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Shooting in the Wild: An Insider's Account of Making Movies in the Animal Kingdom Paperback – May 11, 2010

4.7 out of 5 stars 63 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Longtime producer Palmer provides an in-depth look at wild animals on film, covering the history of wildlife documentaries, safety issues, and the never-ending pressure to obtain the “money shot.” Marlin Perkins, Jacques Cousteau, Steve Irwin, Timothy Treadwell, and many other familiar names are discussed along with their work, accidents, and in some cases, untimely deaths. Palmer is highly critical of Irwin, and offers fascinating revelations about game farms used by exploitative filmmakers and photographers looking for easy shots and willing to use caged animals to obtain them. He also considers the subliminal messages of many wildlife films, considering everything from Shark Week to Happy Feet and how they manipulate audiences toward preset conclusions about animal behavior. In all this is an engaging and exceedingly timely look at a form of entertainment the public has long taken for granted and which, as Palmer points out, really needs a fresh and careful reconsideration. --Colleen Mondor

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Praise for Shooting in the Wild

“A well-reasoned yet passionate argument for changing wildlife filmmaking practices and creating ethical guidelines, this is an accessible and engaging read.” —Library Journal
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Counterpoint; First Edition edition (May 11, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1578051487
  • ISBN-13: 978-1578051489
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 6 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (63 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #905,323 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Chris Palmer is a professor, speaker, author, and environmental/wildlife film producer who has swum with dolphins and whales, come face-to-face with sharks and Kodiak bears, camped with wolf packs, and waded hip-deep through the Everglade swamps.

Over the past thirty years, Chris has spearheaded the production of more than 300 hours of original programming for prime time television and the giant screen IMAX film industry. His films have been broadcast on numerous channels, including the Disney Channel, TBS, Animal Planet, and PBS. His IMAX films include Whales, Wolves, Dolphins, Bears, Coral Reef Adventure, and Grand Canyon Adventure. In the course of his career, he has worked with the likes of Robert Redford, Paul Newman, Jane Fonda, Ted Turner, and Ted Danson.

Chris's career as a film producer began in 1983 when he founded the nonprofit organization National Audubon Society Productions, where he served as president and CEO for eleven years. In 1994, he founded another nonprofit film production company, National Wildlife Productions (part of the National Wildlife Federation, the largest conservation organization in the United States), which he led as president and CEO for ten years.

Chris serves as president of One World One Ocean Foundation and the MacGillivray Freeman Films Educational Foundation, which produce and fund IMAX films on conservation issues. MacGillivray Freeman Films is the world's largest and most successful producer of IMAX films.

Chris also serves on American University's full-time faculty as Distinguished Film Producer in Residence at the School of Communication. In 2004, he founded AU's Center for Environmental Filmmaking, which seeks to inspire a new generation of filmmakers and media experts to produce informative, ethically sound, and entertaining creative work that makes a difference.

His 2010 book, Shooting in the Wild: An Insider's Account of Making Movies in the Animal Kingdom (Sierra Club Books) was described by Jane Goodall as "a very important and much-needed book." Now in its second printing, Shooting in the Wild (along with a film version produced for PBS with Alexandra Cousteau) pulls back the curtain on the dark side of wildlife filmmaking, revealing an industry undermined by sensationalism, fabrication, and animal abuse.

His new 2015 memoir, Confessions of a Wildlife Filmmaker: The Challenges of Staying Honest in an Industry Where Ratings Are King (Bluefield Publishing) criticizes mainstream television networks for producing wildlife films which harass animals, deceive audiences, and harm conservation efforts. Jean-Michel Cousteau called Confessions of a Wildlife Filmmaker "fascinating reading," and Ted Danson described it as a "must-read for all who care about the natural world." In the Foreword, Jane Goodall describes the book as "courageous."

Chris's forthcoming book, Now What, Grad? Your Path to Success after College (Rowman & Littlefield, 2015), switches gears from wildlife films to another passion of his: teaching and inspiring young people. The book guides recent graduates who may have learned practical skills in school, but have no idea how to succeed and find fulfilment in the real world. It focuses on the crucial skills that schools don't teach, including how to organize a job search, how to ace interviews, how to manage time and stress effectively, how to lead, how to run a meeting, how to survive a bad performance review, how to speak powerfully, and how to network.

Profiles about Chris have appeared in many publications, including the Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post. He has been interviewed on the Today Show, ABC Nightline, NPR, the Fox News Channel, and others. He publishes articles regularly (including a bimonthly column on "best practices" for Realscreen Magazine) and serves on the boards of fourteen nonprofits.

Chris is a frequent keynote speaker at conferences and film festivals. He regularly gives workshops on a variety of topics, including how to radically improve one's success and productivity, how to raise money, how to give effective presentations, how to network effectively, and how to motivate and engage students. He recently spoke at TEDxAmericanUniversity. For five years, while teaching at AU, he was a stand-up comedian and performed regularly in DC comedy clubs.

Chris and his colleagues have won numerous awards, including two Emmys and an Oscar nomination. Chris has also been honored with the Frank G. Wells Award from the Environmental Media Association, and the Lifetime Achievement Award for Media at the 2009 International Wildlife Film Festival. In 2010, he was honored at the Green Globe Awards in Los Angeles with the award for Environmental Film Educator of the Decade. In 2011, he received the IWFF Wildlife Hero of the Year Award for his "determined campaign to reform the wildlife filmmaking industry," and in 2012, he was named the recipient of the Ronald B. Tobias Award for Achievement in Science and Natural History Filmmaking Education. He received the 2014 University Faculty Award for Outstanding Teaching at AU, the 2015 University Film and Video Association Teaching Award, and the 2015 Lifetime Achievement Award at the International Wildlife Film Festival.

