Aug 1

2011 is WWF’s 50th anniversary year, as part of the celebrations WWF-UK have produced a short film which can be seen in Odeon Cinemas across the UK. ARKive teamed up with WWF-UK to help with the amazing imagery for the film. For an insight into how the film came together, here is WWF UK’s Head of Campaigns, Colin Butfield explaining all in his guest blog…

In my experience with every great opportunity comes a big ‘oh heck’ moment.  In this case we had the wonderful chance to make a short film for WWF’s 50th birthday to be shown in Odeon Cinemas across the country – brilliant!

  • The acclaimed playwright Stephen Poliakoff was going to write it – fantastic!
  • We had some famous actors interested to be in it – awesome!
  • Stephen had written a magical script about new species discoveries – hooray!
  • We had almost no good footage of newly discovered species – ‘oh heck’

So, in essence we were going to make a five min film to put on massive screens in front of hundreds of thousands of people and most of the footage we had, looked like it was shot on a mobile phone. Call ARKive!

Most people who work in conservation know ARKive as one of the best places to find examples of species and behaviour, we use it all the time, but having worked for Wildscreen a few years back I also knew that the good folk behind ARKive also had amazing knowledge of the people behind the cameras and what images and footage might be out there.

Triton Bay epaulette shark

Triton Bay epaulette shark, first discribed in 2008

Triger's treefrog image

Tiger's treefrog from Colombia, first described in 2008

Stephen Poliakoff had written his script to work around the fact that we knew we wouldn’t have blue-chip HD quality footage. He had used a fictional dramatic narrative to replace the need for purely having wildlife footage BUT this was a WWF film and we would definitely need a good range of wildlife images to make the story work.

There are about 15,000 new species identified and named each year and many more species that are known to science are photographed for the first time. For the purpose of our film we wanted to count ‘discoveries’ as either things that are totally new to science like the worlds longest insect, Chan’s megastick and species that are filmed for the first time, like the barreleye. Whilst scientists had known of the existence of the barreleye from dead specimens, it wasn’t until it was filmed 700m down off the coast of Monterey by the Monterey Bay Research Institute that many of the discoveries about it were made.

Whilst it’s perfectly possible to find a new species in your back garden, it’s often the case that species are found or photographed for the first time by researchers studying an area. In general you find that most of these researchers carry a stills camera but very few a film camera. Also, because of the often challenging circumstances, for example very low light levels in a rainforest, many of the stills that are captured are not going to look great on a big screen. As such, it was a huge task for ARKive and WWF to contact scientists around the world to find the best images of a wide range of newly found and filmed species to feature in the film. ARKive’s expertise in using images of the natural world to inspire conservation made this daunting task a bit more realistic.

Hopefully you’ll agree that the results live up to the film’s title ‘Astonish Me’. By celebrating some of the oddest creatures found at the very edges of discovery the aim of Astonish Me is to show that the real natural world is every bit as magical as anything you find in cinema fiction and to inspire people to work to protect it.

Enter WWF’s Oddest One Out competition to get the amazing chance to win a once-in-a-lifetime experience to find out how new species discoveries are made, see fantastic wildlife and go behind the scenes at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute.

Find more newly discovered species highlighted on the ARKive homepage.

Written by Colin Butfield, Head of Campaigns, WWF-UK

  • Harriet (August 3rd, 2011 at 1:51 pm):

    Cool – for Colin, ARKive and WWF!