on this particular trip!

I also learned a lot about the logistical challenges of working outside of the US on this shoot. We encountered issues with Mexican immigration that led to a serious disruption of our production schedule, and also struggled with communication issues throughout the shoot. That said, we did a lot of things right, and were ready and able to adapt to our constantly changing situation. It is this ability to make adjustments on the fly, paired with our decision to partner with a talented filmmaker from Mexico that made this a successful shoot.

This image was taken from the SphereCam - an underwater camera trap created by PhD student Antonella Wilby and designed to capture video footage of the vaquita! The device captured this single frame of our crew just before being dropped into the Gulf of California!  From left to right - Brenda Razo, Matthew Podolsky, Joe Shull.

This image was taken from the SphereCam – an underwater camera trap created by PhD student Antonella Wilby and designed to capture video footage of the vaquita! The device captured this single frame of our crew just before being dropped into the Gulf of California! From left to right – Brenda Razo, Matthew Podolsky, Joe Shull.

 

Links:

From Field Biologist to Filmmaker – listen to all the episodes in the series!

Souls of the Vermilion Sea website

Our Vaquita blog – read more about our recent shoot in San Felipe, Mexico!

 

Listen to the podcast episode here:






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