|Written by Paul Mahoney|
|Wednesday, 08 October 2008 11:35|
James Ewen has spent the last 6 years living and working full time in Africa as a wildlife cameraman and photographer. As well as working in the broadcast and commercial market he focuses on the production of specifically targeted wildlife and conservation films, designed for the communities that are in direct contact and sometimes conflict with the natural world. After spending more than 4 years filming in Mozambique's coastal ecosystems, Uganda is now home. His current project is concentrated on the wildlife of the rainforests and mountains of Ugandas Western Rift valley.
Where are you based?
Although I am based in the leafy suburbs of Kampala, Ugandas capital city, my work takes me all over the world. In the last year I have worked in Alaska, Hawaii and Norway as well as Mozambique, South Africa, and throughout much of Uganda.
What is it that you do in the film industry?
How would you describe your job/s? My ‘official’ job description is Director/Cameraman but I wear many production hats. Working with limited budgets in Africa means that you quickly learn to multitask, diversify and learn new skills. My job is tremendously rewarding and inspiring but also challenging.
Who or what inspired you to work in film and why cover nature and conservation issues?
My mum was a biology teacher. She introduced me to the natural world at an early age and I grew up watching David Attenborough, Terry Nutkins and Johnny Morris. There was a big stack of National Geographic Magazines in the bathroom and I spent many happy hours there, and before long I was hooked on the stories behind the images. I believe that visual media, especially the moving picture is amazingly persuasive. In the right hands it has the power to inspire people to move towards positive change, FFC is full of such people.
What is your favourite place in nature?
There are so many. I am very happy when up a mountain or in a forest… Montane cloud forest?
You’ve been given $10m for a conservation project of your choice. What would you use it for?
$10 million doesn’t go very far if you want to develop large-scale sustainable conservation projects but right now I would work on the human encroachment issues facing mountain gorillas in the Virunga Landscape of Uganda, Rwanda and Congo. The $10 million would go some way to help develop alternative rural livelihoods. Conservation is often about people.
Climate change is one of the biggest threats facing our planet. What singular thing would you like to see done to try to solve this?
There are so many things that are important but my personal wish would be a global reforestation drive on a massive scale, using indigenous species of course; this would address a number of pertinent issues.
What has been your most memorable field experience whilst shooting films?
A dugong dancing for me at 15 meters below the surface in the Mozambique Channel, it was so startlingly memorable that I turned the camera off instead of on and lost the first 30 seconds of footage.
Where do you see the planet in the next 20, 30 and 50 years?
The so-called ‘developed’ world has the financial resources to deal with a lot that will be thrown at us in the next 50 years; it’s the developing world that will really suffer. In Africa its already getting hotter, crops are already failing, the rains don’t come and when they do there are devastating floods, people are suffering from terrible famine. The polarisation of the developed “north’ and the developing ‘south’ is only going to increase.
Man is again reaching for the stars and plumbing the depths of the oceans. What area would you like to investigate?
There are so many! My top two right now are the Semuliki River Basin that connects the Rwenzori Mountains and the Ituri Rainforest in Congo, and the triangle that links Karamoja in North-East Uganda with Southern Sudan and Kenya.
If you could show one film to the G8 world leaders, what would it be and why?
An Inconvenient Truth’- As gripping as it is succinct; these G8 World leaders are busy people I hear.
What’s the best advice you could give to a young filmmaker starting out in wildlife and conservation filmmaking?
Find yourself good mentors. Meet inspiring people. Read inspiring stories. Know your subject. Work really hard to achieve your goals with the resources you have to hand. Then set new and bigger goals.
What would you like to remembered for?
Being a good storyteller who made a difference.