Filming Saving Sirga: Journey into the Heart of a Lion – Director of Photography Perspective

From a filming perspective.

Humans have always been fascinated by lions. In our minds they are brave and free and represent a nobility of spirit we crave.

In the 1960’s George and Joy Adamson’s friendship with Elsa the lioness became a Global phenomenon, and more recently the story of the two young men who bought a lion cub called Christian in Harrods, raised it and then returned it to the wild , captured the imagination of television audiences world-wide. Both cases supported the idea that lions are individuals capable of forming close relationships with humans. 

When we became aware of Val and Sirga’s story we knew it was a once in a lifetime opportunity, because it took the trust between lion and man to a completely different level. Not only had an amazing bond developed between Val Gruener and the cub he had rescued and raised, but this man and this lioness were walking and learning to hunt together alone and unarmed in a wild and remote part of the Kalahari Desert of Botswana.

The irony is that this friendship exists at a time when conflict between farmers and large predators is a major stumbling block to the survival of wild lions in Africa.

From a filming perspective the challenge was to show the deep friendship between man and lion and juxtapose that with the brutal human/predator conflict in a way that would create awareness yet foster understanding.

Before I could think of anything else I had to be able to film the friendship, and that meant being accepted by Sirga.

I have filmed many wild lions in Africa over many years. I was fortunate enough to live with, follow and record the development of one specific lion pride in The Kruger National Park over eight years. I watched that pride grow from a small random group of two young males and three females, into a formidable super-pride of twenty-eight, an efficient killing machine capable of taking down large prey like buffalo on a regular basis. The pride recognized me as an individual, left their cubs with me when they went out on the hunt, and even tolerated me when I was outside the vehicle, but I could never join the inner circle, and although I slept when they slept, followed when they walked or hunted and disappeared into the bush with them at the first sound of a car approaching, I never tried to join the pride on foot and I always did my filming from the vehicle.

Now I suddenly found myself with a unique opportunity; to leave my trusted four-wheel drive vehicle behind and to go hunting on foot with a man and a lioness, albeit a hand-reared lioness, in the Kalahari Desert. For any seasoned cameraman this is a no-brainer.

As producer and Director of Photography this project presented unique challenges. There would be no set-ups and no re-takes, because Sirga is no circus lion to be directed and cajoled with rewards. She would go where she wanted when she wanted,  and Val and I would follow.

How could I film the bond between these two friends and their unique interaction with nature without disturbing the balance or interfering with actions which would constitute major learning curves in Sirga’s life?

Val and Sirga had formed a small hybrid pride based on trust. I didn’t want to become part of it. I didn’t want to influence their movements or their behavior. Would it be safe to join them? Would Sirga accept me as the outside eye, watching, recording, but never interacting with them, or would she see me as a threat?

There were major technical hurdles to overcome too. Filming from a vehicle or a cage was out of the question. Apart from the fact that vehicle tracks would destroy vegetation and be unsightly, Val wanted to limit Sirga’s interaction with vehicles to the barest minimum. The last thing he wanted was for a vehicle to become part of any hunt or chase. For that reason there would be no back-up vehicle either.

Val and Sirga were walking and hunting freely over large parts of a ten thousand hectare territory. It was a matter of follow and film or I stay at home.

The only way to record every intimate detail would be to join Val and Sirga on foot and to record all the action hand-held. A long-lens camera on a tripod would give me more control, but would weigh more than 20kg. It would be impossible for me to carry that around while filming on the move for four to six hours in the 40+Deg C heat of the Kalahari. Filming from a tripod would also take away from the feeling of exploration and the immediacy of the action, the hunt and the chase.

In the end I opted for a smaller, lighter camera and a wide-angle lens to give me mobility and allow me to get in close to the action without too much camera shake.

I took the plunge. The first days were nerve-wracking. Sirga took her cues from Val’s tone and tolerated my presence, because he did, but she never let me out of her sight. She remained on constant alert where I was concerned and was super-aware of the ‘eye’ of the lens , which she tried to capture, bite and swat whenever she thought I was getting too close. Any attempt to go ahead of them to film them walking towards me broke her concentration and stopped any possibility of filming a stalk or a chase.

