The Standing People

Nature and wildlife filmmaking usually present enough of a challenge as it is. But when I found out that the annual DVC/UWOL Charity Film Challenge was about to take place, I knew I had to sign up and give it a go.

A charity film challenge is pretty simple. You sign up stating your desire to participate then on the first day of the challenge you are given a theme that you film must be based on. You have a pre-determined amount of time to finish your film and all footage must be shot during the period that the challenge is running. It runs on the honor system but if you cheat, you’re only cheating yourself and then it’s not much of a film challenge then is it?

What’s great about a charity film challenge is that filmmakers donate money and the winning filmmaker gets to donate all that money to their favorite charity. What could be better?

I had scouted locations around the area looking for what I could possibly film that looked visually interesting. This time of year, Iowa isn’t at its visual best. With no snow on the ground, the prospects looked a little bleak.

I was actually sitting up in Founder’s Grove at Indian Creek Nature Center when they announced the theme, “Trees”. What could be more perfect than sitting in a grove of tall pine trees waiting for the theme only to discover that I was sitting right in the middle of what I needed to be shooting? 🙂

I knew I was still in for quite the challenge. With no leaves on the trees and most of the wildlife either migrated, hibernating or only coming out at night, things were still looking a little thin.

The last light of the day backlights bare tree branches

The last light of the day backlights bare tree branches

In my treks across the nature center trails, I came upon a tree that looked like a vine had tied a bow around its trunk. Somehow, I started thinking about nature being a gift that we really take for granted. I’ve said for quite some time that I feel we are losing out connection with nature and that became the foundation for my film.

Halfway through the film we had a blizzard. With half the footage showing bare brown ground and now with the ground covered by several inches of snow, I knew I had to change my story a bit to fit in the now white landscape.

I finished the film the day of the deadline. Keeping my fingers crossed I uploaded the film hoping there would be no technical issues.

With the film uploaded I posted a feedback thread that started getting some very positive comments. But so where the other films that were entered in the challenge.

I waited for the results with my fingers crossed.

Finally they announced the winner and I am proud and honored to say that my film, “The Standing People” took first place in the charity film challenge.

The total donations worked out to be about $420 for the charity of my choice, Last Hope Animal Rescue, a group that I have worked with for a while now.

What a great experience to challenge yourself as well as giving your favorite charity a reward to boot?

So here is my film, let me know what you think of it!
And as always, shoot the ordinary and make it extraordinary!

Kevin J Railsback is a wildlife and nature filmmaker


By | 2016-11-06T09:39:03+00:00 January 15th, 2013|Categories: Short Films|Tags: |14 Comments

About the Author:

Award-winning filmmaker Kevin J Railsback has traveled as far as Africa to test HD cameras for Panasonic.
His stunning nature and wildlife footage has appeared in productions on National Geographic, Animal Planet, Discovery Channel as well as in commercials for such corporate giants as AT&T.


  1. Andy Brining March 5, 2013 at 3:10 pm - Reply

    Gorgeous footage Kevin – as is all of your work. I’m strongly considering an HPX250 (or possibly an AC160) as a new camera so seeing what you can do is truly inspirational. Thanks for sharing

    • Kevin J Railsback March 5, 2013 at 5:25 pm - Reply

      Thanks Andy for the kind words!
      I really like the 250. My 170 hasn’t been out of the case except for B roll since I’ve had it.
      Doesn’t the 160 have the ability to record 1080p at 60fps? I know the 250 is only limited to 60fps at 720p. Wish it could do 1080p 60fps. I used to shoot slow motion all the time but since I have to drop down to 720p I’ve hardly ever used it since I tend to edit full rez now in Final Cut Pro.
      other than that, I love it!!
      Kevin J Railsback invites you to read…Wolves Keep the Ecosystem in BalanceMy Profile

