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