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


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Shooting in the Wild: An Insider's Account of Making Movies in the Animal Kingdom + Confessions of a Wildlife Filmmaker: The Challenges of Staying Honest in an Industry Where Ratings Are King
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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 (May 11, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1578051487
  • ISBN-13: 978-1578051489
  • Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 6 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (62 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #361,760 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 is currently 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 and distributor of IMAX films.

In 2004, Chris joined American University's full-time faculty as Distinguished Film Producer in Residence at the School of Communication and founded the Center for Environmental Filmmaking. The Center's mission is to inspire a new generation of filmmakers and media experts to produce informative, ethically sound, and entertaining creative work that makes a positive difference to environmental stewardship.

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 sometimes even 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" and "very important."

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 other networks. He publishes articles regularly (including a bimonthly column on "best practices" for Realscreen Magazine) and currently 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.
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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 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

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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By D. Ledonne on May 22, 2010
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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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Alec M. Klatchko on May 28, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
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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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Susannah Smith on May 27, 2010
Format: Paperback
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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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Peter H. Kimball on May 26, 2010
Format: Paperback
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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Brock Evans on August 13, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
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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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Vanessa R. Woods on May 23, 2010
Format: Paperback
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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By P. Warren on May 28, 2010
Format: Paperback
An excellent study of wildlife film-making and the ethics involved from a highly experienced practitioner. This book is now recommended reading for all our students and anyone interested in wildlife and conservation films - makers and viewers...
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Karen Buckley on July 12, 2010
Format: Paperback
In Shooting in the Wild, Chris Palmer raises very important ethical issues that wildlife filmmakers are faced with every time they go out in the field. He does a great job of not only raising our awareness of the questionable and sometimes outright unethical behavior that exists in wildlife filmmaking, but he also presents us with examples of filmmakers who make and have made successful wildlife films without disturbing nature or the animals they're filming. In addition and most importantly, he proposes a series of steps every wildlife filmmaker should follow in order to help reform the industry and in Chris's words "make wildlife films with a conscience." Shooting in the Wild is an insightful and compelling book written by someone whose passion for wildlife conservation and filmmaking comes through on every page! I highly recommend this book for all wildlife filmmakers, wildlife conservationists, and anyone who's simply a fan of wildlife films or television shows. It will certainly open your eyes to how these films are really made and will hopefully lead to more ethical practices in wildlife filmmaking in the future.
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