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The Cat That Changed America World Premiere Report
By Tony Lee/Sabana Films
26 February 2017

The Cat That Changed America cast
The Cat That Changed America Cast

They say a film doesn't really exist and come alive until it plays in a theater and reaches its audience. Earlier this month, at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival, I was lucky to experience this axiom. My filmThe Cat That Changed America had its world premiere as part of the 'Reel Screen' nature section of the festival, started by Mike De Gruy as a showcase for natural history films.

Beth Pratt and P22 at SBIFF
Beth Pratt, California Director of National Wildlife Federation with P22

Santa Barbara is a fitting place for my film to have a world premiere, as it's only an hour away from P22 mountain lion's birth place in the Santa Monica mountains and the proposed site of the Liberty Canyon wildlife crossing. Residents who travel on the 101 freeway to Los Angeles pass the crossing site every day, and after seeing the film will give more thought to the issues of connectivity and habitat loss facing all wildlife.

Beth Pratt and Alex Rapaport at SBIFF 2017
Conservationist Beth Pratt and cameraman Alex Rapaport being interviews on the red carpet at SBIFF

We shared the red carpet with the stars of La La Land and also actor Jeff Bridges who was honoured at the festival. We took along the P22 cardboard cutout from the famous Steve Winter National Geographic photo. This gave a great platform to put P22 on the world stage, as Getty Images captured celebrity photographs of him with Beth Pratt-Bergstrom, the California director of the National Wildlife Federation. We also made the front cover of the LA Times, a write up about the conservationists in the New Yorker and much local press from the Malibu Times to the Santa Barbara Independent. P22 soon became a recognised celebrity at the festival as Beth carried him through the streets of Santa Barbara. Many posed for selfies with P22 before and after the screening.

Tony Lee and Alex Rapaport on SBWFF Awards Stage 1
Producer, Tony Lee and DOP Alex Rapaport on stage collecting award

At both screenings we had a full house, and afterwards Beth took to the stage, along with wildlife biologist Miguel Ordenana who discovered P22, and campaign group Poison Free Malibu, to answer many questions from the enthusiastic audience.

I, and my Director of Photography Alex Rapaport, were given a special award by Poison Free Malibu for our services to conservation, which for me was the most memorable part of the festival. Do conservation films make a difference? Absolutely, as after the screening, many attendees came to me and said they would pressure their local housing association to ban the use of anticoagulant rodenticides. The memorable photograph of P22 before and after the effects of ingesting rodenticides created an audible gasp, and hopefully left an indelible mark with the audience.

Tony Lee and Alex Rapaport on SBWFF Awards Stage 2
Producer Tony Lee, DOP Alex Rapaportand cast on stage

At the wildlife film makers panel the day before, Alex and I spoke about the six months making the film, and bringing the plight of mountain lions in the Santa Monica mountains to the world's attention. We also honoured filmmaker Rob Stewart who tragically died during the festival. There are those who are so passionate about conservation that they will give their lives to help save the species that they care about. Rob was definitely one of those filmmakers. I first met him at the Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival in 2003 when he was starting his film career and was immediately struck how humble, how passionate and how dedicated he was towards preserving sharks and the world's oceans.

Santa Barbara International Film Festival

The Cat That Changed America premieres in LA next month at UCLA as part of their Green Screens festival and also at a private screening for the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County. It has also been entered for other major wildlife film festivals around the world including the Japan Wildlife Film Festival, Rotterdam and Jackson Hole. I hope P22 will be the cat that changed the world.

The Cat That Changed America - Poster

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.

Facebook: facebook.com/thecatthatchangedamerica
Twitter: @SabanaFilms / #TheCatThatChangedAmerica

Sabana Films

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