      • Andy Brining March 6, 2013 at 5:13 pm - Reply

        Thanks for the reply Kevin. Indeed the AC160 does shoot 1080/60p (or 50p over here in PAL land) which is another reason (aside from budget) that it appeals to me. I think the 250 is an awesome camera but since I don’t shoot for broadcast (at least not yet as I’m just starting out in the video field after years as a stills photographer) I think the AVCHD codec would suffice. Would be interested to hear your thoughts on the image quality differences between the 160 & 250 though…

        Ps very interesting article on the wolves

        • Kevin J Railsback March 7, 2013 at 8:50 am - Reply


          I’ve never shot with the 160 but I’m guessing you’re not going to see much difference between the two.
          I have a Panasnic GH1 and I believe it shoots AVCHD. If so, the film California on my site was all shot with the GH1. I thought it looked awesome. My guess would be the footage from the 169 would be as well.
          Maybe if you were very nitpicky you might see artifacts or something but I’ve watched compressed footage on Vimeo full screen and it looked awesome to me.
          I think as Filmmakers we tend to be extra picky and we see things that most people would never ever pick up on.
          Sometimes I feel really stupid for pointing out the flaws to people that watch my films when they stop over to visit because they never saw them at all.

          The sweet thing that I love so much about the Panasonic cameras is what they call the Panasonic Mojo.
          It’s an organic warm look unlike the uber sharp cold electronic look other cameras give.
          I used to shoot Sony but when I picked up a HVX200 and saw the footage I was sold.

          I don’t think you’ll go wrong with either camera.
          Kevin J Railsback invites you to read…Slow Burn: The Impact of Wildfires on Nature and Wildlife in America’s HeartlandMy Profile

          • Andy Brining March 8, 2013 at 8:19 am

            Thanks Kevin – I think you’re right about us being perhaps needlessly picky! Think I might wait to see what happens with the Micro P2 cards due out shortly.. Totally agree about the Panny look though – makes all other cameras look very, well, video-ish!


          • Kevin J Railsback March 9, 2013 at 6:23 pm

            I forgot all about the Micro P2 cards coming out. Been so busy with projects I haven’t really been tuning in to where they were at with those.
            I certainly p[refer the Panasonic look over everything else. I think it’s why I shoot 24p and not 60i to try and get away from the video look and more of an organic look.
            Kevin J Railsback invites you to read…Find Your Composition BEFORE You Place Your TripodMy Profile

  2. Andy Brining March 8, 2013 at 8:20 am - Reply

    Forgot to say… Loved California and thought it looked gorgeous! Good old GH1 eh?

    • Kevin J Railsback March 9, 2013 at 6:24 pm - Reply

      I get hassled by park rangers so much for shooting video that I thought I’d take the GH1 with me on that trip. Shot plenty of video and never hassled once. Doesn’t have all the bells and whistles that the big cameras do but still brought home some nice footage.
      Kevin J Railsback invites you to read…Filming Nature: Iowa Woodland WildflowersMy Profile

  3. Christopher James September 13, 2013 at 10:00 am - Reply

    Weren’t you creeped out when you were filming the surroundings? It looks creepy out there. lol

    • Kevin J Railsback September 13, 2013 at 10:25 am - Reply


      Thank you for taking the time to leave a comment!

      Filming in the early morning fog might seem eerie, bit actually it was magical.
      I was the only person there and the fog enveloped everything in silence.
      The moisture in the air made smells more intense and the fog made the few sounds u could hear like the creaking of tree limbs or the dripping of dew on the leaf covered ground.

      Sadly there aren’t many mornings like that one where I cando out and film. So when I have the opportunity, I make the most of it!


  4. Ingrid Taylar December 5, 2014 at 8:12 pm - Reply

    Kevin, this is so moving! I didn’t know the precise term the “Standing People,” but I will always use that from now on.

    Years ago, probably after reading Carlos Castaneda 😉 — I started referring to other animals as the four-legged people, the flyers, the swimmers … so it’s in keeping with this idea that the Standing People now becomes part of my vernacular. Thank you.

