It's a jungle out there

Adam White, producer/ director

Tell someone that you are going off to film in a rainforest and you will get envious comments of how lucky you are. They imagine all the amazing encounters with beautiful animals at every turn of the machete cleared footpath. The only people who aren’t jealous are the ones who think you are foolish and worry for you. They imagine all the horrible, dangerous animals that you will have even closer encounters with. The reality is somewhat different.

My first visit to a rainforest was over 20 years ago, and I have filmed in many of them all over the world since then. Rainforests ARE full of animals of both varieties: the amazing ones and the dangerous ones – but the truth is that neither are encountered frequently at all – certainly not in the way that frightens or fills your friends with envy. For many people, their first rainforest experience can be disappointing – where, they often ask, are all the animals? Well, they are there – but so dense is the vegetation, that it’s surprisingly difficult to see anything.

As filmmakers, this is an even bigger concern – we, after all, have to find the animals to film them! So how do we do it?

To start with you need one very particular creature – a scientist, or a researcher. These are people who spend years studying the rainforest, trying to work out how it all works. Without these people, my job would be nigh on impossible. In Panama we were helped by Bryson, a man who knows more about sloths, than sloths know about themselves. We were also joined by a bird guide so skilled that he could stop at any point on pipeline road and know exactly which of panama’s 978 species of bird held a territory in that very spot.

One of the undoubted highlights came in Malaysia where we had the privilege of joining a team of people studying Borneo’s Pygmy Elephants. Such is their dedication to their subjects that with them we were able to get within trunk swinging distance of these incredible animals. Not just that, they knew each of the animals by name and character. One especially mischievous animal had to be watched carefully while we were filming. She went by the name “Ford” – because she once crushed a car!

The other thing you need is patience. If the popular phrase – the patience of a saint - is to be believed then our film crews are indeed saints. With the access and the knowledge from people who study the forests we slowly started to see and film the creatures of the jungle. Slowly we came to understand how the rainforest works – cliché as it may sound, it was wonderful.

After all the filming, my relationship with the rainforest changed. There was definitely less frustration, and more love for this incredible, complex and enigmatic ecosystem.