Television and Film
My dissertation on biology of the green anacondas was sponsored partially by National Geographic. During the last year they send a film crew to make a documentary out of it. That is how I first got involved in film making. "The Land of the Anaconda" was an amazing success, the offices of NGT kept receiving letters and request of the audience that wanted to see more of my work. I was offered a position by NGT doing other films but I put it on hold until I finished my Ph.D.
I continued working in my dissertation until 1999 when I defended it. That very year (actually days after defending my dissertation) I was offered a job teaching Tropical Ecology for Boston University. It was a dream job and I took it without hesitation since it involved teaching advanced students, and traveling to the most exciting places in Ecuador with great resources for teaching and research. I did it for the following year. After that I came back to the US and took the position with National Geographic.
In the middle of 2000 while we were working out the details of my contract a film opportunity turned up, a giant snake was on the lose in Arkansas terrorizing the neighborhood. This is how the "Arkansas Anacondas?" was born, we went and filmed it with great results in the ratings. This film was not about deciphering the life of a animal but more on the funny side, also addressing the problems that this family was in when a big snake showed up in their yard.
Then in February 2001 I talked NGT into an ambitious project to make a film about the Orinoco Crocodiles. Orinoco Crocs are a very endangered species of crocodiles, probable one of the most endangered in the world, mostly due to its small original distribution. Back in 1992 a popular upraise went off against the park officials and biologists involved in the conservation of Crocodiles, mostly due to poor management of the park. The situation turned violent and not biologist had dared to go back to the area. What happened were blurry events that for the lack of witness nobody could refer first hand. All the witnesses where actors of the upraise and where down in the river where nobody had gone. I put together a team with NGT and went to document what had happened. The film shows the interesting events along with other efforts for the conservation of Orinoco Crocodiles in the country.
A show business postdoc!
On April 2001, as part of my continue interest for understanding the biology of anacondas, I wanted to start a new project in a different location. I put together a recky that NGT filmed. The interest of the trip was to assess the potential for a new location to continue my research. Much to my chagrin, NGT chose to name this film Supersnake!!
About the middle of 2001 we had a number of projects on the making with the biology of other snakes as well as featuring research done by other scientist in Venezuela and Latino America. Unfortunately, after the 9/11 events NGT changed directions dramatically and pretty much stopped on a dime all the natural history films that were on the making to give priority to films on terrorism, war technology and warmongering. We still did some films then. One of them was a biography of me and my work as part of the series True Originals.
My following film was about the bad reputation that snakes have and whether it was deserved. We visited the pentecostal religion sect that lives in the Appalachians to address the issue. At some point the book says that "he who believes... shall take up serpents ....and will not be hurt". This sect takes the word literally and use venomous snake in the services in church to show the power of God. We also visited other people who work with snake behavior and made a good case about how aggressive pit vipers really are.
On October 2002 we went to the northern most province of Argentina to do some promotion for the National Geographic Channel. In this area there is a good population of yellow anacondas (Eunectes notaeus). Since I had never worked with this species, I took advantage of this to go and learn something about this other species. Upon arrival we found out that the snake was being harvested for the skin and did a investigative piece where we explored the ins and outs of the program and learned a lot about the species, the habitat and the conservation in action.
The piece, Target Anaconda, aired on April 2004 after a long editing time. Since I started working in NGT we had been trying to make a good long, blue-chip, film about constrictors. Even though we had great ideas and plans the cost of most of the projects were prohibitive. It was at the end of 2002 when we finally got it approved and started and ambitious project presenting the life of representative large constrictors around the world. The Ultimate Snake is a very good film that presents in an engaging manner the life of the constrictors as a group
Along with the film with constrictors another film that we had been planning for a while came through. We went in an expedition to the the Tepuys in South America. Tepuys are flat topped mountains that occur mostly in Venezuelan but some of them also occur in Guyana and Brazil. We tried to visit the Tepuys in Venezuela but the permits were impossible to find and we had to end up doing it in Guyana that was a lot more cooperative with us, mostly due to the benefit of having NGT doing a film on the country.
In summer 2003, I was in a conference in Manaus, Brazil. Then I learned about a Island in Mexico, Cozumel, where Boa constrictors had been introduced accidentally. The paper presented the effect that the snakes were doing in the local fauna driving extinct some of the local endemics and endangering the status of many other mammals and birds. Three months later were were in the field doing a film featuring the problem as well as the work that a team of Mexican researchers are doing to try to understand and solve the problem. This was the last film I did during my tenure at National Geographic but I continued working with them as a free lancer and we still maintain a fruitful association.
Later one I participated in films with other networks including Discovery, BBC, Animal Planet and the Smithsonian channel among others.
While doing science is thrilling and I love it, I cannot bare the thought of spending time learning so much about the animals and nature that will only be read by a select group of scientist, without any hope that that information ever reach the general public. Making films is the best vehicle to bring attention to the animals and nature that I love, so I believe I will continue forever try to do both activities to the best of my capacities. Whish me luck, I need it!!!
Summary of TV documentaries
-Frankie’s tale: From Menace to Healer. Tropical Wildlife llc.
- Mysteries of the Giants: Reptiles, Dependent on Climate. A French Connection Film. 2018
- Titanoboa: Monster Snake. Smithsonian Channel. 2012
-Anacondas; Queen of serpents National Geographic Television February 2010.
-Monster Quests. Giant Killer snake. History Channel 2008
-The Devil Snake of Cozumel. National Geographic Television. Series Snake Wranglers Feb 2004.
-Into the lost Worlds of South America, National Geographic Ultimate Explorer. Feb 2004.
-Ssssnakes Alive. 60 Minutes Australia. CBS. Summer 2003
-Vipers bad rap. National Geographic Television Series Snake Wranglers. Fall 2003
-Anakondas, Pro 7 Terra Nostra, Germany. July 2003 -
-The Ultimate Snake. National Geographic Ultimate Explorer. Fall 2003 -
The trails of a Bare footed Biologist. National Geographic Television, Series, True Originals Summer 2002
-The Crocodiles of the Orinoco, National Geographic Explorer. July 2001 -
-Supersnake, National Geographic Television, Series Out There. Fall 2001
-Arkansas Anaconda? National Geographic Television. October 2000
-Orinoco Crocodile. Nick's quest. Channel 5 Available light and Discovery. November 1998.
-Anaconda: The Aquatic Jungle, Discovery Channel. May 1999.
-Anacondas, Nick's quest. Channel 5 Available light and Discovery. December 1998
-The Untamed Mountain. Discovery Channel. January 1998. -
-Anaconda. Dateline NBC. September 1998. -
-The Land of the Anaconda, National Geographic Explorer. September 1998. TBS.
-Secrets of Dragons. Germany, aired in October 1997.
WOrk in PRogress . . .
Our latest and best photos
We love to take pictures and show them to the world.