Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival Award 1997

The Living Edens programs "Manu: Peru's Hidden Rain Forest" and "Denali: Alaska's Great Wilderness" won the Best Limited Series award at the prestigious 1997 Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival. Selected from 500 competitive entries, The Living Edens was among a select group of twelve winning finalists. Jurors praised this ABC/Kane production for its state-of-the-art cinematography, and for the rich stories that it interwove about the rainforest -- one of the most difficult environments in the world to film in. Viewers who want to learn more about this award can do so at the Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival Web site.

Jungle Fever: The Making of Manu

by Neal Williams, Producer

From the start, our SuperFlow film crew knew that shooting in the Amazon would be extraordinarily difficult. Not only did the team have to haul in all the camera equipment, but it also had to bring everything we would need for eating, sleeping and surviving for up to six weeks at a time. When we were at the airport heading toward Lima, Peru, the ticket counter attendant asked us how many bags we would be checking. Our answer: 52.

With the nearest road more than 100 miles away, the only access to the Manu Biosphere Reserve is by boat. People and 5,000 pounds of equipment were loaded onto the 50-foot-long dugout canoes. Then the crew lugged our belongings from the boat along jungle trails to the primary campsite. The team was assisted by six Indians of the Machiguenga -- one of four tribes that live in Manu.

Wildlife cinematography requires planning and patience. To get five minutes of useful footage of giant otters required weeks of work and filming, Lead cinematographer Jim Clare rigged up a catamaran out of two dugout canoes and attached a small electric motor, and then cruised around looking for otter activity. Once he discovered a den, he constructed a blind on the shore, and a week later, another blind on poles in the lake. It was only after the otters totally accepted his presence and returned to normal behavior that he could begin shooting.

For the approximately three minutes of footage that ended up in the program on the macaw clay lick, cinematographer Shane Moore worked from more than eight difference blinds, and spent over a week just getting enough angles. Since the licks are perched on the steep sides of crumbing clay cliffs, Moore had to rope himself and his camera to the nearest large tree, in case the cliff suddenly collapsed into the river.

Squirrel and capuchin monkeys were frequent lunch guests. By placing pieces of banana on tree limbs around the eating tent, we were able to entice them to within a few feet. The eager squirrel monkeys would quickly grab some banana and rapidly retreat up a tree. Then the capuchins would charge after them to steal their piece of banana. The result was many wild chases filled with much squawking, squealing, and finally whining from the defeated parties.

We were very excited to learn the location of the harpy eagle nest with a young chick. In seven years exploring the area, we had never found a single nest. We arranged with another group of local natives to erect a tower near the site so we could film the chick's development. But the natives had never performed this type of construction, and the outfitter in charge failed to build it on a strong base with adequate wires. Cinematographer Shane Moore didn't let the shaky tower or the wasps and bees deter him from a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

After seven days, Shane was getting great action shots of the parent eagles returning with monkeys and sloths plucked from the canopy, and then feeding them to their chick. That evening, Shane decided to come down for a dinner break, leaving his gear up in the tower. An hour later, he heard a horrendous crash. He came back to find everything in pieces, including a jumble of smashed suitcases and tripods. The very expensive camera, however, escaped unscathed.

Two months later, director/producer Kim MacQuarrie returned and the tower was resurrected. He quickly found the wasps were still there and hadn't learned better manners. For 14 days, Kim stayed on post, watching the chick approach fledgling age, hoping that it would take flight before he ran out of film. Finally, the chick beat his great wings and flew off. Kim shot his last few feet of film, and we had our ending for "Manu: Peru's Hidden Rain Forest."

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