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Born Free USA Blog

Born Free USA Blog

Lights, Camera, Action!

Published 11/19/09
By Wayne Crawford, Writer/Director of U’Bejani

Movie shooting schedules may run from 2 to as many as 15 weeks. However, when you’re working with wild animals it can take a tad bit longer. I know because my film U’Bejani (which means black rhino in Zulu) shot for approximately 159 weeks. The shooting breakdown was simple: 3 weeks to film the people shots and 3 years to film the animal shots!

A little background. I’m the writer/director as well as one of the actors in the movie. I had been shooting a safari/travel series in southern Africa, but my background was mostly as a feature film writer/producer. A few of my films, like Valley Girl and Jake Speed, I was very proud of. The rest, well, they fell under the category of “earning a living.”

I wanted one more film to be proud of — an entertaining family film with a conservation message. I knew if I just sat down and wrote a fictional script featuring wild African animals it would not be producible. Say “action” to a pod of hippos and see what happens.

I was well and truly stumped until one day, while shooting my series, I was chased — for 47 glorious seconds — by a feisty 250-pound male ostrich. It was one of those lightbulb moments. Right then I knew, at least in theory, how to make U’Bejani. It would be hard, sometimes maddening, and generate very strange looks from those not involved.

Have I given you enough of a hint? Here’s another one. Since our resources were very limited, we could not afford visual effects. No trick photography. All the animal behaviors had to be real.

Watch U’Bejani and tell me how you think I finally put the script together. And I’ll tell you if you’re right. I promise you’ll not only have a good time and possibly learn a couple of things along the way, but you’ll also be helping my good friends at Born Free USA.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Wayne Crawford

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