When it comes to nature and wildlife filmmaking, I tend to say “I wish” a lot. I wish I would see more wildlife, I wish I could travel to Australia, I wish I’d finish my film about the tallgrass prairie. I find that I tend to wish a lot. But something happened recently that made me realize that saying “I wish” is just a way of letting myself off easy instead of just saying “I can’t” or “I won’t”.

Recently I saw the above photo of a ten week old kitten taken by Jo Lyons Photography that a friend of mine in Australia had posted to her Facebook account. The kitten’s name was Alex and he was at a high kill shelter in New South Wales. Alex really reminded me of my once feral cat Hobbes.

Photo by Brigitte Lindenbauer

“Alex” Photo by Gloria Lindenbauer

Hobbes was a feral cat that lived in my backyard with his family. I gave them food, water and shelter and for a year, Hobbes lived outside until one day he ran inside my house and decided he didn’t want to leave. Hobbes is not only a huge snuggle bug and the pictures I post of his antics on Facebook are always a big hit!

His family was still too wild to want to stay indoors, so I trapped them, had then fixed and released them back into my backyard where most of them still live.

Alex looked so sad and his profile said that he was on the urgent list at the shelter. That meant his time was almost up and if someone didn’t adopt or rescue him very, very soon, , he would be killed to make room for other cats that were coming into the shelter.

I looked at his photo again and thought “I wish I could help this little guy”, and that’s where I left it. Alex stayed on my mind that night and into the next day as well. I would look at Hobbes all snuggled in my lap and realized  that life wasn’t going to be like that for Alex. He was only ten weeks old, picked up off the streets and he would never have the chance to curl up in someone’s lap and fall asleep without a care in the world.

I WILL Do Something

I contacted my friend in Australia and said that I would be willing to pay a rescue for his adoption fee, shots, neutering etc. She urgently sent out a plea to a woman named Jackie that she knew well that rescues animals from the shelter that Alex was in. It was a race against time since Alex was very high on the kill list and he could be gone at any time.

A rescue won’t pull a cat if there’s no place for it to go. Many cats and kittens are killed every year because rescues and foster homes are full and there’s simply no more room for cats leaving the shelter to go.

"Alex" Photo by Gloria Lindenbauer

“Alex” Photo by Gloria Lindenbauer

While Brigitte was busy trying to get me in touch with Jackie, she also was reaching out to her sister Gloria to see if she could foster Alex if we could rescue him from the shelter in time. Gloria agreed to take in Alex if we could manage a rescue.

I finally connected with Jackie and we started working out the details. Not only was there a fee to the shelter for Jackie to rescue him since the shelter is a for profit shelter, there were also fees to have him checked by a vet, neutered and I would also have to add-on the cost of flying him from New South Wales to South Australia where Gloria lived.

I braced myself for what the final cost would be but I knew I would pay it regardless of how hard it strapped me for cash since I had decided that I WILL save this kitten. The total bill was less than $200 US dollars. Thankfully there’s a great exchange rate between American dollars and Australian dollars!

The money was wired, Alex was rescued from the kill shelter, received medical attention and flown to South Australia where Gloria was waiting to meet him. He now dreams whatever kittens dream while soaking up the sunshine while awaiting his forever home. Most of all, he is loved.

So what does rescuing a kitten named Alex from half way across the world have to do with filming nature and wildlife?

It’s A State of Mind

When you say “I wish” you are already raising the white flag and admitting defeat. Every time you say I wish, you’re already telling yourself that you’re not going to do anything more about it.

I’ve been saying for years that I wish I had more stock footage clips online that could be licensed and generate some income for me. I literally have dozens of hard drives with footage on them but I have to create clips from the footage, put them on a new hard drive and ship them to my stock footage agency. Then, I have to load up each clip once it’s on my stock footage agencies servers and type in descriptions and keyword each clip before they go live online.

Returning from Montana last November, I had some great wildlife and scenic footage and of course I looked at it all and said “I wish that stuff was online so it could be licensed” The last time I had sent in a hard drive of footage was back in 2012!

I realized that “I wish” wasn’t getting clips on-line so I told myself that “I WILL” get those clips online and started working on going through all the footage from the Montana trip and created over 200 clips.

My stock footage agency hadn’t been resting while I was wishing I had more footage with them. They updated their site and created a way that I could quickly upload clips right from my computer to their servers! No more mailing hard drives!!

Sunset in Montana

Sunset in Montana

I uploaded all 200+ clips which was like 74GB of data and told myself that I will keyword at least 20 clips a day until they are all keyworded and online ready to be licensed. Some days I only did twenty clips, other days I did many more. Eventually all 200+ clips were online ready to be licensed and generate income.

Last year I was saying “I wish I could film in some tallgrass prairies that I haven’t filmed in before”.  Guess what? I did some research and found some great prairies not too far from me that I have never visited before. Guess where I’m going to film this Summer?

Every time you stop saying I wish and start saying I will or I can you replace dreams and hopes with reality and action.

Wish you could be a better filmmaker? Then start saying I WILL get out and shoot more, I WILL learn from what didn’t work and find out how to make it better.

I think the thing about saying I wish is that we don’t feel we can change anything or make a difference. For instance, if you say you wish you could go to Africa and film, it’s not as easy for most of us to just book a flight and safari, take off from work and go.  But by saying I will go to Africa and film wildlife you can start setting small goals for yourself that will get you there. If you follow through on those small goals you will be filming wildlife in Africa

We tend not to see the journey as a series of steps but as going from Point A to Point B with nothing in-between. So if we can’t go straight to filming in Africa we feel it’s not obtainable so we appease ourselves by saying I wish.

So to throw my hat in the ring of “I Will”, I’m going to stop saying I wish I could finish my tallgrass prairie film to “I WILL finish my tallgrass prairie film this year. There, I said it and now I’m accountable to myself and you to take the steps needed to go from I wish, to I will!

A little bonus to show you the power of saying “I will” is that Alex’s brother Billy and sister Chelsea that are in the photo with Alex, well they’ve been rescued and are safe as well!

Three little kitten lives saved because I simply stopped saying I wish I could help them and decided that I will help them. If I can help make that happen half a world away, imagine what you can do with the camera that’s sitting right next to you!

So let me hear about what you WILL be doing with your filmmaking in the comments below!

"Hobbes" Photo by Kevin J Railsback

“Hobbes” Photo by Kevin J Railsback

And as always, shoot the ordinary and make it extraordinary!

Kevin J Railsback is a wildlife and nature filmmaker