Montana Department of Commerce Grant Brings Filmmakers to IWFF

HELENA, Mont. – In support of the 40th annual International Wildlife Film Festival in Missoula, the Montana Department of Commerce and Montana Film Office have granted the festival funding to bring filmmakers to the state to participate in a variety of events.

Two grants totaling $10,000 will be used to support the festival’s special events that draw visitors from across Montana. It will also help pay for three filmmakers to participate in the festival and learn more about Montana for potential future projects.

Visiting filmmakers:

  • Justin Anderson produced the BBC’s Planet Earth 2 episode “Mountains,” which was filmed in-part in Yellowstone National Park with local filmmakers John Shier and Dawson Dunning. Anderson has been working on documentary projects for 18 years for the BBC, Discovery Channel and National Geographic.
  • Zackery Rago and Stacey Piculell produced “Chasing Coral,” a documentary that took home the Sundance Film Festival Audience Award. The documentary will open the International Wildlife Film Festival on April 15. Rago will also spend time speaking with Missoula elementary school students.

Learn more about the 40th International Wildlife Film Festival here.


When it comes to wildlife films, bigger usually means better.

Megafauna have no problem attracting the attention of filmmakers or audiences. If that’s your flavor, the 40th International Wildlife Film Festival has plenty of films about big creatures: Take your pick with feature-length films like “Giraffes: Africa’s Gentle Giants,” “Gray Area: Wolves of the Southwest,” or “Operation Whale” (which is actually about sharks gathering around a whale carcass.)

And regarding the scale of a film, it doesn’t get bigger than the screenings of “Planet Earth 2,” the BBC’s blockbuster series. Montanans who haven’t seen it yet should take note: the second episode, “Mountains,” features work filmed in Yellowstone National Park by Montana filmmakers John Shier and Dawson Dunning.

While the larger features and creatures naturally draw your eye, film festivals are populated with short films, and in IWFF’s case, short films about smaller critters that are just as intriguing as bigger films.

All screenings take place at the Roxy Theater. For tickets and more information, go to

“Archives of Extinction,” 12 min. Directed by Alyse Takayesu

Friday, April 21, 3:45 p.m.

A narrator reads field notes circa 1901 about a collector shooting a rare species of Hawaiian bird, as viewers see row after row of drawers containing gorgeous dead specimens of island birds.

Initially, you may be saddened. However, viewers soon learn that with the mass extinction that’s occurred with island birds, those collectors may have provided one of the few examples of the species that still exists for scientists.

Alyse Takayesu’s quiet film, which makes excellent use of field recordings, pays a visit to the archives of extinct birds, and contemplates the cost they paid and the future information they can contribute: A scientist discussing gene studies that could someday allow the birds to be revived, as he says, “reconstructing valuable roles we see the environment needing now.”

“Running Wild,” 7 min., Daniel Schmidt

Friday, April 21, 4 p.m.

Ultra-runners, athletes who’ve trained their bodies to span up to a hundred miles at a time, often face an ethical quandary: They’ve dedicated countless hours to a pursuit that can seem selfish.

Some ultra-runners found a way to apply their rare abilities to a greater cause in Utah. In February 2014, a camera in the Uinta Mountains of Utah spied a wolverine. The sighting could indicate that the elusive species was expanding its range south, a phenomenon that begged to be confirmed and studied.

A group called Adventurers and Scientists for Conservation set up a series of cameras spanning 80 miles in the remote range in hopes of sighting more wolverines. The problem is that they needed people who could visit all those cameras to retrieve footage and traps. Two ultra-runners eager to turn their passion for a greater good step in.

“Microsculpture,” 6 min., Tanya Cochran

Monday, April 17, 7 p.m.

Levon Biss, a commercial photographer in England, landed his largest museum show through his smallest subjects: insects. Shooting images of bugs with microscope lenses was initially a hobby for Biss, until he approached the Oxford University Museum of Natural History, which houses the second largest insect collection in Britain. They were impressed by the level of detail in the photos, which are stitched together from thousands of individual photos. (He explains how he individually lights each antennae). The museum then partners with Biss for a show of photographs blown up to larger proportions than he ever imagined.

