Monday, April 15, 2024

Two Toledo Zoo employees win National Geographic short film competition

The Toledo Zoo is one of the biggest and most widely-known Toledo attractions, for good reason. On top of the world-class animal exhibits, the zoo has employees that care about the creatures on display and the environments they come from. Two of those employees recently won a National Geographic short film competition for a film that praises animal conservation efforts around the world called “To The Explorers”.

Filming The Wild

Filmmaker Alex Goetz and biologist Justin Grubb graduated from Bowling Green State University two years ago with a love of filmmaking and animal conservation. Goetz says that after graduation, “Justin and I were trying to do our own thing that involved conservationists and telling their stories.” During their time at BGSU, they received a grant to go out and film conservation efforts. “We’ve been meeting up with research conservationists around the world to highlight their efforts and tell their stories,” said Goetz.

After graduation, Goetz and Grubb took the footage that they made in college and sent it out to all of their professional contacts. One of those contacts worked at the Toledo Zoo— which led to catching the attention of the zoo’s director, Jeff Sailer. Serendipitously, the zoo was looking for filmmakers who wanted to present stories about conservation, and Goetz and Grubb had just what they were looking for. Both received job offers and now work for the zoo.

Protecting The Wild

When Goetz and Grubb heard about the National Geographic’s third annual film competition Wild to Inspire, they looked into making a short film for it. Since their new jobs took them on work travel, the two had fantastic footage from zoo-funded trips to Costa Rica, Honduras, Trinidad and Tobago, Aruba, Australia, Tasmania, and the Marianas Islands.

The theme for this year’s competition was “Let The Wild In”, which led to a focus on conservationists. “[To us,] ‘Let The Wild In’ not only meant us going and filming, it was more so an ode to people who are giving their lives for conservation,” explained Goetz. “These people are dedicating their lives to get up early every day and go into some of the craziest locations to protect animals.”

Their film, “To The Explorers,” was shown at this year’s Sun Valley Film Festival in March, and beat out 350 other entries to win. For receiving top honors, Goetz and Grubb will travel with a National Geographic film crew to Africa sometime this fall. Goetz isn’t quite sure where they’ll be going, but is excited for the trip nonetheless: “Each previous winner has had a crazy adventure. Personally, I like big mammals, so I’m excited about seeing elephants, lions, and rhinos. Justin is more a fan of marine life, sIslan looking into going to South Africa to see the Great White sharks there.”

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