The Vervet Forest
The Vervet Forest
Monkeys, People, Culture and Oppression. A documentary about compassion and the repercussions of our lifestyle choices.
Monkeys, People, Culture and Oppression. A documentary about compassion and the repercussions of our lifestyle choices. Read more
About this project
The film will be an intimate look into the lives of monkeys and people.
We will learn about Vervet Monkeys - their language, their complex system of social hierarchy, their individual personalities, their abilities to reason and deceive - all in order to create a relatable portrait of these incredible creatures.
We will hear about life from a variety of human points of view - from the rich to the poor, we will learn their opinions, their culture, beliefs, traditions and the daily struggles. We will come to understand the similarities and the differences between individuals of various social standings within the same societal hierarchy.
By pairing these topics, an interesting juxtaposition will occur. Parallels between the nature of humans and monkeys will arise, we will see the similarities in our family lives, friendships, personalities and daily struggles.
Through this proverbial mirror, I hope that people will understand that no matter how different our cultures may be, we all want the same things in life.
Despite all the amazing effort the VMF puts in, the surrounding land continues to be destroyed for farming, housing, hotels, golf courses, etc.
As the human population increases, so does the trouble for the monkeys.
As more and more Vervets are displaced or injured, the foundation is squeezed tighter and tighter for resources and land. It's a perpetual cycle which drives toward the destruction of a species. But this isn't how it has to be.
With the creation of the forest, we will provide a huge area of land for these monkeys to inhabit, an area free of fences and angry humans, so that the monkeys may live symbiotically with nature as they would in the wild.
Of course this is a great undertaking and will require the help of many people. This will create a variety of skilled labor jobs and highly technical jobs for individuals in South Africa.
Because the Vervet Monkey Foundation has so much experience, they will be taking full responsibility for the forest. This is why 50% of all proceeds from the documentary will forever go directly back to the foundation. They will use this money in combination with money raised through grants and other methods that they are pursuing, to purchase several hundred acres of land, close to their current location, to sanction as The Vervet Forest wildlife reserve and to help pay for future expenses.
The Vervet Monkey Foundation is a non profit organization, funded by volunteer contributions, in the poorest region of South Africa.
The VMF was founded in 1993 by Dave Du Toit and Arthur Hunt. They rescued their first baby orphan Vervet (named Regus) back in 1988. A seemingly small good deed which prompted a monumental life shift forthe beekeeping duo.
Dave, who played a crucial role in bringing the Internet to South Africa, ran an IT business for years, supporting the foundation financially, while Arthur ran the volunteers and monkeys. Sadly Arthur passed away in 2009.
Today the foundation is run by Dave and Josie Du Toit. Josie, Dave’s wife - a vet nurse and passionate animal lover with a heart of gold, first arrived from the UK in 2005 and quickly took over many of the managerial positions of the Foundation. She's always the hardest working person there, handling an incredible amount of jobs with ease.
Everything they have has gone into the 56 acre foundation which is currently home to over 550 Vervets, two Samango monkeys, two dogs and a sheep named Basil (who thinks he’s a dog). The Foundation hosts thousands of student volunteers and PhD's. They hold research programs for primatologists, biologists, vets and many more. They also conduct outreach programs to educate people in impoverished local communities.
Some of the VMF's accomplishments:
The VMF is responsible for having the Vervet taken off the Vermin list and put onto the normal game list - which basically means instead of legally being able to shoot the monkey, people need a permit to kill it, a small but crucial step toward preservation.
The VMF has been on the forefront of enclosure design, using electric fences and intro cages long before other sanctuaries in South Africa.
The VMF developed a unique troop introductory system and foster mother program to facilitate the needs of the monkey's individual personalities without placing them in danger (this is going to be a crucial aspect of the film).
The VMF has also conducted endless land and farm research, disproving countless claims by farmers in regards to the land destruction by monkeys.
I first visited the Vervet Monkey Foundation in 2007 and the experience changed my life and I've always wanted to give something back to the animals and the community that has educated and helped so many people.
Back in 2007, you could go into the enclosures with the monkeys. Even as a human, you were immediately placed into the monkey's social hierarchy and treated as one of the troop. You could talk to the monkeys, groom them, play with them; certain monkeys would be more timid of you cause of your higher rank, others would mess with you or steal things from you because you were a lower rank.
You really knew where you stood in their society and it all stemmed from the way that you composed yourself. If one entered an enclosure nervous or anxious the monkeys would sense it and immediately the person would be placed at a lower rank. But if a person entered, confident and calm, accepting of all things that came their way, the monkeys would be much more accepting of the individual and place them at a higher rank.
