“The following chapter is as much as us.”
These are the phrases that flash throughout the display screen on the finish of Path of the Panther, an almost 90-minute movie documenting the plight of the endangered Florida panther — and the hassle to create a wildlife hall to protect its habitat from growth.
After 5 years, half 1,000,000 pictures and 800 hours of digital camera entice footage, acclaimed Nationwide Geographic Society photographer Carlton Ward, Jr. and Emmy-winning director Eric Bendick are releasing Path of the Panther into theaters throughout the state.
They hope by the tip of the movie, viewers will wish to assist write that subsequent chapter.
The documentary, govt produced by Leonardo DiCaprio, provides a window into dwindling wild locations in Florida and serves as a automobile to construct assist for the Florida Wildlife Hall, a 17-million-acre community of land connecting wildlife by way of the state.
The movie options true emblems of the Florida spirit: indigenous individuals, panther veterinarians, ranchers and conservationists — all totally different walks of life coming collectively within the battle to guard the elusive panther.
Under: Watch the trailer for ‘Path of the Panther’
Floridians can see Path of the Panther in theaters earlier than it releases on Disney+ and the Nationwide Geographic Channel this spring.
The movie is premiering in dozens of theaters throughout Florida starting this week. Ward and Bendick will lead a post-show dialogue on the Tampa Theatre after the opening evening screening Friday and once more on Sunday. They may host comparable Q&A occasions in Maitland and Gainesville.
Tickets for these occasions and different Florida showings will be bought at pathofthepanther.com/watch/
Forward of the discharge, the Tampa Bay Occasions spoke with Ward and Bendick concerning the movie. (The next dialog has been edited for readability and size.)
If there’s one message you hope the general public – Floridian or in any other case – takes away from this movie, what would it not be?
CW: The entire objective of the movie is wanting to construct the general public and political will to avoid wasting the Florida Wildlife Hall. And that’s why I do that work. From an emotional standpoint, there’s no higher emblem of the Florida Wildlife Hall than the panther, as a result of it’s a uniquely Florida animal. If we proceed to behave, we will save this hall and provides the panther a path to reclaim its territory.
EB: The best message the movie provides is that we’re in a second of change — proper now — the place there’s nonetheless a possibility, there’s nonetheless hope, and there’s nonetheless an actual potential to return wildness and shield wildness in Florida. I personally assume it’s not too late.
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One of the stunning photographs within the movie was the ranchers on horseback with rows of newly constructed properties within the background. Have been there different moments when creating this movie whenever you felt the vulnerability of this remaining Florida wilderness?
CW: The vulnerability is correct there on a regular basis. At a few of my best digital camera entice spots, in the event you pay attention carefully, you possibly can hear the vans and the automobiles nonetheless buzzing down the street when you’re standing on this primordial, wild place the place alligators, bears and panthers are nonetheless dwelling out their lives. The 2 worlds are stacked on high of one another.
What’s one of the best response to the movie you’ve heard up to now?
CW: I sense loads of pleasure in Florida from individuals within the viewers. And that’s tremendous uplifting. However there’s additionally lots shock and intrigue that this Florida nonetheless exists. And there’s now loads of motivation to assist.
EB: I all the time love when individuals inform me that they have been moved to tears by the movie. It’s laborious to know in the event you’re making a distinction, however whenever you get to listen to that, you realize individuals have been reacting emotionally.
What’s the biggest lesson you discovered as you created ‘Path of the Panther’?
CW: This movie clarified my objective. As soon as I understood the ability of the panther story to hold the Wildlife Hall to much more Floridians, it was only a level of readability and a degree of hope — that if we may see this factor by way of, we may make a distinction.
EB: If you’re pursuing an animal as uncommon and elusive because the panther, you must know that this can be a venture that’s going to take over your life — for half a decade. Additionally the significance of working collectively as a workforce: It’s not only one individual’s imaginative and prescient or one individual’s concept. It’s all of our concepts.
What have been a number of the largest hurdles you needed to clear to get the movie throughout the end line?
CW: For me, it was simply how lengthy it took to get sufficient content material. Earlier than you possibly can share the story with the hundreds of thousands of viewers of Nationwide Geographic or Disney+, you must get sufficient content material. And you must do this with an animal that I’ve solely ever seen thrice in my life in fleeting glimpses. It’s utterly reliant on digital camera traps. That was the toughest factor: The grind of the time spent. It was actually laborious for me, personally, to be away from my household that a lot.
EB: It’s not all the time the sexiest subject, however fundraising is a big a part of making a characteristic movie. You’re always funding for that subsequent few months or, in our case, few years. Each hurdle alongside the best way you want extra sources. That was an enormous problem for us, and we’ve an enormous group of supporters to thank.
The ultimate phrases of the movie are: “The following chapter is as much as us.” What do you assume comes subsequent for the Florida Wildlife Hall? What obstacles exist in that subsequent chapter?
CW: We’re on a superb trajectory. I feel year-after-year, our leaders will proceed to carry the Florida Wildlife Hall as a excessive bipartisan precedence, as they’ve with the Everglades in recent times. So what’s subsequent? Persevering with to make the hall a precedence to guard. We’re heading in the right direction, and I hope that this story of the panther may help hold us there. I feel the largest barrier is lack of understanding. When you’re conscious that these locations exist, it’s a logical response to wish to shield them.
EB: I see the Florida Wildlife Hall as this large Central Park all through your complete state of Florida. Clearly it’s owned by many landowners and ranchers, nevertheless it may very well be a mannequin for this large, protected space that may’t be was subdivisions. I feel if that occurs, it’s going to encourage an enormous motion throughout the entire United States.
What can our readers do to assist?
CW: The rapid factor is to inform different individuals to look at the movie and to share this story. We would like as many Floridians as potential to see this story, as a result of that is our Florida, and it’s a Florida that’s been ignored and forgotten for too lengthy. The following could be to go to pathofthepanther.com and signal as much as be part of the mailing record. We can be following up with particular calls to motion from our accomplice organizations as they arrive up.
EB: For Florida residents, I’d say actually observe together with the development of the Florida Wildlife Hall and become involved regionally. And the larger concept of the movie is basically about connectivity and related landscapes. These will be something from small neighborhood parks, to the well being of your personal yard, to a neighborhood greenway. You will get concerned on so many alternative scales and create your personal inexperienced oases — even in the midst of a metropolis.