Wildlife and nature films are a hugely popular entertainment genre: networks such as Animal Planet and Discovery are stars in the cable television universe, viewers flock to IMAX theaters to see jaw-dropping footage from the wild, and the venerable BBC still scores triumphs with series such as Planet Earth. As cinematic technology brings ever-more-breathtaking images to the screen, and as our direct contact with nature diminishes, an ever-expanding audience craves the indirect experience of wild nature that these films provide.
But this success has a dark side, as Chris Palmer reveals in his authoritative and engrossing report on the wildlife film business. A veteran producer and film educator, Palmer looks past the headlines about TV host Steve Irwin’s death by stingray and filmmaker Timothy Treadwell falling prey to his beloved grizzlies, to uncover a more pervasive and troubling trend toward sensationalism, extreme risk-taking, and even abuse in wildlife films. He tracks the roots of this trend to the early days of the genre, and he profiles a new breed of skilled, ethical filmmakers whose work enlightens as well as entertains, and who represent the future that Palmer envisions for the industry he loves.