Nature Films a Fraud: Producer

They involve rented animals, M&Ms
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 29, 2010 7:49 AM CDT
Updated Oct 3, 2010 11:12 AM CDT

(Newser) – Swimming with sharks, camping with wolves, blazing through the Everglades—nature documentaries get us so close to the animal kingdom they seem unreal ... and they often are, according to a new tell-all book. Chris Palmer, an executive producer who has spent more than 25 years in the wildlife film industry, tells Nightline that "too many" documentaries "involve deceptions, manipulations, misrepresentations, fraudulence, and the audience doesn't know."

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Some examples from Palmer: Burying a killer whale skull at the bottom of the sea, then filming it; placing M&Ms in an animal carcass to draw animals; and using rented animal actors. Money is often the impetus, says Palmer, who recounted one film he did that supposedly followed a whale and her calf along their 3,000-mile-long migratory path. Without the means to film for that long at great depths, "We made them up." Other filmmakers emphasize the silver lining of their manipulations: They spare wild animals the trauma and disruption of human contact. (Read more documentary stories.)

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