Neil Losin & Nathan Dappen directed 2021 WMFF features “Hidden Wild,” “Protecting Nature for Good,” “Records of Change” and “Feathers in Flight: The Bird Genoscape Project.” You read that correctly… we accepted four films from these two powerful storytellers. We asked them a few questions, see our Q&A conversation below:
What is in your gear bag/kit?
Everything! We are gear junkies, which means that we have a lot of gear and enjoy using it. Every shoot is different, and we always try to bring the tools we need to bring each story to life. Sometimes that means carrying a bunch of bags with a RED Helium and an arsenal of lenses. Other times that means carrying a small mirrorless camera and just 1-2 lenses.
What item can you not live without?
Lens cleaner and clean cotton cloths. It’s amazing how often I find myself wearing modern synthetic outdoor gear, with literally nothing on my body that I can use to clean a dirty lens! A few ziploc bags with clean, dry cotton cloths, strategically scattered throughout your camera bags, can make a huge difference!
How do you choose music for your films?
We’ve been lucky to have original scores written for many of our recent projects — like Hidden Wild, Feathers In Flight, and Protecting Nature for Good. It’s always fun to work with a great composer and get a score that really captures the essence of your story. But even with a custom score, the process still starts with finding great “temp” music. We use a variety of libraries to find temp tracks, and even borrow temp music from well-known film scores when needed. Anything goes when it’s temp! The key is just providing our composer with the right inspiration to nail the mood when they begin composing our original score.
Most necessary character-quality for a director?
I think you need to be a good listener. We go into shoots with an idea about what the story is, but often we’re halfway through a shoot when one of our characters reveals something totally unexpected. It’s important to be able to see past your preconceived story and see the potential in these serendipitous developments. But only to a point — if you go chasing every new wrinkle in your story, you can quickly lose track of the central thread. That’s where a good producer can help in reining in an over-excited director!
Craziest on-set/en route to set adventure?
When we were in Brazil to film Protecting Nature for Good, Nate Dappen and I were really hoping to see a tapir, or “anta” in Portuguese. Our guide had seen several sets of tapir tracks, but since they are quite secretive creatures, we weren’t holding out much hope of seeing one. One morning we got started before sunrise. A boat dropped us off on the riverbank to film shorebirds, and we waited, long lenses ready. Suddenly, a strange shape surfaced in the middle of the river channel, headed straight for us. I could see that Nate was looking at it, too. It only took us a few seconds to realize what we were looking at. Our eyes met. “Anta!” we both mouthed silently. Moving as little as we could, we followed the tapir with our cameras as it emerged from the river, shook water off its back, and proceeded to walk past within a few yards of each of us, then calmly wander into the woods. It was an unforgettable wildlife encounter… and some great footage too!
More About Neil Losin & Nathan Dappen
Nate Dappen & Neil Losin are biologists, photographers & award-winning filmmakers. They met in 2008 during a tropical biology course in Costa Rica and both got their PhDs studying lizards. Over the last 12 years, they’ve become collaborators, business partners, best friends and have traveled the globe making films about science and wildlife.