I had to take things easy. This was not a race.

We thought fitting Val with a radio microphone to pick up his words and breathing throughout was a brilliant idea. Sirga immediately noticed the microphone wire protruding from his pants and tried to pull it out, but listened when Val told her to leave it alone. Things went well, until the batteries in the receiver at Val’s waist died and I walked up to him to replace them with new ones. The moment I touched him, Sirga growled and came for me. Val shouted and she backed off but it was touch and go.

The message was very direct and crystal clear: Val belongs to me. I can hug him and jump on top of him or ambush him all I want. You touch him and you’re dead. That, was the end of the radio mike. It was never used again.

After that I watched for the small signs, learned the unspoken lessons and stuck to the rules, and Sirga slowly relaxed and began to accept my presence.

It took three hard months of patience and perseverance, during which I was jumped upon, tripped and run over by her, but the break-through finally came. One day Sirga just suddenly accepted my presence. I became part of the furniture and I could finally begin to film them walking past me and around me. I could even walk ahead of them without Sirga stalking me or jumping on my back. Once that barrier was broken I could at last start recording their relationship and their adventures from a close-up, low-angle perspective without affecting Sirga’s behaviour.

For two and a half years I was part of yet separate from a small hybrid pride that walked and hunted together and explored a hunting ground in the Kalahari Desert from a lion’s perspective. Sirga no longer avoided me. Instead she treated me like I’ve seen lionesses treat grumpy older pride males. She would lie down next to me and sometimes brush against me when we were walking, but she did not hug or lick me like lionesses do with other pride females. I was definitely a male. Val’s identity is still a bit of a mystery, but I have a suspicion that she sees him as her mother. Sorry Val!

Having exclusive access to record the unique friendship and bond between a man and a lion has been an amazing journey of discovery for me, not only as a cameraman, but also as a person. It has given me unprecedented insight into and appreciation of the mind and the heart of a lion and the connection that can happen when two very different species come together as equals.

My only regret is that despite being so close and being fully accepted, I had to refrain from touching or initiating interaction with Sirga. This was not my story. I could not allow myself to become a completely integrated part of the story or the pride. Instead, I was “No-No”, the grumpy old male lion that went along but kept his distance. The amazing thing is that Sirga seemed to understand and accept the old male’s need to be separate at times, just as a lioness would make allowances for an old male in a wild pride.

Despite my ‘separateness’ I never felt any aggression from Sirga. On the contrary, her generosity and inclusivity constantly astounded me. Once she accepted me she did so completely and unreservedly, and that included all my odd equipment and my strange behavior when filming. She often came and gave me an affectionate rub, lie down next to me and look back at me to see if I was following after resting in the shade. She would even sometimes look directly into the lens while extending a paw at me with an old bone or a feather in it, as if encouraging me to accept a gift or share the moment with her.

I fulfilled my dream in life. I’ve worked with wild lions all my life. Now I can also say that I touched, walked with and hunted with a lion, and I am one of the few who have been run over by a lion on several occasions and lived to tell the tale.

Thank you Sirga, thank you Val.

49 thoughts on “Filming Saving Sirga: Journey into the Heart of a Lion – Director of Photography Perspective

  1. Thank you for your amazing, brilliant, sustained and committed work, which made it possible for us to be part of Val and Sirga’s incredible journey.
    Talking about the mother figure, I think Val is much, much more for Sirga, than a foster mother. There would never had been such a close bond between cub and her lion mother in the wilderness. The key of their relationship is the LOVE. Sirga is full of charge of Val’s love and that explains her unusual behavior.
    I can’t wait to see their next adventure in the new area of Kalahari desert.
    Thank you again 🙂

    • Hi Noemi, Thank you so much for you kind words. It makes every day of the more than three years in production worthwhile. We agree with you. We’re still wrestling with how to interpret how Sirga sees Val and we think there another film to be made along those lines and with recent research in mind. Sirga undoubtedly shows an astonishing ability to express love and affection (there are really no other words for it) and finds ways to communicate with Val, and Val’s commitment to her is all-encompassing and very touching. Their relationship is a very special one and we’ll stay with the story until Sirga is safely settled in her new 2,000hectare sanctuary. We’ll post any news and some videos on our Saving Sirga Journey into the heart of a lion facebook page if you have social media. Many thanks again for taking the trouble to contact us. With best wishes. Jurgen, Tarina and Michael

