Responses by Andy Fackrell, writer/creative director
Background: The purpose of the film “A Guardian” was to raise awareness for a new NGO, Over and Above Africa, and highlight the technology needed in the fight against poaching. The charity raises funds to supply ranger groups across East Africa with drones supported by AI technology. The target was a broad audience of adults primarily in the English-speaking world.
Reasoning: The film emotionally holds viewers by using collective nouns as a narrative device; we wanted one scene for each animal, and for the pacing of each scene to feel like a page turned in a children’s storybook. With the discovery of poachers, a sinister shift heightens the inevitable scene of “a slaughter” of elephants. Drones, a new-ish invention, haven’t been categorized with a collective noun, so this was an opportunity to highlight their positive impact on the landscape, hence naming them “a guardian” for this project.
Challenges: A story of this scale relied on the incredible generosity of a caring industry to produce such a powerful film. From Cape Town to Los Angeles, the industry’s best talent offered their time for free. The director, Sam Coleman from Giant Films, and I were determined to strike a balance between art and communication and produce a compelling piece that held viewers emotionally for a minute and a half.
Favorite details: Using the music as our rhythm for the edit, the type was a critical element. Initially, we used Futura Bold, as it conjured up 1950’s Enid Blyton books, but Century Schoolbook added more delicacy and formality to the collective nouns. The subtle animation of the kerned letters mirrored the dispersing animals.
Visual influences: A story about drones is best shot by drones, so we wanted sweeping tableaus to add grandeur to the narrative. A clinical approach kept viewers impartial to the unfolding drama leading to the critical slaughter scene; the horror needed to be “discovered.” The close-ups, the only scenes not shot by drones, are for implicit drama—the panga knife casually being swept over the grass and the humanity of the ranger launching the drone.
Anything new: Being on the ground with the rangers in Africa, I learned how endemic poaching has become across the continent. Even though we filmed the “poachers,” actually rangers in new wardrobe, in the relatively safe South Africa, there was nervousness in carrying the tusks for that scene—even our simulated ones—for fear of being attacked or robbed by local poachers.