When it comes to the core of Wildlife Conversation Film Festival we discover Christopher Gervais, the man who was inspired enough to give life to a plain idea and transform it to a huge long-lasting event. We all love nature, we all enjoy the view of wild animals and feel excited to discover that we are not the only species on the planet, but few decide to devote their time to actively prove their love for nature.The dreamy essence that makes children believe that animals are our brothers usually fades out as we grow old. But this didn’t happen to Christopher Gervais. His deep interest in nature started when he was a child and led him to become an environmental scientist with advanced studies on marine biology and evolutionary biology.
Today he is the founder and president of the Wildlife Conservation Film Festival. We find him in his office in New York, planning and thinking about this year’s event. He is in great mood that carries a fine scent of wildlife thoughts and images.
Kappa: When does the 4th WCFF start?
Gervais: Oh, well, we are very close now; it starts on October the 15th.
Kappa: How has this year’s preparation experience been for you?
Gervais: We plan for a year now. Collecting the films is a very demanding procedure. We choose to screen around one film among every ten we receive. It takes us a year for planning.
Kappa: What is your purpose or your initial dream?
Gervais: The mission of our organization, which I guess you could say is a dream, is to help and preserve biodiversity.
Kappa: How did you get involved with that project?
Gervais: I think it started when I was a child. I was always very sensitive about preserving the environment. I have always been interested and warm about saving species in danger.
Kappa: Where is your base?
Gervais: It’s in New York City.
Kappa: And how does cinema come into the scene?
Gervais: In fact the way we approach the subject uses the power of cinema to bring the idea to a wide audience.
Kappa: So it’s both a cultural conservation and entertainment event?
Gervais: Exactly, because we choose cinema to inform people about what is happening on the planet. This has both entertainment and educational value.
Kappa: How long will the festival last?
Gervais: We start next Tuesday at the Friars Club in New York City. It will last for five days.
Kappa: During your journey did you find out about any animals that you didn’t even suspect they existed?
Gervais: My friends use to say “you are a walking cyclopedia about this subject”, so no, I didn’t discover any unknown to me animals due to the filmed material that comes to my hands. During the last four years, though, amazing new species have been discovered. In fact a new mammal species was discovered a month ago in South America.
Kappa: How does the wide audience respond?
Gervais: It depends on the film. There are films that will bring the audience to tears. For example we had a film about elephants that were injured in Thailand by landmines. This was an amazing thing to watch. We could easily see how film can move people. In fact some people were so upset by it.
Kappa: How many people are working for the festival?
Gervais: I have around 15 volunteers.
Kappa: So there is no funding for your work?
Gervais: The last three years I have used my life savings to get us where we are now.
Kappa: Is it difficult to get a funding?
Gervais: That’s a long answer. It takes years to take a funding. As far as other organizations about nature, the will not give us money, because they try to raise money themselves. The other problem I face is that there is also a fear that you might take part of their donation. It’s a very rough industry.
Kappa: But you all share the same interest…
Gervais: Yes. That is true; we share the same mission, which is a great thing.
Kappa: What is your backround?
Gervais: My background… I’m an environmental scientist with advanced studies on marine biology and evolutionary biology.
Kappa: What are your future expectations?
Gervais: In a hopeful way in the future we will get donations from philanthropic individuals and companies that understand the importance of the WCFF mission.
Kappa: Are there important things about nature that have impressed you, but people don’t know about them?
Gervais: Nature is resilient. It can adapt, it can overcome and it finds ways to resist and to survive. That is one thing that most people, probably, are not aware of, although they should be.
Kappa: What makes your Festival different?
Gervais: Basically we are showing films at our festival that people will not see anywhere else. And the films that we show inform engage and empower the audience. In addition of showing the films many of the filmmakers and scientists attend the festival to speak with the audience.
Kappa: How many people are expected to attend the screenings?
Gervais: In the theatre in New York, for the course of the week, we would hope to have about five thousand people. In Miami it’s only one evening which is usually about 250 people. It’s mainly a screening. We will also be in Los Angeles in the next year.
I leave Christopher Gervais feeling that thanks to people like him there is some hope that generations to come will have the opportunity to live on a planet where wildlife will not only be preserved in films.