    • Thank you so much for your kind words and for taking the time to get in contact. So glad you enjoyed the series. We agree, we also think that love is the difference in this relationship even though some would scorn the idea of animals having feelings. Luckily more and more new scientific research shows that were probably right! 🙂

  2. Such a beautiful and life changing experience! I’m thankful you took the challenge, over your overall safety, so that we could feel part of the experience through your camera lens. It was exciting, heartwarming and a remarkable story to see! Thank you so much for all your hard work!!

    • Many thanks for you beautiful words Lilly. It took more than three years and many many kilometers, but we absolutely loved doing this series. People like you make it all worthwhile. Best wishes, Jurgen, Tarina and Michael

    • Thank you so much for your kind words Lily. We assure you that filming this remarkable story was an absolute joy. It’s not every day that a caneraman gets to walk with a lion! 🙂

  3. I just noticed this on Netflix and watched the first episode. I can’t wait to see the rest. Looks like an amazing modern day born free story. The story and filming looks great. Awesome job. Can’t wait to see how this story develops.

    • Hi Mike,
      Great to hear that you started watching Saving Sirga. We agree, it is a lot like the story of Joy and George Adamson and the Born Free film. We only discovered Joy Adamsons books after we had completed the series and we were astonished at how similar the behavior of Elsa the lioness, reared by the Adamsons, was to that of Sirga, the lioness Val raised. The good news is that we could record the whole story as it happened with the help of modern day equipment so unlike the Adamsons we actually have visual proof of everything that happened. Val has found a secure 2,000 hectare sanctuary where Sirga can live a free life away from humans and we’re waiting right now for final governmental approval to go and record Sirga’s relocation to her new home. We’d love to know what you think of the whole series once you’ve watched it. You can also follow Sirga’s journey from here on our Saving Sirga: Journey into the Heart of a lion Facebook page. Best wishes, Jurgen,Tarina and Michael

    • Great to hear from you Mike, We actually found Joy Adamson’s original books after we had completed the series and we were amazed at how similar Elsa the lioness she and her husband George raised in Kenya in the late ’50’s. It was uncanny. We were just happy that we could take the time to film as much as possible with more modern equipment. We reckon George and Joy would feel perfectly at home with Val and Sirga! Hope you enjoy the series!

  4. Thank you for sharing this. There were so many times that I felt like I was there and like Sirga forgot the camera. You are a very talented young man.

    • Hi Joy,Thank you very much for reaching out. Great to hear you felt as if you were there. I loved filming this story and I wanted everyone to feel as if they were there with. Please follow Val and Sirga’s story on our Saving Sirga Facebook page if you like. Best wishes. Jurgen

  5. This show is beyond amazing and lifts us to remember that all animals have purpose on this earth, and express beauty and love and intelligence. If the big animals like lions, (and including ocean creatures like sharks) disappear, then everything else is affected all the way down the food chain and our world is impoverished. This film touched my heart and I recommend it to anyone.

    • Hi Kate, Thank you for your great comments about the show. So glad that the story touched you. We totally agree that all the large predators on earth are vital to keeping any ecosystem on earth strong and robust. They also have a profound affect on biodiversity in nature. Without them the earth would be a very different place indeed!

    • Apologies for only coming back to you now, but we were out in the bush for a while. Thank you so much for your comments, Kathy. What you say is very true and it is something that consumes our thoughts, because so many of the animals you mention are in danger and we’re so very close to losing a rich and irreplaceable heritage before really understanding how important they are to our own well-being. Thank you also for recommending the series to others. Creating awareness with as many people as possible is of the utmost importance. You are the reason we make films!

