P22 photograph reproduced by permission from Steve Winter/National Geographic Creative
My film 'The Cat that Changed America' about P22 mountain lion, has just been officially selected for the Santa Barbara International Film Festival, and will have its world premiere at the festival (1st to 11th February 2017)
The integrity of wildlife documentaries is much in the news at the moment, with the debate about Planet Earth II and whether the impact of such series can stir the conservation movement. I've been making wildlife documentaries for 25 years now and know how hard it is to make conservation programmes and to have them broadcast. Which is why I feel so passionate about The Cat that Changed America. P22, a mountain lion living in Griffith Park, is such a great ambassador for urban wildlife, because his story is so engaging and relatable and he has such charisma. I knew that the world will fall in love with the cat who can't find a mate.
The film will be shown as part of the 'Reel Nature' section of the festival which was started by Mike de Gruy, a Santa Barbara resident. I feel honoured that my film was selected, as Mike was an inspiration early on in my career when I started in 1992, and I saw him over the years at the wildlife festivals and he was always a congenial presence. The festival will also honour such Hollywood hits such as LaLa Land and Manchester by the Sea, and will attract a celebrity crowd as well as bring much media attention.
All the red carpet hoopla is fitting, because P22 is a Hollywood celebrity himself and is deserving of his own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. P22 is such a great Hollywood story - a big cat living in the middle of LA! It's still incredible to think about. His story is so relatable to Angelenos and to anyone who has experienced the pressures of urban living. As Beth Pratt, the California Director for the National Wildlife Federation who is spearheading the Save LA Cougars campaign says, 'Who can't relate to being dateless on a Friday night and stuck in traffic?' P22 has moved the dial about where it's acceptable for wildlife to live, yet he's likely to die a lonely bachelor in Griffith Park because he is hemmed in by freeways and the lack of connectivity. His story had to be told, and the more I delved, the more I discovered how fascinating his life is. Miguel Ordenana, a wildlife biologist at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County was the first person I spoke to about the story, which is appropriate as he captured the first photograph of P22 in one of his camera traps in Griffith Park.
Wildlife and conservation films absolutely do make a difference , especially at this critical time when so many species are becoming endangered. A recent study suggests that the mountain lions of the Santa Monica mountains could become extinct in the next 50 years because of inbreeding and the lack of connectivity. Mountain lions are territorial and need large home ranges – around 200 square miles – they need to be connected to open spaces, otherwise males will fight to the death over territory. Even males will kill their offspring, which is very sad, as it just highlights the huge pressures these big cats are facing just to get enough space to survive. Also they have a weakness - you can say that Freeways are their Kryptonite, and it us humans which have created these problems for them. The recent death of P-39, a young female mountain lion, on one of our freeways is becoming an all too common occurrence. It’s our responsibility as Los Angelenos and considerate neighbors to ensure mountain lions have enough space to thrive, otherwise they suffer from the effects of road deaths, inbreeding and intraspecific mortality.
I’m currently talking to distributors and channels about broadcasting after the film festivals. I’m hoping that the popularity created by the festivals will stir broadcaster interest as it has done so with other environmental films such as ‘Blackfish’ and ‘Racing Extinction’. It's an incredibly exciting time to be working in documentaries at the moment because of the multi platforms and impact of social media.
Watch the trailer:
Please support the film by visiting the website www.thecatthatchangedamerica.com and promoting the word through word of mouth and on social media.
Twitter: @SabanaFilms / #TheCatThatChangedAmerica