IN A NUTSHELL
This Kickstarter campaign is to complete the latest film by award-winning documentary filmmaker Kum-Kum Bhavnani, entitled Galapagos Life.
The Galapagos Islands are a storied location, the inspiration for Darwin's theory of evolution, the home to countless species of plant and animal not found anywhere else, and they boast a pristine natural beauty that is breathtaking to behold. The physical beauty is so pronounced, that the substantial challenges of the Islands, and the people who are meeting those challenges - are often overlooked. This film tells that story - an amazing place where human beings have come to prioritize their ecosystem above all else, proving that it can be done ... because it is being done.
Kum-Kum Bhavnani presents a reality with honesty, balance, and candor. She uses the voices of those living in the Galapagos. A message emerges from this film that is hopeful and uplifting - the notion that the Galapagos Islands are perhaps an important lesson. For all the problems humanity has inflicted on its planet and environment throughout history, Galapagos Life proves that humanity can also harness an intrinsic "good", and shepherd the solution. Thank you for reading about this important film.
(Sunset image used above: Galapagos Sunset; © Rob Donoho, used with permission)
ABOUT THE FILM
Galapagos Life tells a story about a people living in a fantastically beautiful place that faces severe environmental and other challenges. Without fanfare, these remarkable people have formed a unique collective - a new type of society, if you will - with rules, tasks, and above all, a common purpose - to prioritize and preserve their delicate and most precious ecosystem.
A FANTASTICALLY BEAUTIFUL PLACE: Located 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador (South America), rough pacific currents give way to turquoise waters and white sand beaches, volcanoes thrust toward the sky, and ancient creatures slink from the sea to bathe under the hot equatorial sun. Hundreds of species of plant and animal are endemic to the Galapagos. Few places on this planet teem with so much diversity of life and its vibrant colors. It is a most majestic "wonder of the world", the place itself is one living and breathing environment.
SEVERE ENVIRONMENTAL AND OTHER CHALLENGES: The Galapagos Islands are isolated. There is no potable water. Access for supplies is limited. Food costs are astronomically high. The ecosystem is delicate - Invasive species of plant and animal are a constant threat. Revenue from tourism is critical, but the outside presence brought by welcome tourists also brings the risk of invasiveness, necessitating rules, oversight, and enforcement.
THE REMARKABLE PEOPLE: The 25,000 who have chosen to live on the Galapagos Islands embrace sustainability and purpose. They huddle on only 3% of the land, the rest being a designated National Park that they visit and watch over. They are 100% aware of all the challenges. While integrating the preservation of their wondrous and unspoiled environment into all they do, they still live normal lives. They have jobs, families, and find things for their kids to do. Their internet access is spotty, shipments from the mainland can be sporadic. On the Galapagos, people don't just coexist; they cooperate, collaborate and often share commonalities of purpose. They know they are the guardians of epic beauty and protectors of a natural order. Kum-Kum believes they have become a society unto themselves.
AMONG THOSE FEATURED IN THE FILM
Says Kum-Kum: "Here are 6 people featured in this film, along with some words from me and some words from them --"
VERONICA, THE NATURALIST - Veronica Ampuero is dedicated to vigilance and preserving balance. She speaks almost poetically, and considers Galapagos to be "a perfect place, like a bubble in the center of the world - a very nice bubble indeed."
"Everybody living here knows there is a balance where humans, animals, flora, and fauna all feel safe. We work together to keep that balance every day."
EDGAR, THE PRESERVATIONIST - Edgar Vargas Castillo knows the islands better than most. He plays an important role in many of the unique ways and customs of the society. (fyi - Edgar is pictured on the right of the image at the top of this page.)
"On the Galapagos, we have arrived at a form of community that prioritizes the ecosystem first and foremost. I hope the world learns from this."
VICO, THE RANCHER - Vico Arias is the Owner of Chatos Dos - a Tortoise Ranch, a most fascinating place. His family arrived 60+ years ago. I love listening to his phraseology - he uses terms like "cooperating with the land tortoises". Although he oversees and protects, his words speak to an equality with animals humans rarely espouse.
"Galapagos is the closest thing on this Earth to the Garden of Eden. Protecting it and caring for its inhabitants, though challenging, but is a glorious task."
RODRIGO, THE PROTECTOR - Rodrigo Jacome is a businessman with political savvy. As such, he plays a critical role in tourism, policy, and integrating the society on the Islands with issues of the mainland.
