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Everyone who makes films has to be an athlete to a certain degree because cinema does not come from abstract academic thinking; it comes from your knees and thighs” – film-maker and documentarian Werner Herzog.

On Tuesday, September 6, three powerful new films chronicling EIA’s recent undercover investigations into timber smuggling, the ivory trade and whaling will make their world debut in the USA on Nat Geo Wild.

Paul Redman and Clare Perry filming in a Japanese fish market (c) EIA

Broadcast under the collective banner of Crimes Against Nature, Blood Ivory depicts the brutal horror of elephant poaching in Kenya and black market trade in the marketplaces of Hong Kong and China; Making a Killing exposes Iceland’s hunting of endangered fin whales to package and sell for consumption in Japan; and Chainsaw Massacre uncovers the Vietnamese army’s involvement in the widespread smuggling of timber from neighbouring Laos.

Each film follows seasoned EIA investigators in the field as they methodically piece together the clues of wildlife and forest crime and follow evidence trails leading to corrupt officialdom, organised criminal syndicates and grasping businessmen. Along the way, viewers will share the setbacks and successes in films rich with imagery both startling and haunting.

What they won’t see, and possibly won’t suspect, is the long year of preparations and often physically and emotionally demanding work behind the scenes to get three one-hour films in the can.

The project effectively began in 2009, following EIA’s tiger team in China and Nepal for a pilot film eventually broadcast early last year on Nat Geo Wild as Eco Crime Investigators – Inside the Tiger Trade.

The broadcast, first in the USA and subsequently worldwide (and it’s still in heavy rotation), was such a success that further programmes were commissioned.

On location in Kenya with Mary Rice and Dave Currey (c) EIA

Initial meetings with the London-based production company hired by Nat Geo to make the films focused on the likely scope of the three investigations, the probable shooting times and budget requirements for each, and a loose schedule around which investigators would have to fit all their usual campaign work and commitments.

It was in October 2010, when filming was concluded in Iceland and underway in Vietnam, that I was brought onboard as Project Co-ordinator; you could draw up a job description for the role which might run to several sides of A4, or you could just as accurately say my primary function was to help ease the process along as required.

Both EIA and the production company shared the same goal – to make the best programmes possible; naturally, both came at it with different considerations to the fore. The nature of conducting investigations in the field is that you never know what’s going to turn up and where it might lead; the nature of film-making is that you have to satisfy those commissioning the venture that they’re going to end up with a solid narrative arc and a substantial conclusion, preferably before shooting begins.

From the word ‘go’, EIA was adamant that its investigators would not serve as props, nor would they be mouthpieces for scripted lines which might in any way reflect poorly or inaccurately on the organisation, its methodology or its invaluable work. At the same time, we accepted that the film-makers needed to distil often-complex issues in a way that was accurate and wouldn’t leave viewers scratching their collective brows and reaching for the remote control. Looking at the finished products (and I believe I must have done so a score of times for each!), I think it’s fair to say this was achieved remarkably well.

In the field was where problems could most easily arise as directors fretted that they wouldn’t get the key shots they needed within the timeframe allowed, or when they were debriefing an investigator following an emotionally exhausting undercover filming session and needed the same kind of projected energy on take seven as was given the first time around. But our investigators are nothing if not troopers – and on many occasions during this project they were fixers and guides too – and the passion they have for their various campaigns all but radiates from the screen.

Julian Newman interviewed during filming in Laos (c) EIA

When location filming concluded by late March, it remained to fine-tune the narratives, film interviews with the key campaigners and nail down the voice-over and visual inserts such as animated maps..

With security the key consideration for EIA, this was also the time for me to go through each film with a fine toothcomb and ensure that the identity of our undercover Chinese investigator was protected at all times; you’d be amazed at how often somebody’s features can be fleetingly reflected in background mirrors and table tops.

All that remains now is for you to watch the films, and help EIA by spreading the word for others to do the same.

* After the US premiere on Tuesday, the three programmes are due to be broadcast on Nat Geo Wild in other territories, including the UK, later this year – watch our website and blog for details as we learn them.

Paul Newman, Press OfficerPaul Newman

Press Officer

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New Year Greetings one and all.  Here we go again. But before we do, I want to say a big ‘Thank You’ to all of you – members, supporters, Facebook followers and Twitter fans – for taking an interest in EIA’s work and for lending your support wherever and whenever you can as EIA could not do this without you.

I can’t believe we’ve already said goodbye to another year.  Where do they go?  I have to admit that it’s been a struggle to drag my brain kicking and screaming back to the fray; the seasonal interlude seems like a distant memory already.  Business as usual and certainly our inimitable brand of investigation and campaigning will once again be in big demand. Operating as independent eyes and ears, prepared to say what needs to be said, constantly raising the bar and setting new benchmarks and expectations for key governments and decision makers, we have a number of key targets for the coming year.

As the Year of the Tiger draws to a close in February, it remains to be seen whether the adoption of the St Petersburg Declaration and the Global Tiger Recovery Program in November 2010 will set tigers in the wild on the road to recovery, doubling the tiger population by 2022 which is the ambitious goal. EIA will continue to monitor and assess whether the political promises made have been turned into action or whether they are just lip service.

2011 Year of Forests. Credit Jason Cheng

Will forests be smiling in 2011?

Whilst 2011  has been earmarked as international Year of Forests, we have our work cut out for us in pushing through EU legislation to ensure that the wood products that reach our markets are indeed legal and not laundered as is so often the case. 2011 should also see the publication of our extensive investigation into Britain’s illegal e-waste trade with the aim of campaigning for change in the way we handle our e-waste and for improved enforcement of existing regulations. And of course our work combating illegal trade in ozone depleting substances continues, as do our efforts to protect Whales and Dolphins… Elephants continue to be under threat from poaching and illegal trade… EIA will be releasing the findings of a recent on-site investigation in China

Ivory products. Credit EIA

Ivory products.

which will demonstrate that large amounts of illegal ivory continue to flood into China – despite the fact that the Chinese authorities secured 60+tonnes in the official one-off stockpile sale back in 2009. Initial analysis indicates that rather than curb the market, the demand has actually increased. I’m tempted to say “told you so”, but that would be churlish. The list goes on…and whilst it may sometimes seem that we are simply plugging a hole in the dam, it’s important to remember that all efforts, no matter how small, do make a difference.

Save the Wild Tiger Forum - Dec 2010. Credit EIA

Save the Wild Tiger Forum - Dec 2010.

Keep an eye out for forthcoming events; following on from the RGS evening in there will be a Gala dinner on the 3rd March at the Mandarin oriental in Knightsbridge.  And following on from the success of the National Geographic film on EIA’s work on the Tiger Campaign, there are three more films in the pipeline.  Watch this space.

So, in signing off and in the words of Mark Twain, “New Year’s Day:  Now is the accepted time to make your regular annual good resolutions.  Next week you can begin paving hell with them as usual.”

Here’s to the year of the Bunnies.

Mary Rice. Credit EIA

Mary Rice

Executive Director

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