  6. No doubt that this series needs to be seen more and each time you can discover some stunning details. Even the side characters are also great (like bullfrogs and pangolin) and no need to say that Val and Sirga’s captivating personalities make all eyes focused on tv screen. The brilliant narration is in perfect harmony with Kevin Smuts’ catching music giving the viewer a more cathartic experience. I can’t wait to see the developments in your interpretations! I hope we dont’t have to wait for the second series for 3 years!
    I wonder if Sirga will be in sedation or anaesthesia during her transport? I hope everything will be fine!
    All the best!

    • Hi Noemi, Well, Sirga is safe and happy in her new home! She was given a mild sedative to keep her calm until she adjusted to the confinement and the movement of the vehicle, but she was an absolute Star! Never panicked for a moment! The place she is now is beautiful and pristine and we think she’ll be very happy there.
      So great to hear that you enjoyed the series! Please tell your friends to watch it too! Unfortunately we won’t be doing another series right now, because Sirga won’t be released from her holding enclosure for a while, which makes it impossible for Val and Jurgen to walk with her, because there are wild lions around that might kill her if they meet. We also need to make some money before we attempt another series, because we lost a bundle on this one…not the series fault at all, just our distributor who seems unable to sell it! Very frustrating, but we have to live with it and move on. We just love Sirga and we want as many people as possible to know about her. That’s why we’re busy making a 90 minute film about her right now.

      • Thank you for the clarification about Sirga’s moving. I’m sorry for hear that she is stucked in her enclosure. According to these are there lions within the main fence? This can be very dangerous indeed.
        I’ve been recommending the series to people around me of course and evryone fells in love with it. I can’t wait your new film! 🙂 I’m very excited about it.
        This whole case what happened to you is just outrageous! I sincerely hope that this next project willI not only flourish but also bear fruit for you.

  7. I also wanted to say that my absolute favourite scene is the dance of the San people while Tarina tells us the story of the ancient bushman song meanwhile Samson? (R.I.P.) appears with the full moon in the background and he’s roaring loudly and all of these are combined with Kevin Smuts’ wonderful music. It’s just pure catharsis!

    • Dear Noemi, apologies for the delay in answering. Thank you so much for your wonderful words of encouragement.
      We have sent Kevin Smuts your comments about his music, because we know he will be thrilled!

      • It’s a honour for me and I can only hope that I will hear his wonderful music in the new movie as well. 😉

  8. I watch bits of Surga before I fall asleep a few nights a week. It helps an old geezer like myself to capture warmth through your narrative.
    Mike

    • Hi Mike Q, Great to hear that the love comes through to warm an ‘old geezer’s’ bones at night! that’s exactly what we wanted to hear! We’ll think of you next time we watch the show! Go well, especially if you’re in the freezing States right now!

  9. I live in France and have just discovered « Sirga and Val ». Oh
    Can fond no Word sur to express my lové for thème both and thank you and yourteam to présent us with such a beautiful amazing film. Could you please tell me if i can but DVD ofSaving Sirga ? I apologize for my poor English.
    Thank you for thèse wonderful images.

    • Dear Bonnaud, Thank you so much for your kind words. Great to hear that you loved watching Val and Sirga’s story as much as we loved recording it! We are very privileged to be part of their an amazing friendship!
      Unfortunately it is not possible to buy DVD’s of the series right now as DVD sales are normally done a bit later.
      We’re sorry to disappoint, but it’s wonderful to know that people in France are also able to share this story!

    • We apologise for this late answer to your message. We don’t know what happened there. It seems to have slipped through without us noticing. We are so very happy to hear that you enjoyed Saving Sirga! Unfortunately it is not possible to get a copy of the series yet. Our distributor has not told us if they are selling DVD’s yet. We’ll let you know as soon as we hear from them where you can buy a copy. We are now almost finished with a new film called I Am lion.We think you’ll love this one too! We’ll be distributing this film ourselves. We’ll be sure to let you know when it is available to watch and where. Please keep checking the website and the Tauana Films Facebook site for updates. we’ll be posting on that and also when the new film is available. All the very best!

