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A journey to SAI Sanctuary to create a documentary film in the jungle heart of South India.
A journey to SAI Sanctuary to create a documentary film in the jungle heart of South India.
A journey to SAI Sanctuary to create a documentary film in the jungle heart of South India.
110 backers pledged $8,226 to help bring this project to life.

About this project

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The Jungle Water Project: A Story to Secure Fresh Water

$8,226

110

Forests are the source of earth's lifeblood, fresh water.

Join me this winter on a journey to SAI Sanctuary to create a documentary film in the jungle heart of South India.

WHO

My name is Melissa Lesh. I am a documentary and educational filmmaker, recently graduated from Virginia Commonwealth university, and currently living in Richmond, Virginia. I was born in India 23 years ago and have been returning to travel, photograph, visit family, and volunteer every winter for most of my life. I have been making films for five years now, focusing on unique creatures and hidden places. I was recently selected for the Imagine Science Film Festival in NYC. You can view my work here

Volunteering at Rajiv Gandhi Wildlife Research Center
Volunteering at Rajiv Gandhi Wildlife Research Center

WHAT 

With your help, this winter I will be traveling to the Western Ghats of South India to create a documentary film in the 300-acre wildlife oasis, SAI Sanctuary. I will be focusing on the importance of preserving wild places like SAI and documenting the trustees who have dedicated their lives to protecting the area. 

Walking in the footsteps of Elephants
Walking in the footsteps of Elephants

I will be in India for 10 weeks - researching, filming, and crafting the story. Accompanying the film, the Jungle Water Project website will chart the journey through photographs, video shorts, and written works. 

The train to SAI
The train to SAI
Woman harvesting rice in Kodagu
Woman harvesting rice in Kodagu

 WHERE

The Western Ghats mountain range is one of the eight hottest hotspots of biological diversity in the world. It is a World Heritage Site hugging the Arabian Sea, spanning 990 miles and covering 5 states. What was once a  densely forested migration corridor for thousands of endemic species is now a receding and fragmented stretch of habitat. Today there are 325 globally threatened species within the Western Ghats. 

THE SANCTUARY

Nestled within the Kodagu region of the Western Ghats, SAI Sanctuary is a non-profit organization working to protect and preserve the last remaining wild places on Earth. I will be living here to capture and tell the story.

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WHY

The peace and survival of humanity depends on our ability to access and use fresh water. These tropical forests provide the subcontinent of South India with seasonal rains. The fresh water here feeds rivers throughout the watershed. Without forests, there is no rain, and without rain, there is no fresh water. Since 2008 I have been returning to the sanctuary to volunteer and discover the challenges facing the area. My goal is to provide this documentary as a resource to secure the regions forests and fresh water. I hope to empower landowners, villagers, government officials, and forest advocates to adopt sustainable land practices. Ultimately, I hope to secure a fresh water future for the Kodagu region and provide this film as an educational platform for communities here and around the world. 

Annual rainfall along the Western Ghats region.
Annual rainfall along the Western Ghats region.

THE REWARDS

You will see many different backer rewards...

example: Matted Photograph
example: Matted Photograph
example: Canvas Print
example: Canvas Print
example: Gouache Painting
example: Gouache Painting

Your donation will make this project possible by providing: 

  • My stay in SAI Sanctuary & Kodagu region
  • Local Transportation 
  • Equipment Purchases 
  • Marketing and Outreach
  • Post Production and Editing costs
  • Film Festival Submission Fees

Risks and challenges

One of the biggest risks for this project is filming in an uncontrollable environment, the jungle. Equipment can fail, get damaged, waterlogged, or lose energy. Wild animals can present challenges. I plan to bring multiple dry boxes, solar chargers, extra external hard drives, and other essential equipment as backups. Both Trustees at SAI sanctuary have provided me with the experience and knowledge of hiking through dense habitat. I have learned the necessary safety precautions when filming in close proximity to wildlife.

I also understand the challenges I may encounter when filming and conducting interviews within a community other than my own. Although I speak Hindi, the regional language Kannada may present a communication barrier. To address this I will be working closely with a Sanctuary Trustee who speaks Kannada and has strong relations with the locals surrounding SAI and throughout the region. I will be interacting and eating my daily meals with the local Pandit (the community spiritual teacher) and his family. I hope to strengthen personal bonds throughout the entirety of the project, gaining a heightened understanding of the regions concerns, challenges, perspectives, and goals.

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  1. Select this reward

    Pledge $5 or more About $5

    You will receive acknowledgment as a SUPPORTER on the Jungle Water Project website.

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    Pledge $10 or more About $10

    You will receive BEHIND THE SCENCES ACCESS to the Jungle Water Project making of the film, including photo updates from India. + the previous reward.

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    Pledge $25 or more About $25

    You will receive an HD DOWNLOAD OF THE FILM upon its completion. + all of the above

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    Pledge $50 or more About $50

    You will receive a personally addressed COPY OF THE DVD with a handwrittenn POSTCARD from me to you! + all of the above.

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    Pledge $150 or more About $150

    You will receive a PRINTED & MATTED WIDLLIFE PHOTOGRAPH (8”x10”) taken during the project. + all of the above.

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    Pledge $300 or more About $300

    You will be acknowledged under the SPECIAL THANKS credits in the Jungle Water Project film. You will receive a (16”x20") ready to hang PHOTO POSTER of a photograph taken during the project. + rewards 1 through 4.

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    Pledge $600 or more About $600

    You will receive acknowledgment as a SUPPORTING PRODUCER for the Jungle Water Project film. You will receive a (24”x36”) ready to hang CANVAS PRINT of a photograph taken during the project. + rewards 1 through 4.

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  8. Select this reward

    Pledge $1,000 or more About $1,000

    You will receive acknowledgment as an ASSOCIATE PRODUCER in the Jungle Water Project film. You will receive a personalized GOUACHE PAINTING of jungle life, animal inhabitants, or a forested landscape created by me and inspired by the project. + rewards 1 through 4.

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    Pledge $5,000 or more About $5,000

    You will receive a week long PRIVATE TRIP TO SAI SANCTUARY including a guided trek through the jungle, cabin housing, fresh cooked meals, and the experience of a lifetime. (flight to India not included) AND your name will be listed as an EXECUTIVE PRODUCER of the Jungle Water Project film. + rewards 1 through 4.

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Funding period

- (30 days)