"Galapagos has no potable water. This is a problem not surmountable by a single person or group. It requires a cooperative society."
SOFIA, THE GUIDE - Sofia Darquea is a lifetime native of the Galapagos, where she has raised her son. She is well respected as a "Guide's Guide" - multilingual, often meeting with incoming tourists aboard cruise ships.
"Tourism is a lifeblood of the Galapagos, but with it comes risk to the ecosystem. We have created rules, based on respect. They work."
DOUG, THE CONSERVATIONIST - Doug McCauley is the only person featured in this film that is also on my filmmaking team, as a consultant. He is a marine biologist and I have never met anyone more in touch with life in the ocean.
"As a marine biologist, I ask - who are the players, how do they all get along, how many are there, and what interactions keep them functional and healthy?"
ABOUT THE GALAPAGOS
The Galápagos Islands are an archipelago of volcanic islands distributed on either side of the Equator in the Pacific Ocean, west of continental Ecuador, of which they are a part. The islands are known for their vast number of endemic species, which were studied by Charles Darwin during the voyage of the Beagle, which observations contributed to the inception of Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection.
During his visit to the islands, Darwin noted that the unique creatures, similar from island to island, were perfectly adapted to their environments. Among those that struck Darwin so greatly were the finches that are now named in his honor. Darwin would later base some of his thought from the supposition that these finches were descendants of the same lineage. Years later (in 1859), Darwin finally consolidated all of his observations from the Galapagos and elsewhere, into his famous book On The Origin of Species, drastically and controversially altering forever the scientific view on the biological origins of life.
The Galápagos became a National Park in 1959; tourism began in the 1960s. In 1985, the archipelago became a Biosphere Reserve; in 1986, a section of the ocean surrounding the islands was declared a Marine Reserve (second in size to Australia's Great Barrier Reef); and in 1990, the islands were declared a whale sanctuary and one of the New 7 Wonders of the World. In July 2010, in testimony to the efforts of its remarkable people, the World Heritage Committee removed the Galápagos Islands from its list of precious sites endangered by environmental threats or overuse.
"When I first visited the Islands, I was with my daughter, and we were drawn by the unspoiled and picturesque beauty, as most people are. But after I got there, met the people, realized what they were doing - it was so special, that for me, it transcended the place itself. I knew I had to make this film.
The 25,000+ people who live on these islands are not only working hard to protect and preserve a precious ecosystem, but for them - this is not a goal, it is a given. Therein lies the key. When they assign and share tasks, establish rules, and maintain vigil – they do things as one. They not only accept their challenges, they bask in them; and from that emerges a spirit of cooperation perhaps greater than any I have seen.
I make a point in my films to present positive and uplifting messages without ever being preachy. But here now on this Kickstarter page – I am going to preach.
Because if we watch and learn from the people in the Galapagos, it will help us. We know we face a struggle to mitigate the impact of climate change for our entire planet. The Galapagos is doing it on a manageable scale, and it remains to be seen whether humanity at large can defeat the economic and political obstacles to do it on a global scale.
As you will see from this film - the Galapageños are not problems for the ecosystem; rather, they have become the solution. I've always believed humans can be a solution. These people are proving it. They appreciate what they have, and accept the importance of of it without a second thought. Their everyday actions add up to a significant and successful effort. They are humans rising to the occasion, creating new, thought-changing paradigms for protecting an ecosystem. Most live normal lives. Their collective actions are informal. They act as guardians and monitors and protectors and preservationists – automatically and with what seems like an effortlessness that belies the task.
We can learn a thing or two from The Galapagos - people are inherently good; when facing a tough position, people rise to the occasion; it starts with 100% awareness and acceptance; when everyone does a little, it adds up to a lot; and the words “thinking outside the box” are more than just words.
This is, after all, the only planet we presently have."
Kum-Kum Bhavnani - Producer/Director and university professor by day. Born in India, raised in London, professor at UCSB since 1991. Films: The Shape of Water (2006), selected as centerpiece for Human Rights section of the 2008 Middle East International Film Festival, narrated by Susan Sarandon. Nothing Like Chocolate (2012) profiled Mott Green, an anarchist and chocolate maker from Grenada who did things the right way in an industry that rarely did. Lutah (2014) - a visual biography of the talented and eccentric Lutah Maria Riggs (1896 – 1984), the first licensed female architect in Santa Barbara.
