Shane Moore spent 250 days in the freezing, remote wilderness of China with one goal in mind: Get footage of the elusive snow leopard.
Moore, a Jackson resident and wildlife documentary filmmaker, knew that getting images of the big cats wasn’t going to be easy. Snow leopards are notoriously secretive and have amazing camouflage.
“It was pretty crazy, honestly,” Moore said. “We had to go in there and figure things out. The local herdsmen were our most important resource; they were most aware of snow leopards and they had some good tips for us.”
Moore was there on behalf of DisneyNature for the documentary “Born In China,” which explores wildlife in the vast country. As part of the Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival and its offshoot Wild Fest, presented by JHWild, Moore will screen a behind-the-scenes look at the documentary, “Ghost of the Mountains” and speak about his experience filming the rare cats.
While obtaining footage meant camping at 16,000 feet, lugging gear up cliffs and setting up endless trap cameras, the hardest part was the waiting.
“The biggest challenge is just not giving up,” Moore said. “We didn’t have any success at all for the first three months and everyone was getting increasingly nervous. … It was a lot of spending a week to 10 days staring at rocks.”
Moore’s documentary is one of seven films screening at this weekend’s Wild Fest and one of many finalists competing for awards at the biannual film festival. “Ghost of the Mountains” is nominated for best film in the “People and Nature” category.
The Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival has convened every other year since 1991, bringing the industry’s best, and the best of the best films, together for a week of conversation and screenings.
“Everything we do is anchored on our industry conferences, that defines it all,” said Lisa Samford, executive director of JH Wild.
The festival runs now through Thursday at Jackson Lake Lodge, and while it’s industry focused, for $25 a day the public can walk through the exhibition floor and watch competition films, which are screening constantly.
“‘Chasing Coral’ and ‘Planet Earth II’ are amazing projects, but if you come to the festival you’ll see 40 films you’ve never heard of,” Samford said. “They aren’t all made with the BBC behind them. There’s some incredible films made with independent filmmakers.”
On Friday the festival comes back to Jackson with Wild Fest, a free, open-to-the-public festival that combines last year’s Science Fest with film screenings and conversations with the filmmakers, Moore among them.
Friday will include a screening of “Chasing Coral” and a Q&A with producer Larissa Rhodes, and “Spy In The Wild: Love” with a Q&A by the filmmakers and an animatronic animal demonstration.
Saturday will feature screenings of “Ranger and Leopard,” then a screening of “Ghost of the Mountains” with a Q&A with Moore, and then a screening of “Planet Earth 2,” behind-the-scenes footage and a Q&A with filmmakers.
For Moore the opportunity to screen his work and talk to audiences is a big draw.
“It’s really important. We don’t have many opportunities anymore,” Moore said. “In the U.S. wildlife films aren’t making inroads onto TV; it’s almost gone away. But to have an opportunity to show a wildlife film for a big screening, that’s as good as it gets for us.”
On Sunday it’s the return of Science Fest, the third annual science-based festival.
It will feature 30 interactive exhibits and the return of the dissection demonstrations, a favorite from last year. The “Spy In The Wild” animal robots will be there as well. Sunday evening the Grand Teton Award Winner will screen. The winner will not be decided until Thursday.
All three days of events are free and open to all ages.
Samford hopes the combination of events leads to engagement and action in the community.
“The drum we beat and keeps us doing this and what keeps this festival alive where similar conferences have died is we really focus on collaboration and impact,” she said. “We’re so far beyond the point in our world where media is just to entertain and inform. If media is not the connective tissue between you and some action, we’ve failed. So that is really the heart and soul of what we do.” ￼