For over 20 years I've been working with conservation organizations and resource agencies to create informational programs with the purpose of increasing public awareness and appreciation for habitats and species in the U.S. Pacific Southwest. Please visit my website at
http://www.fieldnotes.com/ to learn more about my background and projects.
Name: Jim Karnik
Where are you based?
I live in the coastal town of Encinitas near San Diego, California, USA. I’ve lived in this area most of my life and even with much of the county developed into shopping malls and tract housing, it’s still incredibly rich in natural diversity.
What is it that you do in the film industry? How would you describe your job/s?
I’ve had my own production company since 1987. My main focus has been producing nature conservation and research programming for organizations and resource agencies. Although I produce some broadcast and cable docs most of my projects are presentation programs for nature conservation organizations. As an independent producer I do just about everything: script, shoot, edit, graphics, and even create my own sound tracks sometimes.
Who or what inspired you to work in film and why cover nature and conservation issues?
I would have to say Jacques Cousteau and some of the National Geographic films from the late 60s early 70s. Cousteau and others, like Al Giddings, inspired me to start scuba diving with a super 8 camera while still in high school. Conservationists like Rachel Carson and John Muir were also a great inspiration.
What is the favourite programme or series you’ve worked on?
I just enjoy being in the field filming wild places, so it’s difficult to pick one project. Probably a presentation piece I did for Torrey Pines State Reserve here in San Diego is one of my favourites. It was one of the first wide screen projects I did and I spent over a year filming the different seasons and species.
What has been your biggest challenge filming in the field?
The biggest filming challenge I have is trying to get good clean natural audio, especially when working coastal areas. The ambient noise generated from human activity is difficult to filter out.
How has technology changed your job? Has it hindered or enhanced telling the conservation story?
The digital age has been a great thing for my type of work. I don’t really miss cutting film or editing tape to tape. Hiking with these smaller HD cameras and editing in the field on a laptop is a dream come true.
What is your favourite place in nature?
I definitely enjoy places where the landscape instils a strong sense of place. In the Western U. S. places like Grand Teton, Yosemite and Grand Canyon National Parks are powerful places. But just this morning, as I walked along beach bluffs near my home, the air was clear and crisp, small surf lapped on the shore chasing terns, gulls and other shore birds feeding along the tide line. I knew some of these birds just arrived on their migration along the Pacific Flyway. It was truly magical.
With all your field experience, what is your biggest concern when it comes to the environment?
Loss of habitat due to direct development and resource overuse has decimated plant and animal species throughout the world. Along the California Coast 90% of coastal wetlands have been lost. The same goes for coastal sage scrub and riparian habitats. Eventually these unique habitats become too small and confined to support obligate species.
How do you think the media industry should be addressing environment and conservation issues?
I believe climate change is still a very abstract concept for most people. We just are not seeing or experiencing the effects yet in the cities and urban areas where most people live. The media industry should take every opportunity to demonstrate the links or connections between humans and the natural system in which we live.
If you could give one message to G8 leaders on climate change, what would it be?
There is little time to waste. If G8 leaders are concerned at all about the well-being of their children and future generations, It’s imperative that they establish sustainable strategies for controlling population growth, developing alternate energy sources, and protecting natural systems.
What are you working on at the moment?
I’m currently in post production on a presentation program about a Watershed Education Summit that took place in the Sierra foothills this fall. 70 high school students spent four days in the mountains learning how to do watershed monitoring. I’m also travelling and filming national parks and other wild places in HD for a broadcast project. In my spare time I’m making more of the films I’ve produced available to view on-line.
Where are you going next?
I still have many places and topics to explore here in the U.S. and may be doing some filming in Baja California in the spring.
What would you like to remembered for?
If I’m remembered for anything, I hope it is that in some small way my films and the organizations they were produced for, help to increase appreciation for and understanding of this precious and spectacular planet.