  10. SirAga accepting you as D.O.P is almost as astounding a phenomenon as her relationship with Val. I’ve been a follower of Kevin Richardson for years and although his physical and emotional connection with his charges is remarkable, the fact that Val was able to hunt with Sirga and that she remained non-possessive of her kill is a first. And Kevin cannot allow another human to interact with the lions even in his presence. That said, I hope the issue of predator/human co-habitation is advanced by the dissemination of your wonderful film. The 3-star rating accorded the production by Netflix Canada is an aberration. You deserve 10 stars and a medal.

    • Hi Michel, thank you so much for your insightful comments! After so many years of watching and filming wild lions Jurgen absolutely loved being able to see the action from the ground up as it were! There is much to admire about Kevin Richardson and his dedicated work with all his animals. We think he has done stellar work with his lions, because as far as we know the lions he started with were captive bred and trained to star in a film called The White Lion before he took custody of them.
      The dynamic there would have been a little different, because Kevin’s lions were essentially ‘performance’ lions beforehand, but the way he handles them and interacts with them obviously speaks of great trust and affection.
      As wildlife filmmakers we became interested in the relationship/friendship between Val and Sirga (which actually has many of the same elements as the ones Kevin Richardson has with his lions), because their relationship was much more informal to start with (Unlike Kevin Val is not an animal handler or trainer) and eventually evolved into a man going out on a 10,000 hectare game area with a lioness who was born from wild parents. The important thing was that she had not had any contact with any other lions after ten days.
      We were interested in what a lion like that would ‘know’ instinctively and if and what she would need to learn to be able to live in the wild, because in this case the man didn’t teach or train the lion, but basically facilitated her teaching herself how to hunt and interact with the elements and with wild species. It was quite a ride!
      We’ve already found that even some long-time and hard-core lion haters out here are beginning to look at lions with different eyes, so yes, it’s definitely making a difference here on the ground, which is pretty amazing!
      Only 3 stars on Netflix Canada?? Outch!That hurts!
      The great news is that the fans we do have there are obviously thinking people like you who are able to feel and express their emotions and thoughts.
      People like you are why we make films!
      Thank you! You give us hope for humanity!

  11. I don’t know if you saw my previous entry which pretty well expresses what any normal human being would feel upon viewing the series, that is, utter amazement and respect for all of those involved. Something intrigues me about the chase sequences that appear to be shot with a Go-Pro underneath Sirga’s chin. In the frames setting up those sequences and even the beginning of the chase, we don’t see the camera at all. Good editing I suppose. Meanwhile, THANK YOU for this most inspiring of stories in a world in great need of such.

    • Hi Michel, Thank you so much for your message. We agree, anyone who is not touched by this lioness and her relationship with a human has a screw loose!:-)
      Yes, deciding what camera to use and how to mount it on Sirga to get her point of view shots took some time. We wanted the series to have a certain immediate look about it. Jurgen decided right from the start that it had to be shot from the lion’s perspective, which meant that the camera couldn’t be done from a tripod, a shoulder or a vehicle, all of which would be too high. The shots had to be taken from Sirga’s height or lower. Jurgen shot the entire series on wide angle with a hand-held camera, which is why he had to get Sirga to trust him; so he could get close enough to get great shots without having to cart a tripod along or sit in a vehicle and shoot from above.
      Yes, we used GoPro’s for the POV shots. Every walk took between 3 and 6 hours and the cards record for about 4 hours, so as you can imagine, there was a lot of footage recorded on every card. In the end we just edited in the sequences we felt were most pertinent to illustrate what we wanted to say in a specific scene.
      As to the positioning of the camera; we looked at the GoPro dog harmass and head-mount, but they were useless for our purposes, so we spent a long time thinking about what we wanted her Point of View to show us. We didn’t want to have the POV camera mounted on her head, because that would mean that one would always see her neck and ears in the chase, but one would never be able to see what she was looking at on the ground, i.e. tracks, a kill, Val, etc. and the ‘view’ would always be too high for a lion’s perspective.
      We wanted to be able to see her feet to follow her movements and we wanted to be able to see what she saw on the ground and when she looked up.
      We found that a camera around her neck would give us the most flexibility in the chase and exploration sequences. The vet thought she might have to wear a radio collar later anyway, so a collar sounded like a good idea.
      Jurgen first fashioned a light training collar to get her used to something around her neck, and made a heavier leather collar later to which he could attach the GoPros, which had to be angled in a certain way to maximize the effect. The camera tended to move a bit depending on her movements, but it was never in shot and we were very happy with the results. Technical stuff, but that’s what filming is really all about.
      Thank you for being interested in the technical side of the filming! And thank you for liking the series! We’ll let you know when the new film I AM LION comes out so you can tell everyone about it!
      All the very best to you.

