Salt Spring woman’s project gets wildlife 
‘Academy Award’

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A local filmmaker has won an “Academy Award of wildlife films” for her conservation film Toad People.

Isabelle Groc, a Salt Spring-based filmmaker, was nominated for the Wildscreen Panda Impact award for small budget films in August, and was delighted to hear the announcement at the ceremony on Oct. 19 in Bristol, U.K. The film was one of 37 nominees for various awards.

“We were really nervous,” she said about the awards ceremony. “It was a big event with lots of people. We were literally on the edge of our seats with tension. When we heard the name ‘Toad People’ called it was unforgettable.”

The film looks at the yearly migration of the western toad and how it is affected by habitat encroachment. The toads are born in wetlands and migrate to the forests for their adult lives. However, their migration paths have been bisected by roads and large numbers of the young toads are killed by traffic. The story of the toads got the attention of activists in communities across B.C., who rallied to help the amphibians migrate.

“This award means a lot because it encourages me to continue my work in conservation and storytelling around the work that local communities do. When I spoke on stage I dedicated the award to all of the local people who have worked so hard to conserve endangered species right in their backyards,” Groc said. “For me, the impact award provides hope that other people can do the same thing: be involved locally and help make a difference for the environment and for species at risk. That’s the main thing.”

Groc was also a speaker on a panel called Conservation Stories Closer to Home at the Wildscreen Festival. She and two other wildlife photographers talked about how conservationists can look at cases closer to home. The other photographers were Doug Gimesy, an Australian photographer, and Luke Massey from the U.K.

“It’s really about the fact that you don’t have to travel to distant places to find conservation issues to be involvled in,” Groc explained. “The toad story is a great example of how you can be involved in local conservation to make a difference and create a greater impact.”

Already, the story of the western toad has reached an international audience. Groc explained how she was approached by a Swiss conservation biologist who said that her toads film prompted her to do work in her home country.

“Our British Columbian toads are helping save Swiss frogs,” Groc said. “I thought that was a pretty cool impact.”

The Wildscreen Festival is held every year in October. Bristol is home to the BBC’s Natural History Unit, which produces the BBC Earth films and other nature documentaries. The festival gives wildlife filmmakers a chance to learn from each other at screenings, speakers and other events.

Further showings of Toad People are planned for the fall in Vancouver. The filmmakers are working on international distribution for the movie and will announce screenings as they are known.

“Hopefully the film will reach larger audiences and will continue to inspire people around the world,” she said.

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