Nature Through Her Eyes Festival Works to Change an Industry

Written on March 4, 2021, posted in News

Tanzanian filmmaker Erica Francis Rugabandana is pictured working in the field with cinematographer Justine Evans. Image courtesy of Vanessa Berlowitz.

Issues exam­ined by pan­elists and atten­dees of the event are now being addressed in the male-dominated world of nat­ur­al his­to­ry film­mak­ing.

In September 2019, the VII Academy host­ed a con­fer­ence for women only, “Nature Through Her Eyes / Nature: Le Regard Feminin” in Perpignan, France. A first of its kind, the event brought togeth­er for pro­fes­sion­al women from the film indus­try as well as nat­ur­al his­to­ry experts all work­ing along­side in wildlife and the nat­ur­al world. Cinematographers, pro­duc­ers, direc­tors, tech­ni­cians, sci­en­tists, and legal experts came togeth­er for pan­el dis­cus­sions, small group work­shops, and screen­ings. In between ses­sions the women had time to net­work, and, to our delight, have formed last­ing pro­fes­sion­al part­ner­ships. 

Erica Francis Rugabandana, a Tanzanian film­mak­er, met Producer Vanessa Berlowitz of Wildstar Films at the Festival. That con­nec­tion led to Erica being trained by cin­e­matog­ra­ph­er Justine Evans, who also attend­ed the fes­ti­val, on Vanessa’s new land­mark series for National Geographic, enti­tled “Queens.”

Jacqueline Farmer, film­mak­er and con­fer­ence direc­tor, inter­viewed the atten­dees and guest speak­ers and has pro­duced a 4-part series for Curiosity Stream look­ing at the role of women in film­mak­ing, pho­tog­ra­phy and writ­ing about the nat­ur­al world. “Nature Through Her Eyes” pre­mieres March 8 and will be avail­able on demand.

Perhaps most impact­ful­ly, the Nature Through Her Eyes fes­ti­val is work­ing on cre­at­ing real change with­in the indus­try. There are now ongo­ing con­ver­sa­tions with French and inter­na­tion­al broad­cast­ers about DEI (diver­si­ty, equi­ty and inclu­sion) pol­i­cy, and how to incor­po­rate bet­ter rep­re­sen­ta­tion of women and peo­ple from the major­i­ty world in front of and behind the cam­era on nat­ur­al his­to­ry films. The fes­ti­val also led to a work­shop on indus­try con­trac­tu­al and legal prac­tices run by Michelle Bruce in part­ner­ship with Jackson Wild. 

The VII Academy is plan­ning a sec­ond in-person edi­tion of the fes­ti­val in 2022.