The Ark

Filmmaker Q&A with Director Kel O’Neill

Please provide a brief description of the work or organization featured in your video:

The effort to de-extinct the northern white rhino is global: scientists at the San Diego Zoo collaborate with the teams at Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya.


What motivated you to make this film?

We’ve worked in video installations for a little less than a decade, and VR shares some DNA with installation; it’s all about spatial storytelling.


What do you want audiences to take away from your film?

No matter where we live, we’re all connected, aren’t we?


Please list key points that should be covered in a post-screening discussion:

I’d feel more comfortable having someone else frame our work.


Please provide information on any recent developments regarding the issue or subjects of the film. How have things changed or not changed?

Sudan has become the first northern white rhino on Tinder. This is not a joke.


What opportunities are available for those interested in getting further involved?

Support the San Diego Zoo and Ol Pejeta.


Please provide any additional resources (websites, links to additional videos, forms, articles, etc.): &


Is there a particular documentary film or filmmaker that had a major influence on your career?

Back before he made “Tangerine” and “The Florida Project,” Sean Baker lent us a camera for a year when we were learning to make documentaries. When he had to take it back, and we had to buy a camera to continue making work, we were like “well, I guess this is our job now.”


Please tell us what camera(s) you shot with primarily – and any other special equipment that you used and why you used it.

We used a 360Heros 10-cam rig because it’s what we could get our hands on at the time.


Please share a personal story about your experience making this film.

We were in such a frenzy to make the project that much of the production was a blur. But it is a beautiful blur.


Please tell us about any special styles or techniques that you used during the production of your film to help tell your story. 

The split screen effect was always built into our conception of the project. Eline and I wanted to create a project that included two storylines from two sides of the world, and it seemed like an elegant way to do that.


How did your story evolve from day one, to the very last day in post? Is your story what you thought it would be?

Two rhinos died during the making of “The Ark,” which added a sense of urgency to the work. We were racing the clock.


Please describe the most rewarding experience you had while making this film.

Our Kickstarter campaign was incredibly rewarding. For years, we’d relied on broadcasters and grant-giving organizations to fund our work, and it was amazing to have so much support from our backers. Without them, there would be no project.


What advice can you give to other impact filmmakers?

Focus on story.


What’s your favorite part about the filmmaking process and why?

It’s such a privilege to be a filmmaker. We love every part.


What’s the one item you always take with you when working out in the field and why? 

Plastic bags because it rains.


What have you learned about the value and impact of the project?

People don’t want to live in a world without wildlife. Humans aren’t the only important feature on this planet.



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