Alumna answers the call of the wild
An internship in South Africa her senior year led Anne Goddard '12 to produce an award-winning documentary and solidified her passion for wildlife filmmaking and conservation.
By Natalie Brubaker '16
Anne Goddard ’12 still remembers the internship her senior year that took her to the middle of South Africa to film white rhinos while following an anti-poaching team.
That experience with Africa Media resulted in a documentary, “Rhino Wars,” a short film on the realities of rhino poaching in that country and the men who risk their lives to protect these endangered animals from armed poachers. The film won the Best Student Film award at the Washington, D.C., and New York City Wildlife Conservation Film Festivals in 2012.
Goddard, a communications assistant at the National Wildlife Federation in Washington, D.C., talked with The Magazine of Elon about her Elon education, internship experience and how they helped launch her into the world of wildlife filmmaking and a career in wildlife conservation.
How did you decide to pursue an internship with Africa Media?
I’ve always loved wildlife documentaries and my dream as a child was to be the female version of David Attenborough, but I had no clue how to even begin a career in wildlife filmmaking. One day, a good friend posted a link to the internship on my Facebook wall. From there I did some research and contacted prior interns. I definitely had my reservations about applying because it was in South Africa, I would be going alone and Elon did not have a record of any of their students applying or working for the organization. Nevertheless, I took the risk and applied.
What was your experience like in South Africa?
It was one of the best months of my life. Within four weeks I had cage dived with great white sharks, walked with lions, made friends with people from five different continents and spent many nights out in the bush under the night sky. I was the only film intern for the month, but I was there with a few wildlife photography interns and about 20 shark research interns from all over the world. It was really incredible to meet so many people who were just as passionate about wildlife as I am. I learned so much, not only about wildlife but also about different cultures.
Your documentary “Rhino Wars” won Best Student Film at the Washington D.C. and New York City Wildlife Conservation Film Festivals and was also screened at the Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival. What it a challenge to get the footage you needed to produce such a successful film?
When I was filming I would do crazy things like army crawl up to an impala herd or lug a camera jib up a mountain. It was hard work, but it was rewarding when I got that excellent shot. I also spent every day on the Indalu game reserve with the game rangers and wildlife. There was always something new to experience within the area and I learned so much about tracking and animal behavior. It was also a crash course in camera operation. Half of the time I was struggling to keep up with all my camera equipment, while trying to keep quiet as to not scare the wildlife.
How did your internship and documentary experience inspire you to pursue a career related to wildlife conservation?
I’ve always known I wanted to pursue a career within wildlife conservation, but this internship really solidified my passion for preserving the world’s wildlife. There are so many issues facing wildlife these days like poaching, climate change and habitat degradation. We are losing our biodiversity at an unprecedented rate and being out there in the bush really made me realize how important it is to preserve nature for future generations to enjoy. My film also helped me secure an internship at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo. During my internship, I got to work with the world’s top conservation biologists and get behind-the-scenes opportunities with some of the most endangered species in the world. Today, I still work in the conservation field at America’s largest conservation organization, National Wildlife Federation.
How did your years at Elon help prepare you to produce “Rhino Wars” and lead you to a career at the National Wildlife Federation?
Without my Digital Media Convergence experience I probably would have never gotten the internship. That class really provided the skills and understanding of film that I needed. Over the years, I have to say that my strategic communications degree from Elon has always given me that extra edge when I have gone to apply for internships and jobs. With my experience as a Team Leader at Live Oak Communications Agency and my background in public relations and journalism, I was able to create an excellent portfolio of written material that allowed me to get internships at my dream organizations. A communications degree from Elon is worth its weight in gold in the public relations field.
Do you have any plans to continue doing work in the documentary film industry?
In my dream world, I would love to continue doing wildlife film, but it’s an incredibly tough industry. A majority of the time, a wildlife filmmaker is spending more than three to four years filming in an extremely remote location. It’s also incredibly expensive and the job opportunities are sparse. It’s a tough life, but I am going to try and make another wildlife documentary in the near future.