      • Knowing that Michael was up to his ears in grading and that J and T were heading back to Maun tomorrow, I took a chance and looked if anyone had responded to my questions which I thought not too brilliant. I am nothing less than stunned that you found the time to explain in such detail how you shot the film that I can’t stop pushing on all of my friends and acquaintances — I’m close to stopping strangers on the street to urge them to view it, and the upcoming IAL. Yesterday was my birthday and you have given me the best gift of all. I can’t tell you how grateful — and impressed I am! I sincerely hope you get your due for what is crucial work for the benefit of this planet. Mille merci !!!
        PS. You forgot to mention the exposures 🙂

  12. I wonder how the cut Mark Bekoff saw compares to the final I viewed today, but I wholeheartedly agree with his comments. I’d never read so much about a film prior to seeing it. Expectations are formed and it’s almost as if you were on the sidelines of the production, witnessing the process and feeling the filmmakers’ emotions. This was reinforced by your generosity in answering my questions on Sirga and communicating with Michael. As grateful as I am for that privilege, it doesn’t even come close to what I felt watching IAL. As was the case with Sirga, your voice becomes the magic carpet on which we are transported through the landscape of the story. I’m 73 and I can’t help but imagine time-travelling as one of your children and being read to by you. I know, sounds weird, but I did see Living with Lions some time ago and I expressed to Michael how magical his childhood must have been. That out of the way, allow this layman to once again tell you how impressed he is with your work. Thinking of the hours and hours of footage you must have had in the can and the hard choices you had to make boggles this old mind. And then there’s the stamina Jurgen had to summon throughout the shoot! (sorry, don’t know how to do an umlaut) and the brilliant editing of image and sound. I could go on forever about the script and its delivery. And the score…the bullfrog and illness sequences in particular were wonderful. I only have 12 hours left on my rental so I’ll leave you on that–much to your relief, I’m sure. Merci encore une fois, non, mille fois. MF

    • Oh, thank you so much for your wonderful comments! You have no idea how much they mean to all of us right now!You’ve made our week!
      We’ve been sitting here waiting anxiously for the first responses from viewers to come in, because, even though Marc Bekoff liked it and we thought we’d done a good job with I AM LION, one just never knows what the general response will be. The film Marc Bekoff saw was basically the same apart from the changes in commentary, the voice over, sound and of course the music. The film he saw only had the theme music at the beginning and the sound and guide voice over and sound. We love Kevin’s music and the one with the bullfrogs is one of our favorites too!
      This has been an especially nerve-racking experience, because it is also the very first time that we decided to embrace change and distribute a film ourselves!!
      Interesting that you mention the new experience of connecting with a film and producers before its release in the way you have, because we’re been going through exactly the same experience since Saving Sirga. Our work has always meant living in wild and remote places with no communication systems or internet and no other people around us. Once we completed a film we gave it to a trusted distributor to be sold, and after that our only indication that people liked it or not was reflected in the sales to terrestrial broadcasters. There were some film makers around that worked for people like Nat Geo who were more exposure-savvy, but we didn’t want to be tied down so we declined a Nat Geo offer to become filmmakers in residence in Kruger. We wanted to make films our way and then sell them, and that’s the life we knew. – In the Kruger National Park, which is one of the most ‘crowded’ national parks in Africa with more than 1,7 million people visiting it every year, our film camp in the extreme northern Pafuri area (where the images of the children were taken) was 76 kilometers from the nearest tourist camp at that time and more than 200 km from the nearest town where we could buy things like fresh vegetables – I’m sure you have many more remote areas in Canada and Alaska and that you get how one becomes used to isolation. Since visitors were only allowed to drive 25 km p/h in the park, we never saw people in that area before ten in the morning or after four in the afternoon. We were a bit worried about how this would affect the kids, but they never had any problems socializing and they turned out pretty okay, we think! 🙂
      Apologies for not responding to your previous letter BTW. We got caught up in the unfamiliar business of self-distribution!:-)
      I’ll come back to you later about the voice, but for now we’re just so grateful for your great feedback!
      Enjoy your next viewing! Merci notre ami!

