bears, Chris Palmer, Confessions of a Wildlife Filmmaker, dolphins, environment, Imax Films, Journey for Earth, ocean conservation, personal mission statement, Sierra Club Books, whales, wildlife filmmaking, wildllife, wolves
My name is Annabel Ruffell and I am the founder of Journey for Earth, a global awareness company committed to inspiring change for humanity, the environment and animals, one choice at a time.
I came across Chris’s work after he sent me a LinkedIn message telling me to keep up the good work! How honored was I! I then discovered his amazing body of work, and his unwavering dedication to protecting our environment and wildlife. Reading Chris’s personal mission statement is incredibly inspiring too and I encourage you to read it :) http://www.chrispalmeronline.com/about/personal/
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 IMAX films include Whales, Wolves, Dolphins, Bears, Coral Reef Adventure, and Grand Canyon Adventure. He has worked with many celebrities, including Robert Redford, Paul Newman, Jane Fonda, Ted Turner, and Ted Danson.
Chris is currently president of One World One Ocean Foundation and the MacGillivray Freeman Films Educational Foundation, both of which produce and fund IMAX films on conservation. MacGillivray Freeman Films is the world’s largest and most successful producer and distributor of IMAX films.
His book, Shooting in the Wild: An Insider’s Account of Making Movies in the Animal Kingdom, was published in 2010 by Sierra Club Books. Jane Goodall called it “a very important and much-needed book.” Now in its second printing, Shooting in the Wild (along with its film version 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.
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 board of fourteen nonprofits.
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.
Personal website: www.ChrisPalmerOnline.com
Center website: www.environmentalfilm.org
SOC profile: http://www.american.edu/soc/faculty/palmer.cfm
Facebook site: https://www.facebook.com/ChrisPalmerAU
- How and when did your passion for our environment, wildlife and filmmaking begin?
In my 20s, I was unhappy, frenetic, and restless. I realized for me to be at peace, I had to live a more meaningful and intentional life, and one rooted in foundational, unmalleable values like service, diligence, tenacity, generosity, and love. Slowly I realized that I could only achieve that goal if I devoted my life to one of the world’s great causes. I chose protecting the environment because my advance degrees in engineering and public policy gave me some expertize in that area.
- You have swum with dolphins and whales, come face-to-face with sharks and Kodiak bears, camped with wolf packs, and waded hip-deep through Everglade swamps…How did these experiences affect and impact you?
They inspired me to want to protect these natural wonders.
- I read your personal mission statement which is incredibly inspiring. In one part you say: “I will not let circumstances, feelings, old habits, or past conditioning determine my response to challenges.” I feel this can affect so much of our lives – I talk for myself and others I know – and it is not easy at all to change. How can one begin to recognize and to let go of these things and not let them have power over our present any more?
One way is by setting powerful, inspiring goals. This is not easy and requires prolonged reflection, courage, and creativity. Having articulated bold and far-reaching goals, you then need to develop a system to pursue them vigorously and single-mindedly. This requires organization and hard work. In these ways, we can rise above our past conditioning.
- What has been one of your greatest challenges over the years, either with the work that you do or in another area of your life, and how did you overcome it?
Really listening to other people. I never listened—really listened—to other people when they spoke to me. Instead, I’d be formulating my response, or thinking up advice to give them, or judging them in some other way. We are never taught how to listen, and most of us listen very poorly. The result is that we damage the relationships we have with other people because we don’t fully understand their feelings or perspective.
- You do so much and are involved in so many organizations…tell us about the mission of one of them… the One World One Ocean Foundation that you are president of?
Our mission at OWOOF is to create, fund, and produce IMAX films that protect and conserve the oceans. We also give grants to the nonprofits which we feature in our IMAX films, and we work closely with our partners in the global network of IMAX theaters to, for example, bring disadvantaged students to IMAX theaters so they can experience these inspirational and educational films about nature and science.
- Your next book, Confessions of a Wildlife Filmmaker, will be published in March 2015…tell us a little about it please…
My latest book, Confessions of a Wildlife Filmmaker, is a memoir about my unusual childhood in England, my stern and demanding father, emigrating to America, my flaws as a Dad, entering the superficial world of television, working for insincere environmental groups, the problems with SeaWorld, the mistakes I made while struggling to excel as a film producer, stand-up comic, and teacher, and how all of these experiences have influenced my views on wildlife filmmaking.
Confessions of a Wildlife Filmmaker is also about how networks like Discovery, Animal Planet, and National Geographic are failing in their responsibility to produce and broadcast programs that are consistent with their founding visions. The networks are full of honorable and ethical people who care about wild places and animals, but the business side of television seems to coerce them into behavior that sometimes harms wildlife, spreads misinformation, and coarsens society’s appreciation of nature. I believe the time has come for wildlife filmmaking to move in a healthier direction and my book describes the changes that are needed so that animals are not abused, audiences deceived, and conservation neglected.
- You say: “I will continue learning that all true and lasting change occurs from the “inside out.” What do you do daily to work on your “inside?”
I try to live up to the ideals articulated in my personal mission statement by organizing my week around my goals rather than other people’s agendas. I try to minimize the time I spend on inessentials (I rarely watch television, for example).
- Do you ever feel disheartened by some of things occurring around the world eg. The plastic pollution, the disappearing wildlife and forests, factory farming etc? And if no…then what helps you to remain focused and positive and if yes, how do you deal with it?
Yes, I do feel disheartened, but I focus on where I can make a difference. I try not to spend time worrying about things that I cannot influence or change. I focus on where I can make a difference as a father, teacher, film producer, writer, speaker, and friend.
- A powerful statement from you: “My aim is to die with my dreams fulfilled, leaving behind an identity and reputation I am proud of, and knowing that I didn’t, through timidity, apathy, complacency, or lack of imagination, let an opportunity to excel and contribute pass me by.” I know too many people where “life gets in the way” of their dreams…a tragedy occurs, huge financial stresses etc….how can one remain strong on ones path when so much can at times pull us in other directions?
By creating a personal mission statement which is profoundly meaningful, and by reaching out to mentors, coaches, and friends for help in keeping one focused on one’s goals.
- What is your greatest hope/desire for our planet at this time?
That we all stop eating meat. This would do an enormous amount to diminish climate disruption, while at the same time reducing animal suffering and improving our health.
What Journey are you on?
Annabel Ruffell believes in the power of each person to make a positive difference in the world. She travels to different venues in California giving Heart Action® Talks – all about the importance of educating ourselves about the food we buy and how our choices impact the world around us. She is also an artist and you can view her art at annabelruffellart.com. To book Annabel contact Annabel@journeyforearth.com. She tweets and instagrams @annabelruffell.