This first hand information blew my mind, these animals are so incredibly similar to us in the way we treat each other in society and social situations, a lot can be learned about ourselves from interacting with and observing them. Which is something I believe can be said about all cultures, if the individual takes the time to assimilate into the culture rather than attempting to impose their own traditions, the cultures can actually begin to accept each other and learn from one another.
The foundation has changed since then. People no longer go into enclosures and the name of the game is dehumanization - in order to better prepare the monkeys for survival in the wild.
With the documentary we hope to accomplish several goals.
One is to create a lasting impression on the world by spreading the awareness of the cause through an entertaining medium.
Another is to educate individuals who watch the film, who participate in the creation of the film and who are the subjects of the film.
We also hope to create lasting jobs, and opportunities for people from around the world to visit the forest and learn from the monkeys and individuals who dedicate their lives to the Vervets.
Lastly, the ultimate goal is the forest, because what's more awesome than knowing you helped to sanction a piece of land, as a preserve, that can't be gobbled up by hungry corporations and it exists solely to protect and promote the future survival of wildlife.
So far, all that has been created, has been done in one month, by myself, on my own budget of a couple thousand dollars, with a solid plan, a dslr and some cheap sound gear. I plan to live in South Africa for a year to complete this film.
The first 6 months will be the most crucial. October through February are essential for filming, because these are the months of baby season. The following 6 months will be dedicated to post production, but I will remain in South Africa for the process so that anything that arises may be accomplished.
The goal is to have the final film completed for you by the 1st quarter of 2017.
In order to bring the deepest and most honest point of view to the viewer, time must be spent with people and the monkeys, learning about them and assimilating into their culture.
Thanks to the past three months of research and investigation and my connections with people in South Africa, I have been able to compile an incredible list of contacts with great access to farms, wildlife reserves, various rehabilitation foundations and scientists in the field. I've also gotten to know a lot of locals, from school teachers to immigrant farm laborers, artisans, kids and many more.
With so much access, you the viewer will be able experience the bigger picture point of view of this impoverished farming community struggling to survive in a world evolving faster than they even know.
This is the smallest, lowest, barest minimum amount that the production phase of this film can be accomplished for. If this is all we get, I'll just be back in a couple of months, begging for more money to help with post.
With 100k, we can complete the entire film from production to distribution.
For 150k, one other individual could return with me to South Africa, to help with the production of this film. This is our ultimate and ideal budget.
The budget will cover a variety of costs, the following are some of the most important areas.
1. Room and Board - Will be provided by the VMF, so really, a portion of the budget is already being used as an awesome donation to the foundation.
2. Gear - Crystal clear nature imagery and stunning portraiture, is what people expect today from a documentary like this. If the forest is going to be funded, viewers need to be satisfied.
3. Locals - A lot of money will go directly into the local economy. Between buses and taxis, translators and guides, access and politics, the film will constantly be supporting small South African businesses and the power of the individual entrepreneur.
4. Post Production - An often overlooked aspect of any great film. This will fund the editor, colorist, sound designer, sound mixer, and a composer, as well as sourced music, footage rights and festival submissions.
Kyle was born and raised in Los Angeles California and grew up around the film industry. After film school, Kyle and several friends founded a production team known as HIGH5COLLECTIVE. They quickly established a strong online reputation for their unofficial music videos and worked with such artists as Frank Ocean, Aloe Blacc, Childish Gambino and The Neighborhood, as well as brands like Redbull and Myspace.
HIGH5COLLECTIVE was known for its innovative marketing and branding strategies using anonymity and social media, as well as their cinematic narrative style and unorthodox approach to music video production. They were featured in online publications such as The Huffington Post, Rolling Stone, iD-Magazine, and countless music blogs. Several of their videos have reached beyond several million views.
From music video directing Kyle developed a unique style and voice, which focused primarily on a docujournalistic approach to film making, combining the story telling knowledge and visual style of Hollywood cinema, with the run and gun mindset of a traveler assimilating into foreign cultures.
Risks and challenges
I think the risks are pretty straight forward, we're making a documentary in a developing nation - anything is possible.
Angry Farmers, hex casting Witch Doctors, robberies, unpredictable weather, fires, monkey attacks. The list goes on and on, but that's what insurance is for and that's where experience traveling into impoverished societies and cultures comes in handy.
Also, all these things that could be a challenge are exactly what are gonna make this documentary entertaining and memorable. So really, the more insane the situations, the deeper the investigation, the better the story - the happier the audience.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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