Producing educative infomercials – a participatory approach:
The case of the hutia and the solenodon, the last survivors of unique evolutionary lineages in Haiti and the Dominican Republic
As part of the environmental education campaign, we produced a series of short videos about the hutia and the solenodon, the last mammal survivors of their evolutionary lineages on the Island of Hispaniola, now Dominican Republic and Haiti. Considering our tight budget, we developed and implemented a new approach to film making for conservation. The production was participative whereby we provide training and production skills to the team, while the scientific project’s researchers and locals film their activities on the ground. The footage was then sent electronically via ftp server to use and we completed the infomercials.
The multinational team of the Darwin Initiative project “Building evidence and capacity to conserve Hispaniola’s endemic land mammals” commissioned Daniela Rusowsky F. from Nature Heritage and Funk Productions () to produce a series of short videos about the hutia and the solenodon, the last mammal survivors of their evolutionary lineages on the Island of Hispaniola, now Dominican Republic and Haiti. The project, from 2009 to 2012, was a collaborative project between Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, Zoological Society of London, Sociedad Ornitologíca de la Hispaniola, Parque Zoológico Nacional, and the Oficina de Parques Nacionales de la Republica Dominicana.
How do you do this with a tight budget?
- How do you get the biggest bang for your buck – considering a tight budget?
- Do you really want to fly into the country with a technical crew, film there, fly home where complete the production and, thus, contribute to climate change?
- Do you want to film the beauty of the animals and the (remaining) natural habitats or focus on the message and the local people?
We love the nature documentaries by David Attenborough, Jacques Cousteau, Bernhard Grzimek, Marty Stouffer, Félix Rodríguez de la Fuente, to name but a few.
- They are beautiful but are these documentaries suited to enhance conservation on the ground – where it really matters?
- Are they suited to reach local people, the young, the video-clip-generation?
- Or are they mainly watched by the already convinced?
We decided on a totally different, rarely used approach.
The production was participative whereby we provided the training and production skills to the team, while the scientific project’s researchers and locals filmed their activities on the ground. The footage was then sent electronically via ftp server to us and we completed the infomercials.
Thus, these videos are collaborative informercials for conservation, rather than nature documentaries. Using modern media and new, widely available technologies, the project harnessed the field team’s expertise and enthusiasm, whilst keeping production costs as low as possible.
We use them in presentations, talks, classes, and they are available on YouTube and, at higher resolution, at VIMEO. We have adapted the language, length of the clips, the music, presentation and content to the specific interests and needs of the target audiences.
The series of four short videos is a integral part of the awareness, outreach and environmental campaign to support the conservation status of these species.
- general public (10 min; Spanish),
- children (3 min; Spanish),
- local community (4 min; Spanish)
- scientific community (11 min; English).
The last Survivors – International Version
Salvando a la Jutía y al Solenodonte: versión para los niños
Salvando a la Jutía y al Solenodonte: versión corta
Salvando a la Jutía y al Solenodonte: versión larga
The music was composed, by Rene Veron -a very talented young composer based in New York – who played an important role to make each film very special.
The 3D graphics based on the logo of The Last Survivors, was animated by MadMouse in Chile, giving a nice professional introduction and ending to the videos, both in English and Spanish.
These videos would have not been possible without the special support of BBC and the Dominican TV program Santo Domingo Invita, Jose Rafael Paula Sosa, who contributed providing very valuable footage, radio Cadena Nacional (Puerto Rico) who provided their studio and volunteer their time to record the voice over of each video; the Dominican Republic Consulate in San Juan, Puerto Rico, who offered an open door policy to support the films and Godwana das Prehistorium, in Germany, who open their gates to allow us to film “dinosaurs in the wild”.