Co-founder of conservation company Wild Ark and co-producer of the Wild Ark pilot documentary series, Sophie Hutchinson, together with her husband Mark, are embarking on a mission to protect the world’s wild places. Their goal is to inspire people to reconnect with nature – harnessing the resultant energy to maximise nature conservation on every level. It’s the culmination of a life lived in balance with the wild and commitment to safeguard something that is so precious to her and her family.
1. What inspired you to produce the Wild Ark Pilot Series? My husband Mark and I were fortunate to be able to travel the world in our early years and met the most incredible people along the way, who were doing some of the fantastic things to save their environment. It made me realise that these stories needed to be told. I think the series will inspire people who may think it’s impossible to make a difference in the world. All the individuals featured in the series had just one voice and a determination to make things happen. I am constantly inspired by the sheer power of passion – whether resulting from necessity because your river is about to be dammed up and it’s the source of food for your village, or because your fly-fishing business is on that piece of land and a mining company wants to come in and dig it all up – the lengths people will go to make sure these places are protected, is what I find extraordinary. And I can’t imagine what would be lost if we didn’t have these people.
2. How did you find all the characters and what was your research process? We were put in contact with the talented Australian production company, FINCH, who had so many great ideas on how these stories could be told and the format that would do them justice. It has been an amazing team effort with many months of research because once you start looking, there are so many incredible people out there doing amazing things. The idea is that each of the people featured have a great story to tell, but also a place you can visit if you want to. We felt that it was important for there be a connection for people at home.
3. What do you hope the series will achieve? The connection between the characters and these wild places is so strong that we wanted to tell these stories through their eyes, so that viewers at home will actually also feel that connection. Telling a personal journey is very powerful and it is another way to inspire viewers to reconnect with the wilderness
4. Was there anything you learned that you didn’t know prior to embarking on this journey? There were some incredible stories that I hadn’t heard of before. Stories of individuals up against some of the biggest industries and obstacles, yet they just keep fighting for it and fighting for their communities despite their little means. I find the power of the people up against big industries incredible! To see what they’ve achieved and the difference they’ve made, is exactly why it is so important for every individual to know that they do have the power and that it is important to speak up for what you believe in.
5. Of all the devastation that is happening to the world’s wild places, what in particular has had the biggest impact on you? I can’t help but say Africa. Seeing elephants and rhinos in the wild, having the very fortunate experience to witness how beautiful and majestic they are in their own natural environment and then seeing the devastation of the poaching, the habitat loss, and the decimation of population numbers is what I find completely devastating. I think it’s extraordinary that it’s come to this point. That is why it is so important for people to care and to speak up. We don’t want to be in a situation where we don’t know what we had until it’s gone.
6. What does Wild Ark as a brand mean to you? The Wild Ark brand is all about connectivity with the natural world. We want to try and reawaken the wilderness within people. So for example, for the characters in our film, the wilderness within is very much alive and active, to the point where they have dedicated their lives to protecting it. This may not be the same for everyone, but it may ignite just a small spark inside someone that inspires them to appreciate the environment and to understand the value of our wild places.
7. Can we really make a difference? I believe the world is at a tipping point. I think people are starting to care more and are becoming more open to what is going on in the world – and that’s the beauty of the internet. I think people are worried, but they don’t know what to do. We need to harness that energy and give them the opportunity to make a difference. I do believe that there is a side to humanity that, if focused in the right direction, will be capable of incredible things, much like the characters in the documentary. That’s what these stories will illustrate and that is why it is important they are being told.
8. Why is nature important to you and your family? I think nature is like food for our soul. It’s what nurtures us. I think we’re meant to be in it, and around it. It makes us more awake and more alive and I wanted that for our kids. I had that freedom in my own life and I suppose nowadays there is less freedom and more structured activity. Whilst that’s understandable, I feel it’s my responsibility to give my kids as many natural experiences as I can. So whatever is at my fingertips, whether going to the beach, climbing a tree, walking in the local bushland, for me, giving them those experiences is as important as how well they eat and the quality of the air they breathe. Their mental and physical health is dependent on those experiences.
9. What Inspires you? My husband Mark inspires me. To have someone alongside me who loves all the same things I do, who is determined and energetic to make things happen; is so positive and sure and visionary – is incredibly inspiring – it makes me feel we can do anything. My entire family inspires me. My childhood, growing up with my amazing siblings, was a world which I hope I am creating for my own kids. So people have inspired me but equally nature, seeing the beauty of the natural world that makes me happy.