      • Once again, I’m awed (yes, I’m odd, too) by your generosity and candour towards me. There’s little wonder that you wanted to pursue your careers independently — you are so unlike some producers and directors I have met from that place on our West Coast. Although I have had some wonderful conversations with a few. The BBC should do an update on Living with Lions. What a life you still lead! I’ll cut to the chase. Do you have any thoughts or plans as to other-language versions of IAL? I’m only aware of a French version of Sirga, of which I can only see the trailer on Ushuaia TV. So I don’t know if the entire film was dubbed in French or if it was only done for the trailer–not too successfully, I would humbly add. In my opinion, your films don’t lend themselves — rather deserve more than– to subtitling. But they certainly have the quality of moving viewers all over the world. I realise v.os cost a lot more. I hope I’m not overstepping the boundaries of a fan. I do mean well and as you’ve probably gathered by now, hold you in very high esteem. Merci et soyez heureux chers amis.

        • Please forgive my ignorance. In my desire to see IAL go truly international, I had no idea Sirga’s story had already made the media rounds globally. In under 5 minutes, I found videos and print on the initial story in Spanish, Italian and German. I’m not familiar with any other languages but I assume pretty well everyone jumped onto the bandwagon. However, I guess getting the actual film released in several languages remains a challenge. Deep in my heart, what I would pray to happen is that a Mandarin version is seen by millions in China. Thanks for your patience with my rants. M.

          • This is most Intriguing! We knew Saving Sirga was translated into Spanish, because the series was licensed to Animal Planet (South America) as a presale right at the start and proved to be extremely popular there.
            We had absolutely no idea that it had been translated into any other languages, especially not Italian or German. It would be most interesting to know if and where in Italy or Germany it was being shown!
            We totally agree with you that I AM LION deserves global exposure, which is why we’re making a point of taking it to film festivals. It’s a good place to find good exposure, which will hopefully give us more options as we go along.
            Only time will tell. We’d rather be making another film, but we have to walk the walk right now!
            We’d like to get to know a bit more about you – you mentioned having conversations with people in the film industry – are you in a related field? You mentioned music and being a drummer…are you still working at that and what kind of music do you do? Have a great day up there in the freezer!

        • We get your point about the languages, but we really haven’t thought much further than first getting the film completed and then getting it to some film festivals to see the responses.
          Once we have a clearer view on the interest level of international viewers we’ll definitely think about doing voice overs in other languages.
          Yes, we saw on one of our quarterly distribution reports that Saving Sirga was licensed to Ushuaia TV, an online platform in France, so we presume that the translation of the trailer and script into French were also done by them – sorry about the translation!! We just remember how disappointed we were at the time that the series had not been picked up by a French television station!:-)
          We do agree that subtitles can be a problem with making a film with a bit more substance. Most broadcasters and international distributors prefer simple, easily translatable stories, because no one wants to take the time to do a proper language version anymore. In our opinion this global package deal distribution has eroded the quality of the films we see on television nowadays and is one of the main reasons why online platforms have gained such traction worldwide. We have already had a number of offers from distributors and TV channels who are keen to distribute or show the story, but want us to cut the film down to like 48 minutes with a focus that is entirely on the friendship between man and lion. It’s tempting of course, but Saving Sirga already told that story, so what would be the point? Always a pleasure to ‘talk’ to you!