In his twenty years before becoming a film producer, Chris was a high school boxing champion, an officer in the Royal Navy, an engineer, a business consultant, an energy analyst, an environmental activist, chief energy advisor to a senior U.S. senator, and a political appointee in the Environmental Protection Agency under President Jimmy Carter. He has jumped out of helicopters and worked on an Israeli kibbutz.

Chris holds a B.S. with First Class Honors in Mechanical Engineering from University College London, an M.S. in Ocean Engineering and Naval Architecture also from University College London, and a master's degree in Public Administration from Harvard University where he was a Kennedy Scholar and received a Harkness Fellowship.

Born in Hong Kong, Chris grew up in England and immigrated to the United States in 1972. He is married to Gail Shearer and is the father of three grown daughters: Kim, Christina, and Jenny. He is currently writing a book about how to be an effective father. He and Gail have endowed a scholarship for environmental film students at AU to honor Chris's parents and to encourage the next generation of storytellers to save the planet.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Chris Palmer, a veteran wildlife film producer, lays bare the artifice of his industry and asks audiences to consider the many ethical challenges that a filmmaker faces. Driven for successful shots, captivating stories, and ultimately higher ratings, nature film producers have fibbed, misled, or outright lied to audiences in order to tell the most exciting story their budget could afford. At the same time, the "stars" of these films are animals who are misrepresented, victimized, vilified, abused, or even killed for the sake of movie making. Palmer admits that he has succumbed to these pressures, yet remains deeply honest about the passion he feels for his craft and the potential for compelling nature films to affect changes in human behavior. Chronicling the many adventures and moral dilemmas that filmmakers face, "Shooting in the Wild" asks environmental filmmakers to hold themselves to higher standards. At the same time, this book encourages readers to expect more than cheap thrills from wildlife documentaries; Palmer suggests that in order to protect the wild outdoors, people must first love it.
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Chris Palmer's book brings alive for us the world of wildlife filmmaking in a way that is at once exciting and captivating. It leaves the reader with a thirst for a higher standard and a conviction that individuals can make a difference. Chris' presentation of the subject reflects his firm appreciation and deep understanding of larger issues including ethics, morality, finance, politics, entertainment and sociology. As such, it is excellent reading for any active mind, and I certainly recommend it as a book club topic.
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I was fascinated by this book. While it should be required reading for any filmmaker (the chapter on fundraising alone is worth it!) it's great storytelling from an experienced insider.
I even think it could be used as a tool for businesses and educators to open a dialogue on the ethical dilemmas within their field-to ask the question, "where do WE draw the line?".
I am starting right now to incorporate the author's 8 Steps to Wildlife Filmmaking Reform into my own professional goals!
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I started this book with high hopes and I was not disappointed. I've always been interested in books that show the behind-the-scenes of entertainment, celebrity, and media, and I'm also very involved in environmental causes. With Chris Palmer's reputation, I was expecting an exciting, enjoyable look into the secrets of the trade.

As I read the book, I was blown away by how much depth Palmer brings to the subject of environmental filmmaking. While I loved the stories about working with celebrity hosts and rampaging animals, I was most impressed by the insightful look into the ethics of filmmaking. I had never realized all the complicated issues filmmakers must face when dealing with wildlife and the environment.

I can't recommend this book highly enough. If you're at all interested in film, the environment, or anything in between, you must read this book.
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This is a great book. Anyone who cares about the fate of imperiled animal species should have a copy. As a lifelong (and pragmatic) environmental/endangered species acivist myself, I was shocked to read Palmer's accounts of "staged" shark-feeding frenzies, chimpanzee fights, and the like. This kind of sensationalism, disguised by claims of 'authenticity,' can only harm species already in trouble by conveying a false impression that such is normal behavior. This sort of "documentary" is just plain wrong, and is harmful to all our efforts to rescue these species, because they create, not sympathy and understanding of the living creatures who share this planet with us, but just the opposite. Mr. Palmer has conveyed a basically sympathetic account of an important industry whose product can have a huge impact on wildlife protection in the future, while at the same time blowing the whistle on practices which can only hurt that effort. This a great service to the cause, and for that I (and I bet the wild critters out there too)thank him.
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A fascinating glimpse into the world of film making. Bravo to Palmer for caring enough to expose the dark side as well as the light.
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As a wildlife filmmaker myself, I read with great interest Chris Palmer's 'insider's account of making movies in the animal kingdom' (subtitle). Having been a part of this industry and watched some of the deception that producers and broadcasters engage in for the sake of a story, I am glad to see the facts laid bare for the public. Chris has done a thorough job of outlining the dilemmas and challenges faced on nearly every wildlife film, and his experience in the field for decades provides the meat of the book's anecdotes. But he has also included many, many stories from other filmmakers -- stories that fascinate even those of us familiar with the business practices and ethic's violations that accompany these anecdotes. I highly recommend this book to people interested in making movies about wildlife, conservation and environmental issues. And I equally recommend the book for viewers of wildlife films. Having debated and discussed many of the ethical dilemmas mentioned in the book (including the intended outcome for an audience) at wildlife film festivals, I think it's much more important for the public dialogue to consider issues included in the book. Issues such as -- was the use of captive animals necessary to the film's story? Did this inclusion in the film help create a better awareness of conservation issues from the viewer? Once the film is over, does the viewer's behavior as a result of watching the film change? If so, does it translate into action? Shooting in the Wild opens the door for public debate about what's acceptable and what's not in the field of wildlife filming. A better informed audience about the practices behind this industry, can only help us all (filmmakers and broadcasters) become more conscientious about our work. At least, I truly hope that's the case. Thanks for having the courage to write the book, Chris.
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