Posts Tagged ‘Paul Newman’

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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‘So why should people in this country care?’

Spreading word of EIA’s activities and investigations via broadcast, print and electronic media can present all sorts of interesting challenges in the shifting landscape of how information is delivered and consumed in the early 21st Century.

But with traditional forms such as newspapers under mounting pressure and the rise of the blogosphere and online news outlets, it’s almost reassuring that many journalists still often seize on the hoary staple concerns of their profession: ‘What’s the local angle?’

Before joining EIA, I spent the best part of 25 years in the regional UK press on a variety of daily and weekly titles, so it’s a question with which I’m probably too familiar, having doubtless irked many a press officer and organisation in my time with the same parochial demand.

It’s not necessarily a shortcoming of the news-gatherers, more a pragmatic awareness of the fact that getting their audience to stay with a story past the first two or three paragraphs can be a tricky proposition and anchoring a story in a geographical context with which they’re familiar is one way to respond to that.

My first editor was a twitchy obsessive on the point – if you couldn’t get the name of a community within your circulation patch, and therefore an intimately local angle, into the first paragraph then you’d fail to connect with the readers and it was assumed they’d glance disinterested at the opening words and swiftly move on to the WI meeting reports and photo spreads of fancy dress dog shows (a deranged-looking poodle dolled up as Queen Victoria seemed to win every time). Either you rewrote the story or it was spiked.

Credit Jason Cheng

‘So why should you care?'

Most EIA investigations are conducted in far-flung countries and address issues of global significance; anchoring its findings in such a localised manner can sometimes seem a little perverse but it’s not impossible – and if it helps readers and viewers to consider their role in the issue, it’s all to the good.

And some campaigns are certainly easier to track back to a journalist’s local patch, whether it’s Little Bimblington-on-Sea or the country as a whole.

The Forestry Campaign’s work on illegal logging is a good example; if a UK reporter is at a loss to think how their audience can connect to protected trees being plundered from Indonesia’s national parks by a powerful criminal timber mafia, there’s a wealth of localised access points and issues with which to engage them, from climate change and carbon emissions to the introduction of EU legislation banning stolen timber (a prohibition which owes an enormous debt to EIA’s work).

It’s possible to get even closer in to Joe Normal’s life; in fact, to right outside his back door when you can tell him that the timber thieved from many thousands of miles away has found its way into the outdoor furniture and decking in his garden.

Similarly, the Global Environment Campaign is an easier sell because it involves issues on which our domestic taxes are being spent every day.

While recently pitching a story concerning e-waste, the journalist candidly asked me: ‘So, you’ve got a mountain of discarded technology from this country that’s supposed to properly disposed of but is instead winding up in huge piles in Africa, where children are being poisoned because they’re stripping out toxic raw materials in primitive circumstances? Why should people in this country be concerned about that?’

Because we in the developed world are morally obliged to deal with our own waste and not offload it on poor, developing countries? Because we’re paying our taxes in this country to have it properly and safely disposed of? Because the chain of personal responsibility can start with the very television set or computer monitor through which the individual is learning about the issue? It doesn’t come much closer to home than that.

Other issues and campaigns can be a harder sell, and are sometimes dependant on the personal concerns of the journalist to whom one is pitching.

Images from EIA investigation, March 2010. Credit EIA

Images from EIA investigation, March 2010.

Last year, one reporter succinctly summed up for me her difficulties in convincing her editors to run a story about the annual slaughter of Dall’s porpoises in Japan, which EIA was again attempting to highlight: ‘So, Japanese people are killing unprotected porpoises and then selling the toxic, mercury-polluted meat to Japanese people who might be getting sick from it? That’s not a story, that’s more like poetic justice.’

Despite raising considerations such as the unsustainability of the hunts and the fact that Japanese consumers are by and large deliberately kept ignorant of the health risks, it remained a no-sale. Fortunately, the good people at Al Jazeera felt that not all stories need to be happening on their audience’s collective doorstep to be of interest and value, and put together an excellent report.

It seems to me that the more interconnected we all become, whether it’s via the internet or international trade and political agreements, the more the world becomes one big ‘local patch’ in which everyone has a vested interest, where thinking globally and acting locally is becoming more than a cute slogan. It’s becoming a necessity.

Paul Newman, Press Officer

Paul Newman

Press Officer

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