Planet Earth 2 – Must-See Visuals, And Plenty To Think About

By Helen Young

At this year’s International Wildlife Film Festival, we will be screening the glorious and critically acclaimed ‘Planet Earth II’. In the safe hands of Sir David Attenborough, this series drew record viewing figures for the BBC last year, usurping ostensibly more crowd-pleasing shows in the ratings wars, and drawing a dedicated following in the hard-to-please younger demographics.

The accolades and adoration for ‘Planet Earth II’ are undoubtedly well deserved. Its viewing figures and the enthusiasm with which it was taken up by the wider public is, perhaps, a testament to our increased awareness of the environment and environmental issues. Most agreed that the work done here has been exemplary – although there has been some disagreement. Martin Hughes-Games, presenter of rival BBC wildlife show ‘Springwatch’ called the series “a disaster for the world’s wildlife” through its failure to address anthropocentric environmental damage. How many people, Hughes-Green and his supporters argue, could have been persuaded to use green energy, or donate to Greenpeace, or cut their carbon footprint had Attenborough embedded an environmental message in his series? However, what Hughes-Green called “a beautiful, beguiling fantasy world, a utopia where tigers still roam free and untroubled, where the natural world exists as if man had never been” certainly makes for wonderful viewing. If you like your wildlife shows with more wildlife and less eco-lecturing, then ‘Planet Earth II’ is a delight. The series has six episodes, focusing on different habitats:

1.   Islands

2.   Mountains

3.   Jungles

4.   Deserts

5.   Grasslands

6.   Cities

The final ten minutes or so of each hour long episode focuses on the making of an aspect of the episode. From the point of view of budding wildlife filmmakers, these are very interesting. The trials, boredom, deprivation, and camaraderie of travelling to difficult parts of the globe in order to film animals who frequently won’t play ball are displayed with humour, honesty, and affection.

Of course, the animals and the visuals are the real stars of this series. The filmography is simply breathtaking, will full advantage taken of modern technology to get close, clear shots of the animals in question. ‘Planet Earth II’ is a follow-up series to ‘Planet Earth’, Attenborough’s similarly acclaimed series released ten years prior. In a mere ten years, much has changed in the realm of film technology, and its successor makes the most of what it now has to build upon its parent. Drone footage, for example, is used to reach wildlife in areas previously only filmable from a helicopter – and, as drones are both more maneuverable and less likely to scare the wildlife than helicopters, the move more than pays off. Similarly, the team mounted a camera on the back of a trained eagle in order to give viewers a literal ‘eagle eye’ experience of an eagle’s speedy, steep flight patterns.

Then there are the creatures themselves. There is a very good reason why social media lit up with emotion when ‘Planet Earth II’ aired on a Sunday night. The animals are not only beautifully shot, their stories are wonderfully told. A particular sequence involving baby sea iguanas and racer snakes is simply a stunning piece of television, which had hearts in mouths all over the world. A tale of two snow leopards, told via camera trap footage, gives an insight into both the habits, the precarious lives, and the elusivity of these incredible beasts.

‘Planet Earth II’ will undoubtedly to prove influential in the world of wildlife filming for many years to come. Definitely worth watching.

Interns Needed for IWFF 40!

Our awesomely fun and incredibly entertaining team at IWFF is in need of some hard-hitting interns!

Looking for the following:








If you’re interested in finding out more about these internship opportunities – email [email protected].


Submissions Are Open!

Submissions for the 40th International Wildlife Film Festival are now open currently being accepted.

Earlybird Deadline: November 18, 2016

Regular Deadline: January 6, 2017

The longest running wildlife film festival in the world, IWFF was founded in Missoula, Montana as a watchdog and guardian of scientific and factual accuracy, ethical film practices and creative excellence in the craft of the wildlife film genre.

In 2017 the IWFF will continue it’s tradition of focusing on filmmakers by introducing new immersive workshops, mentorships and exciting new events for our 40th year.

Submit now!