Shooting in the Wild: An Insider’s Account of Making Movies in the Animal Kingdom

Chris Palmer / Sierra Club/Counterpoint / 223 pages

The mysterious lives of animals have been the subjects of countless films and nature shows. Though these productions might focus on similar themes, filmmakers are driven by a variety of motivations, and may use vastly different methods to capture animals on film. While some wildlife filmmakers aim to inspire viewers and encourage respect for animals, the vast majority aim to shock, instill fear, or simply entertain viewers and get better ratings, too often at the expense of animal welfare.

The shocking secrets behind the wildlife filmmaking industry are uncovered in veteran filmmaker Chris Palmer’s book, Shooting in the Wild: An Insider's Account of Making Movies in the Animal Kingdom. His 25 years of producing films have exposed him to the best and worst sides of the industry, and he shares true, behind-the-scenes stories about popular films like March of the Penguins and critiques the methods employed by personalities like Steve Irwin. His deep exploration of the industry and the ethical challenges it faces are eye-opening, and a compelling read for anyone who has been touched (positively or negatively) by a wildlife film or television show. Palmer exposes the less savory side of the industry, from scene-staging to outright animal abuse, and bemoans the too-often exaggerated emphasis on “extreme” animal behavior, which fosters neither respect for nor understanding of animals in the wild. Palmer also praises those few films and filmmakers who have used this medium successfully and responsibly to educate viewers and benefit animals, while making it abundantly clear that the industry has a long way to go.