To stumble upon a grove of twisted, contorted pencil pines high up in the mountains of Tasmania is to stumble upon a window into an ancient time. Not only are these trees possibly over 2000 years old and found nowhere else in the world, their kind have been calling the mountains home since Australia was part of the supercontinent Gondwana.
Wild Island are creating a film about Tasmania’s wonderful conifers (pines) as well as our other extremely special, ancient and long-lived paleo-endemic plants. Keep Tassie Wild has just donated $1500 to help fund the film but they need more donations!
Scroll down to hear what producer/director Rob Blakers has to say about this exciting project and follow the link to help him out!
Hey Rob. Can you tell us a bit about the ‘Tasmanian Gondwana Film’?
The Tasmanian Gondwana film will be a 20 minute documentary that highlights the extraordinary beauty and value of Tasmania’s ancient paleo-endemic communities. These vegetation types, including Huon pines, pencil pines, King Billy pines, other highland conifers, celery-top pines and deciduous beech, along with rainforests, are at the heart of wild Tasmania. They are extremely vulnerable to fire. With runaway climate change manifesting in Tasmania as unprecedented dry lightning strikes and record low rainfalls, we will lose the best of these places within years or at best decades unless we dramatically up the level of protection that we give them.
Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your role in this project?
I have been working in the field of environmental conservation since I first came to Tasmania - for a 3 week holiday, over 40 years ago. The motivation for this project is the fact that we have these incredible botanical dinosaurs in Tasmania. The catalyst for the project was the 2016 fires that burnt large areas of ancient pines and threatened even more areas. I found myself on the Central Plateau after those fires, standing in the charred and brittle remains of ancient forests, mortified by the destruction, and asking myself - “why am I the only one here?” This film aims to convey the antiquity and beauty of these communities, and the threats that they face.
Where do you draw your inspiration from?
The places themselves, nature in general, and the universal capacity of humans to be far, far better than we currently are.
What do you personally find so interesting about these Tasmanian Gondwanan communities?
They are unique, beautiful, ancient, irreplaceable. They are the very best of wild Tasmania.
A variety of Tasmania’s natural landscapes are under threat from multiple directions, be it development, mass-tourism, climate change or big industry. Can you talk a bit about why you’ve chosen to focus on this particular plant community and the threats they’re facing?
This project does not preclude other conservation work, be it protection of old growth forests from logging, or our wild places from inappropriate development, or the mining of Australia’s biggest rainforest wilderness. Underlying all of these issues is a human society that has self-centredness, which extends to greed, as its foundation. Climate crises and mass extinctions are the manifestation of these profound human societal imbalances.
These plants are so intrinsically linked with the idea of bushwalking in Tasmania. We can’t imagine a landscape without them. Can you talk a bit about what these landscapes could look like in the future if we stay on the current trajectory?
The real tragedy is that if we lose the Gondwanan communities, that have evolved to their current form over tens of millions of years, which have been growing as forests since before the last ice age, and which have individual trees that may be thousands of years old, most people would not even notice. The reason for this film is to raise awareness of these incredible places; to elicit care.
For all our filmmaker and photographer readers, what gear are you using and do you envision any difficulties in capturing these wild places?
The footage will be both ground-based and aerial. For interviews and on-ground landscapes I’m using the new Fuji gfx100. With a sensor that is 70% larger than a normal DSLR camera. The video files are a delight - excellent colour, beautiful tones and a huge amount of detail. For the purposes of this project I have been able to obtain a permit from the Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife Service to also capture drone footage at specified times and locations. For this I use the Inspire 2 with an X7 camera - shooting raw files, and also the Mavic 2 Pro, a much smaller machine. Technology has evolved to the point where I am able to carry these very high-quality camera platforms into remote wilderness to obtain footage that even a few years ago simply could not have been achieved.
What are your hopes for this project?
That it garners interest and support, not only in its making but more importantly, in the message that it conveys.
What can our readers do to support the ‘Tasmanian Gondwana Film’?
To be involved with skills and ideas, and to support financially. There are no big backers for this project, the entire production will be done on a shoestring and every contribution will be greatly appreciated. Wild Island at Salamanca will be the hub of the project.
To find out more about Keep Tassie Wild's donations head to our Donations page