Wild to Inspire: A Week with Bob Poole

For my third and final week in Tanzania, I had the privilege of shooting with the legendary Bob Poole! Bob is a veteran wildlife filmmaker, cinematographer, and has shot, produced, and directed countless films for National Geographic. I’ve been looking forward to working with Bob all week since shooting wildlife is a relatively new genre of filmmaking to me. Bob and I actually have a lot of mutual friends and colleagues in common. We’ve worked with the same documentary director and producer in the past and he’s a great friend with an old film school professor of mine. I must admit that it was pretty surreal when I finally met him.

As I mentioned in my last post, filming wildlife and various conservationists around the region has been an incredible experience so far, but it has been a bit difficult to shoot as a one-man band. Shooting wildlife isn’t as hard alone, but when you’re conducting an interview, shooting vérité, or trying to craft a story from the countless hours of footage you’ve shot in the field, things can get a bit hectic. I truly believe filmmaking is a collaborative process and while I’ve enjoyed the autonomy of creating my own content for Nat Geo and AWF, I’ve been craving collaboration. Two heads are better than one and I was so glad when I was finally able to share my thoughts, struggles, joys, and experience with Bob. I think Bob came in at the right time because at the beginning of the week I was starting to question my filmmaking approach and understanding of the various conservation issues in the Maasai Steppe Landscape.

First off, I’ve never met someone with so much joy, energy, and true dedication to their craft. Bob’s lifestyle, mentality, and background are what make him such a great wildlife filmmaker. He is not only incredibly charismatic, but Bob grew up in East Africa with a strong upbringing in conservation. His father was the director of the Peace Corps and the African Wildlife Foundation in Nairobi, Kenya so he has extensive experience and knowledge of all the conservation issues in region. He has witnessed how the wildlife and wild lands of Africa have changed throughout the years and was able to give me great insight about how conservation is crucial now more than ever. It’s funny when you think you understand an issue like the importance of wildlife corridors, but when someone like Bob really emphasizes the eminent demise of National Parks if these corridors aren’t maintained, then you realize how making a film surrounding these issues could actually be very powerful. Bob truly made me feel like I was filming something important and bigger than myself.

When it came to shooting in the field, I felt at home with Bob. It was awesome to shoot with someone who speaks the same filmmaking language as you. Bob is a man of many traits and I was surprised how much he assisted me with access to individuals. I did a majority of my wildlife filmmaking the two weeks prior to Bob’s arrival so when Bob arrived, we actually shot more people together than animals. Bob is great with the camera, but he can also speak Swahili, effectively coordinate a successful shooting day, and charm any Tanzanian with the infamous “Bobmobile”. The “Bobmobile” is Bob’s custom designed car fully equipped for shooting wildlife, enduring the harsh East African terrain, and storing just about everything you need in life. Bob and Gina Poole (Bob’s lovely wife who also joined us) literally live out of it.

However, the greatest thing about Bob besides his multitalented abilities
is the fact that he is not pretentious at all. While he is a distinguished filmmaker, Bob has a true devotion to the non-fiction filmmaking medium. Unlike other DPs I’ve worked with in the past, wildlife cinematography is not a job to him, but a way of effectively conveying these imperative conservation issues on screen. Not only does he genuinely care about the issues, but Bob understands the issues, which is what impressed me the most about him. I guess it was also pretty cool that Bob acted as my AC for a majority of the shoots…never thought that I’d be the guy in control with someone as revered as Bob, holding up a silk during an interview, booming for good audio, or lugging around equipment. I am grateful I had the opportunity to work with Bob in the field and will cherish all the knowledge, insight, and support I received from such a talented individual.

Dan Duran is the winner of the first annual Wild to Inspire short film contest, launched last year in partnership with the African Wildlife Foundation (AWF) and the Sun Valley Film Festival.  As the winner, he’ll be documenting  Tanzania’s dynamic Manyara–Tarangire ecosystem, which includes Tarangire and Lake Manyara National Parks and the AWF-managed Manyara Ranch Conservancy. This is the first post in a series where he’ll spotlight Africa’s wild side and share his experiences from the field as a wildlife filmmaker.  

Want to follow in Dan’s footsteps?  Enter the second annual Wild to Inspire short film contest through January 17th – visit natgeowild.com/wildtoinspire for more details.