Louie Schwartzberg talks Disneynature: Wings of Life
By Anne Brodie Apr 12, 2013, 13:23 GMT
Disneynature presents a close-up look at the unsung heroes of our planet. Wings Of Life reveals the intricate worlds of bees, butterflies, birds, and bats. Our life on Earth relies on these incredible creatures, as more than one-third of our world\'s food supply is dependent on them. Yet we are increasingly threatening their lives, and if they should suddenly disappear, we may too. Directed by Louie Schwartzberg, Wings Of Life ...more
Louie Schwartzberg got the bug 35 years ago. That’s when he began shooting time lapse footage of flowers, a hobby that struck a passionate chord that still vibrates in him today.
Schwartzberg’s latest project, Disneynature’s Wings of Life, is a breathtaking visual experience, capturing plants, insects, birds and animals in time lapse and slow motion. But there is an important reason for making the film.
He’d heard dire reports of reductions in natural pollination systems which will deeply impact our world, and wanted to get the story.
M&C: You sound the alarm for dwindling natural resources in Wings of Life, resources present in small things we don’t often notice.
Schwartzberg: I’ve been shooting flowers for 35 years because I love flowers and the idea of time lapse to open move and dance to the light and then I heard that the bees were disappearing.
Bees and flowers have coevolved for 150 million years. That relationship grew and they have a mutually beneficial relationship that is potentially at risk. It motivated me to take action. Thank God Disneynature helped.
M&C: The film is stunningly beautiful and at risk. The message is loud and clear.
Schwartzberg: We did everything from 1000 frames per second to time lapse in which one frame is taken every twenty minutes. It becomes a portal into another world, in your gardens, you’re not watching them grow and open or close to the light but it’s happening.
Just because it’s beyond my vision doesn’t deny that the reality exists. The other extreme was the hummingbirds and seeing things invisible to the naked eye. I hope it expands awareness and consciousness and makes you fall in love with the flowers and the pollinators.
M&C: And want to protect them.
Schwartzberg: It is the beauty. All these things are beautiful and we want to protect them. Like baby animals, and which baby animal in the world isn’t cute, it is nature’s design to protect beautiful and the young. We're hard wired to protect life to move forward. Every mom is a diehard with unconditional love and that’s why it’s such a great story. It touches us. Life is a force of energy that is always moving and unstoppable.
That’s one of the beautiful things of the story is about connections and relationships and that's why Meryl Streep as narrator from a feminine point of view is important. This is not about predator and prey or scoring a touchdown or the survival of the fittest, the cliché nature documentary stories.
This is about a complex world of relationships, and yes, they are at the bottom of the food chain, but if they unravel, we are in danger.
M&C: The Monarchs butterflies and bees are disappearing but you present hope and some amazingly easy fixes.
Schwartzberg: We are feeling that the monarch migration now is the lowest in years. The bees are half of what they were a year ago. We're not in Doomsday mode but it directly affects 1/3 of our food supply. If they disappear it would create havoc on the planet far more serious than global warming.
Man is affecting the relationship by using pesticides and through loss of habitat and stress. Imagine you’re a bee shipped 50 thousand miles a year in a flatbed truck and you’re fed a mono diet in as part of agri- business. Then you’re expected to pollinate 10 thousand acres of almonds in the Mojave Desert.
It’s not natural, but it’s a billion dollar industry. When the economics start to collapse people will act.
M&C: I’m a gardener and I encourage bees and diverse life in my garden. It doesn’t take much to set up a window box of rooftop garden to encourage bees.
Schwartzberg: It doesn’t take much for a giant benefit, a tasty tomato as opposed to a non-tasty tomato. No pesticides, you teach your children to grow food; you learn and take pleasure from it. And you’ve eliminated the carbon footprint bringing in a tomato from another country, having it wrapped in plastic and refrigerated in a truck.
Many of us are clueless to where a tomato comes from. How a yellow flower turns into a tomato. Like where does water come from? It’s so basic it blows your mind that we don’t get the connection.
Years ago we realized there are flowers on that berry bush, we will be having raspberries. Things are blooming and we are in for apples, or berries or nuts. It’s just basic.
M&C: It was a brilliant idea to get Streep to narrate the film. Her voice is commanding yet maternal and she has star power.
Schwartzberg: Meryl Streep is a gardener and so she was completely on-board and the fact she’s an avid gardener I knew she had intelligence integrity and compassion in her voice. She has a soothing delivery and it’s not over the top and it’s not like “Oh my God, this is Meryl Streep!”
It needed to seep into you and guide you on the journey without the distraction of a celebrity. She studied English at Yale and theatre arts so she knew the derivation of every word.
M&C: Do you think you’ve covered pollination? Are you ready to move on?
Schwartzberg: I’m moving on to a couple of projects, the first is a film about mushrooms which create soil and plants need soil. That’s almost a bigger idea than pollination. I’m also launching my own channel Moving Art TV.
People will have beautiful images in their homes on all platforms. I want young people to get into it. Nature can be used as a great device or meditation or relaxing or partying or all of the above.
M&C: Will Wings of Nature be shown in schools?
Schwartzberg: Disneynature is working on a study guide online for the Blu-ray and I’m assuming any teacher could use it in the classroom.
M&C: Time lapse photography was your obsession and now it’s your career. How would you advise aspiring filmmakers?
Schwartzberg: It’s the passion, I think. I went down the path that inspired me and created assets that had value and before you know it I found an audience that responds. Follow your passions and the money will follow.