    Was that encounter in the woods serendipitous? If so, it speaks to the idea of no coincidences. What a beautiful and unique representation of the beings who live, breathe, pulse and speak among us, even when we don’t hear them. This deserved to win, for sure.

    • Kevin J Railsback December 6, 2014 at 11:19 am - Reply


      I’m glad you liked the film. The theme for this challenge was “Trees”. It was shot at that time in Iowa when it’s too late for Fall and Winter hadn’t arrived yet. It took me a bit of time to figure out what I wanted to do. Once I learned about the “standing people”, I knew that was what my film had to be about.

      As I worked on the film I really became enthralled with our desire to be connected to nature in some way even thought it’s not readily apparent. So many housing developments called “Willow Creek” or “Timber Ridge”.

      It’s like subconsciously we need that connection even though we are hell bent on destroying it.

      I love the idea that countries are starting to give non human person status to animals. It shows that we are slowly recognizing that there are more to animals than for our entertainment or food. Sad that big industry here in the US is so deep into the pockets of the people that make the laws that animals here will be the last to get any freedom.

      When Ed Warrior Bear had me put my hand on the tree, I can honestly say I felt something. I told him it’s probably my mind wishing to feel something but I really couldn’t shake it off as wishful thinking.

      I truly believe that everything has a life force or energy and I believe I felt that in that tree that morning.

      Ed is a Cherokee elder and the place we were is considered a spiritual place. I have several Native American friends that visit there and greet the rising sun.

      Nature is my battery charger. Whenever I feel down, one walk in nature cures whatever is ailing me.

      I think we are all capable of tapping into natures energy, it’s only very few that choose to do so.

      Winning the challenge allowed me to donate the purse to a local animal rescue, Last Hope.
      It doesn’t look like they are doing one this year which is too bad because I’d love to try to win some more money for them.

      I’m currently working on another challenge that isn’t a charity challenge. The them is “The Elements”. Already have an idea that I may email you about so as not to let the cat out of the bag. 🙂

      I have until the end of the month to come up with a four minute film. Hopefully nature will smile upon me and grant me some fantastic opportunities to film!

      • Ingrid Taylar December 6, 2014 at 1:11 pm - Reply

        Kevin, I share your sentiments … in a world that would have humans negate that connection for, as you say, the purposes of profit and convenience. When I was a little girl, I had a tough time even giving away a piece of ruled paper to a fellow student because I believed it was alive. Forget about stuffed animals. Yes, that’s my genesis and it probably explains a lot. 🙂

        I’d like to use a link to this short film as the starting inspiration for a new blog post. Would that be okay with you? It would be on the nature of what you describe — connection and how we view/characterize the “other.” I treasure the affirmation of personhood you mention. And I reject the idea of anthropomorphism, not because we can always know what they feel or think but precisely because we can’t. Of course, that term is an effective tool for stripping our fellow beings of their inherent ‘beingness.’

        I usually have this quote posted somewhere on my site. You’ve undoubtedly seen it yourself:

        “In a world older and more complete than ours, [animals] move finished and complete, gifted with extensions of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear. They are not brethren; they are not underlings; they are other nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendor and travail of the earth.” — From The Outermost House by Henry Beston

        • Kevin Railsback December 6, 2014 at 5:01 pm - Reply


          Of course you can use the film or anything else you need for your post.

          I’m honored that my little film can be used to help start a dialog.

          I’m the guy that catches spiders and take them outside or at least in my garage if it’s cold outside.

          Right now my feral cat food bill is about as much as I spend on myself for food. 🙂 I have seven feral cats that I take care of. I bought them two cat houses with straw and heaters so they can have a good shot surviving the winter. I wish I could tame them down enough to find them homes. But I worry when they leave my backyard that other people may not be as kind towards them.

          They are sweet kitties and they beat on the door if I’m late with their food in the morning. 🙂

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