Uncovering Conservation Documentaries with Gunjan Menon

4

The Second-Year students of SCMC had a virtual meeting with Gunjan Menon, a wildlife film-maker who cares deeply about animal conservation. After receiving her bachelor’s degree from Symbiosis Institute of Media and Communication, Gunjan Menon specialized in Wildlife Filmmaking at the University of West England, Bristol. Her first independent short film, The Firefox Guardian, earned 32 wins and nominations across 13 countries. She has also worked on On the Brink, which aired on Animal Planet and the Discovery channel.

After briefing us on the different types of Wildlife Documentaries, she described her work on Human Interest Stories and Conservation films. We watched her short documentary about Red Panda Conservation in Nepal, The Firefox Guardian, a Student BAFTA-nominated film that received an honorable mention at the UN headquarters in New York. Menon gave us insight into the technicalities of pre-production, the experience of shooting a rare Red Panda sequence, and how the final edit came about. Her emphasis on the importance of telling the stories of locals and the animal while not butchering their voices made it clear how important it is to capture the emotions and truth behind the narrative, in a respectful manner.

To Gunjan Menon, the impact the film made was more important than the awards. After the release of the Firefox guardian, there was an increase in the number of female forest guardians and funds raised across the world for the Red Panda Conservation. She gave us more examples of how documentaries have the power to make an actual change and how one can do that through compelling storytelling.

We learned about how to use the three-act structure for a documentary and how captivating narratives can create heroes and villains in nature. Most importantly, we remembered that caring for wildlife conservation does not stop at making documentaries, it should be manifested in a sustainable lifestyle.

Gunjan Menon talked about the importance of being a responsible filmmaker and helping in creating a safe and comfortable environment for your colleagues because, at the end of the day, they are the ones who have your back. The session not only gave us a real insight into the process of documenting but  also woke up the wildlife enthusiasts inside us.

Chetana Bisht
(Batch 2022)