Doug McCauley - Consultant, Environmental Science and Marine Biology
Skye Borgman - Director of Photography
Ashoke Ghosh - Sound Engineer
Jim Tonge - Digital Producer
TIMELINE, BUDGET, AND USE OF PROCEEDS
Timeline: assuming this campaign is successful, I will immediately schedule a final trip to the Galapagos in May of 2017; begin post-production in July, 2017; a director's cut will circulate to festivals on or about in the Fall of 2017; and I've estimated the delivery of the final film as a reward in all its forms by December, 2017, although I hope it will be a bit earlier.
Budget: the lion's share of production has been completed, most of it personally funded by me; filming in the Galapagos is more expensive than in less isolated or remote locations, but it is - at this point - a known quantity. The balance of production efforts will continue if/when the campaign succeeds and continue through the trip to the Islands. This will use 40% of dollars raised. Post-production will be 25% of dollars raised. Fees to Kickstarter and Stripe, rewards fulfillment, and some distribution efforts (festival submissions) will comprise the balance.
I came to Kickstarter to finance to balance of production for this documentary, for 3 reasons: First and foremost, is a desire to remain independent. The environment is often a politicized issue, and there can be no financial contributor to this film that has a political agenda, it won't work for me.
Second is vision. I have loved and visited this place. I have lived this film for some time and developed a vision, and want the film to remain true to, and be an extension of that vision. Truth is sometimes relative or in the eye of the beholder, and complex issues have realities that are sometimes hidden from view, so I won't profess pure truth, but I can profess my vision of truth.
Third is a desire to collaborate. Not just with the people on the Islands, but with you. What better place to take this than to Kickstarter, where collaboration is a way of life, and a proven model for outreach, awareness, and hopefully - success, not just financial, but in all its forms.
ABOUT THE REWARDS
CAN YOU MIX AND MATCH? Yes, you can. If there are Rewards you'd like in a certain combination or quantity that are not offered that way, no problem. Send a message to Kum-Kum by clicking her name at the top of the page, and then "CONTACT ME". Glad to work it out.
DELIVERY DATES: The Rewards show a delivery date of December, 2017 which reflects the outside date for the film; we are likely to fulfill most of the Rewards a bit earlier.
MAKING YOUR "CHOICES": All "options" involved in any Reward tier (t-shirt size, for example) will be made AFTER the campaign; Kickstarter has a survey form for these selections, works quite well.
THE TOTE BAG is eco-friendly, and both the T-SHIRT and the POSTER are designed by a local Galapagos artist.
We've got the answers. Send a message through Kickstarter by clicking Kum-Kum's name above, and then CONTACT ME. Any questions or comments or ideas at all, we'd love to hear from you! That's a big part of why we came to Kickstarter.
see captions under certain images
Beach on Isabela © Bill Gozansky/www.billgozansky.com, used with permission; Frigatebird Pair © Bert Forbes, used with permission; Sea Lion Pups in Espanola © Kevin Schafer/www.kevinschafer.com, used with permission; Marine Iguanas © Dr. Robert Lucking, used with permission; Galapagos Sunset © Rob Donoho, used with permission; South Plaza Island © Lisa Woolfe
Risks and challenges
Making a full length feature documentary is a challenge for anyone, even for a major studio. It is a substantial endeavor, with many moving parts.
I have done my best to minimize risk and maximize use of funds without the slightest compromise to the mission, the story, and the quality. I am an experienced filmmaker and like with my other films, I have financed it to date from limited personal funds, thus reducing what is needed and adding focus to its apportionment. I have made a trip to the Galapagos to obtain the footage you see in the video, and have a good sense of the cost of filming in the Islands. The funds from KS will allow for the completion of filming, and also the editing and other post-production that can really make a documentary special - adding poignancy to the dialogue, increasing continuity and flow throughout, and of course, the technical - color correction, sound edit, music, and the like.
I have wanted to do this film for some time, and in all immodesty, I think it's well thought out. The scope of work, time frames, and budgets are reasonable. And I have much cooperation from third parties.
In summary, I say with total confidence - when the Kickstarter campaign succeeds, the documentary film of Galapagos Life will be made; and all rewards will be delivered fully and on a timely basis.
Hopefully, many people will see this film, and some will hearken to its message and process it on a larger scale because at the end of the day, this is still the only planet we have.
Please know that I encourage input and enjoy dialogue. Thank you all for reading and for your support. - Kum-KumLearn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (46 days)