          • Re-Bonjour Tarina!
            Thank you for your elaborate–and as Trump would put it–“perfect and beautiful”–reply. I’ll be as brief as possible. First off, the videos and print references were related to Sirga’s “story”and not the film. The video that every living creature on the planet appears to have seen is the Val-opening gate-lion jumping on Val- scene. Another point: the French translation of the trailer was impeccable but the tone was journalistic, which, if compared to your amazing rendition, is disappointing. The title “Le destin de Sirga” is ok, I suppose. As for all the other points we have discussed, I wouldn’t know where to begin. As I’ve made clear in my communications with Michael, I’m really just a powerless fan who, for reasons I’m beginning to understand, got hooked on your work. The odd thing is that I was never compelled to get in touch with Val, which, considering an important point you mention with regard to broadcasters, would have been the instinctive thing to pursue. Actually, this is the first time I have ever communicated with people I don’t know other than taxation officials and other creditors :). As rewarding as it is, it is a rather ponderous means of interaction. About me: I was a “jobber” drummer for 20 years. Stopped for 10 years for health reasons. Started again in 2001. Worked mainly in France until my final demise in 2009. However, throughout that timeframe, I did explore other avenues including a few documentary series. Thanks to my notoriety and connections, I was able to get to a certain stage but, as you know, unless you’re able to participate in a technical capacity, an idea, no matter how well researched and presented, is worth less than zero. I currently do some work with a French voice director/producer who is probably the best in Canada in the ad business. So much for brevity lol…Michael, your beloved son:) has my phone number and e-mail. I can be reached on Facetime, Skype, Whatsapp etc. Meanwhile, all the best from yours truly and my 70kg Neo, Gina.

          • Thanks so much for taking the time to fill us in on your most interesting and varied life!
            This is definitely a very laborious way of communicating.
            Michael is doing a working holiday in Thailand right now and will be there for the next month or so, but we’ll be sure to get your email address from him asap.
            It will just make communication a lot less cumbersome.
            Have to do some marketting, and that’s definitely NOT our forte!
            Talk again soon. Greetings to your Neo Gina!

  13. In my dreams, Marc Bekoff appears on every talk-show in the U.S. to re-launch his book Wild Justice and present IAL as the most eloquent representation of his research. As a result, millions of pet owners order the film on Vimeo and the three of you require someone to manage your full schedule of interviews and speaking engagements. And because of your carbon-footprint concerns, the media must come to you in a specially equipped studio in Maun. I could go on and on…lol. For the time being, I’m sure that you’ll knock em’ dead in New York. Hugs from both of us.

    • What a beautiful dream!! Sorry about the long silence. We took on board what you had to say about the VOD pricing being too high and decided to first explore all the other distribution options before bringing it back to Vimeo.
      We’ve been busy talking to some people and we have a number of options – just have to make the right decisions this time!
      We have been in contact with a guy from Love Nature to see if we can have it shown in Canadian television (especially for you!).
      They seemed very interested until they found out it was not in 4k format. Seems that Blue Ant media only shows 4k programming. well, we tried! On to the next possibility!:-)
      the good news is that one part of the dream worked out spectacularly!
      We most certainly knocked it out of the park in New York! Hugs to you both too!

  14. No need to answer the previous, which was just a bit of daydreaming. The fact is, Dr. Bekoff’s message and yours converge beautifully, and his comments on the film are promotional gold if they can be used effectively. That’all folks. Thanks again. Au revoir.

    • Yes, his feedback should help us a lot. he was most generous. We’ll definitely be buying his new book!

  15. It was nice to hear from you. For awhile, I thought you’d gone into exile in some remote other-worldly place with an unpronounceable name like Bootsweena or something like that….oh….
    Thanks for taking me into consideration for your choice of distributor. Love Nature would indeed have been a great fit. Oh well..pixels are overrated anyway!
    As for Dr. Bekoff’s latest book “Unleashing Your Dog, A Field Guide to Giving Your Canine Companion The Best Life Possible”, it seems great from the perspective of my relationship with Gina, but doesn’t advance that between Tauana and a worthy distributor. I can’t help but wonder if this author could be of some help to you though his contacts. That, added to your vast network of people in the biz HAS to lead to a happy outcome.
    Should you want uninformed but heartfelt feedback 🙂 please don’t hesitate to contact me. Warm regards from our little corner of the Freezer.

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