Sunday, May 27, 2012

going to Bat!

I'm launching a new project, tentatively titled, The Bat Movie. Bats in North America are disappearing at an alarming rate. Nearly seven million bats have perished in the Northeastern United States and Canada, making bats part of the sixth great extinction on this planet. Bats, so crucial to the biodiversity of our ecosystem, are in danger of extinction, but human beings have yet to recognize their great contribution and significance in our communal habitat. These fascinating mammals are at once unique and unusual, and so crucial to the healthy equilibrium of our ecosystem.

But who is the bat’s ally? Who is going to bat for the Bat?

The Bat Movie aims to not only educate about the predicament that bats face in our time but also endear the human species to one of their most fragile mammalian cousins, the Bat. This project will bring to life the experience of daily and existential survival of bats, in particular, the little brown bat, the species most susceptible to white nose syndrome, the mysterious disease that has killed between 5 to 7 million bats in North America.

Bats are mysterious creatures that are misunderstood. They are generally considered creatures of the night that symbolize death and danger. They are wrongly thought of as blood-sucking flying rodents of the night, or harbingers of death, when in fact they are mammals that possess gifts beyond human ability and intelligence. They are the only mammal species that can fly, and like dolphins, they echolocate to navigate through dark caves where they make their home. Bats can live up to thirty years, half the life-span of humans, but twice that of many mammals. They live in colonies, as we humans live in towns and cities. Bats that mate will birth one offspring per year and raise their young as a couple, while the mother breastfeeds, also just like we humans do. So in many ways, this mammalian species is quite like the human species. And yet we humans fail to see bats in a positive light. We call them blind, when they can miraculously “see” in the dark through the skill of echolocation, bouncing sound off of objects to navigate in pitch black spaces.

The Bat Movie will follow the life of the brown bat from its birth, to suckling from its mother’s breast, to its first flight at the twilight emergence, to feeding on insects, to pollination and hibernation. Viewers will accompany the bat through every rite of passage of its life.

The bat is also in grave danger, just like bees and frogs. Bats are part of the sixth mass extinction on planet Earth. Nearly seven million bats have died in North America as a result of the mysterious fungus known as White Nose Syndrome. This fungus attacks bats during hibernation and has wiped out entire bat colonies across the United States and Canada. Since certain bats are migratory, this fungus could potentially carry to Central and South America and this unique mammal, with the gift of flight and sight, could be wiped out within our lifetime.

The film will emulate the successful art/nature films such as The Bear, Winged Migration and March of the Penguins, as it intimately follows the story of the brown bat in a way that endears humans to this animal. Humans will feel empathy toward the bat, an unlikely hero, when they see first hand how similar we are to this mammalian cousin of ours, in how we choose our partners, birth our offspring, live in colonies and fight for survival.

The goals of the film are to 1) enlighten viewers of the similarities between humans and bats, 2) reveal and explore the innate and rare gifts that make this species so precious and invaluable, 3) educate audiences about bats’ impending extinction resulting from White Nose Syndrome and the destruction of their habitats by humans and 4) encourage further exploration of bat habitat and conservation through transmedia adjuncts to the film.

We are currently in development, and we are specifically seeking funding to launch production. Following is a proposed shooting schedule for 2013:

Spring 2013 – Arizona (5 days). Bats migrate to the Southwest during the spring because of the wildflowers. We will film the phenomenon of bats pollinating flowers at night. We will interview residents who have built bat feeders and houses to attract and accommodate bats.

Summer 2013 – Austin and San Antonio, TX (7 days). Bats come to Texas every summer to their home in Bracken Cave, the largest bat colony in the world with over 1 million bats. We will capture the beauty of bats emerging from the cave and echolocation.

Furthermore, Austin, TX features an urban bat colony on Congress Avenue Bridge. Tourists flock to this marvel at twilight to witness 1.5 million bats emerging from under the bridge en masse.

Finally, Texas is the home of Bat Conservation International. We will conduct expert interviews with bat scientists and researchers, covering the subjects of disease, habitat, survival, behavior, symbiosis with humans.

Winter 2013 – Northeastern United States, Southeastern Canada (7 days). In the winter, bats hibernate in caves in North America. This very sensitive environment has recently been plagued with White Nose Syndrome. The fungus has recently been detected in Maine, New Brunswick, Quebec and Ontario, where three bat species have been affected – little brown bats, northern long-eared myotis, and the tri-colored bat.

We will film affected bat caves in these regions and interview researchers about the threat of this mysterious disease. Naturally, we need to hire a talented film crew with experience in nature cinematography and nature sound recordings. We also need funds for travel and lodging at these locations. Funding at this crucial time will help us launch this important film. A detailed budget is available upon request.

The Bat Movie will include narration that is at once mythological and poetic as well as scientific, inspired both by bat archetypes in history and literature and by scientific fact. The narration will also give a human voice to bats, suggesting bat consciousness, emotion and motivation.

Furthermore, the high production value of this film, including beautiful nature photography and unique sound recordings of bats, accompanied by a truly touching and magical musical score, will have viewers not only endeared to, but also in awe of, the miraculous bats, a misunderstood treasure of our planet’s biodiversity.

The Bat Movie is a nature documentary that is also a narrative following a young bat and his/her story of survival on planet Earth in a time when biodiversity is under threat. It is a social commentary about the ecology and the pressing need for conservation of animal species and their habitats. It is a film where science meets art, where beautiful nature cinematography is coupled with wildly unique sound recordings and an original score that will conjure human empathy with bats, and hopefully will inspire viewers to become biodiversity conservation advocates.

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