by Sharon Cave
Once upon a lifetime an opportunity comes along where giving back to your community becomes the greatest gift that you can give to yourself. Such has been the case for a small band of filmmakers that have befriended a local wildlife park and sanctuary named Noahs Land. It started with a passion and love for animals that spread from one person volunteering into a group of eight talented artists getting together to help create a PSA promoting the local park and it's value to the Austin area.
Over the course of several weekends, a day of moving eight tigers and a blowout 2-day camping workathon, filmmakers Holly Francis, Mike Seaman, Leon Rodriguez, Chad Furrow, Marty Greer, Renetta Amador, Laura Guajardo and Sharon Cave captured footage that truly evokes the magnificence of this 275-acre home to over 400 animals, many of whom have ranking spots on the Endangered Species List. This group of friends, fascinated with the haunting beauty of the park, especially the 35 resident tigers living there, all got much more than what they initially came to film. They got an education, not the least of which was the difficulty of directing obvious star power like Midas in the picture above.
Tigers are above direction! It is the director's job to get the camera operators in position! Knowing your subjects and their habits well makes this somewhat easier as many of the tigers enjoy attention from human beings, especially those that have been raised by them since birth. However expect the unexpected! They are moody and can make bitchy Divas seem a blessing. Try telling Midas to get out of the water so you can get a better shot of his face. That's when he splashes the camera. Or decides the camera could be more fun than his bowling ball!
Then of course there is the queen of movie stars Ms. Me Me (once you meet her, you understand the name). The female star that melts male hearts from one hundred paces regardless of their specie. Trying telling her it's time for her close up when she has not been primped to star expectation. She won't be seen on camera without having perfectly clean teeth, manicured claws and completely wet sleeked down fur. After a good forty minutes primping her, she just may decide she can do a better job and jump into her pool to complete the grooming process to her satisfaction. The footage always proves she's right. When she flashes those pearly fangs, it's love. Major star wattage there.
Patience is the key with the animals. Knowing how the light travels over your location and hits those stars at different times of the day. The best part is the time it takes just to get to know them before you can even think about shooting. Spending time watering, feeding and cleaning them and their habitats is what built the relationships making it possible for us to experience the bond that we now share with these creatures. There are some of us who are tiger snobs that spend most of our time ogling and playing with the magnificent great cats. They are the largest felines on the planet. That's right, the tiger is the true king of the jungle. They actually live in the jungle in their natural habitat. Lion's live on the plains in Africa and are not as big as the tigers. Just cause lions have manes, Hollywood has always favored them over their bigger brother the tiger! Oh yeah there are some lions out at Noah's Land too! There is also a variety of endangered hoof stock, a zebra, a camel, an alligator, lots of bears and a whole bunch of pigs. There's monkeys too and of course lots of big cats.
We're in the editing phase now and have enough footage for a little documentary about the value of volunteering with animals. While you are waiting to see it, you can go visit the park yourself! They love visitors and you may find that you'd like to get more up close and personal! Volunteer. The animals will love you for it and more importantly, you'll love yourself more! You can get more information about the park and its hours of operation at www.noahsland.com. Be sure to take your cameras! If your patient the stars will come out to visit!