I’m excited to welcome guest poster, Cheryl Kabela Hansen (a little more about her in the next paragraph!). After seeing Disneynature BEARS a few weeks ago (you can read my review here) and reading Cheryl’s experience watching the film being made, I think I want to walk in HER shoes for a few days! This post is exclusively shared right here, for Better in Bulk readers – you won’t see these behind-the-scenes glimpses anywhere else!
Walt Disney Studios’ staff writer Cheryl Kabela Hansen trekked to Katmai National Park and Preserve in Alaska last summer to shadow the filmmakers for Disneynature’s new big-screen adventure “Bears,” which opened in theaters April 18.
My first real job as a teenager was at the local newspaper in our very small town. I worked about 10 hours a week in layout and did some writing along the way. I’m still writing today—and believe it’s what I’m meant to do—but every time I meet someone with a really cool job, I like to mentally try on the role for a while and and see how it fits. The habit is completely irrational—I’m captivated by film composers, but have zero musical talent, and my potential in animation is pretty much limited to that of a brilliant observer. I even quizzed the woman who cleaned my teeth last week about the ups and downs of life as a dental hygienist, yet I don’t even floss my own teeth every single day. So when I was invited to shadow the filmmakers behind Disneynature’s “Bears,” my imagination ran wild—so to speak: I could just picture myself hiking through forests and up mountains: clothed in khaki from head to toe, I’d be surrounded by bears and wolves. The image, I’d soon learn, wasn’t too far from the truth—minus the head-to-toe khaki, anyway.
I’ve edited press materials for the previous Disneynature films, but this was my first opportunity to actually travel to the film site to cover production—to walk in someone else’s shoes, or hiking boots as it were. After spending a few days with the filmmakers—people who’ve filmed wild animals from Alaska to Africa—and the guides at Hallo Bay Bear Camp, too, who dedicate their summers to fairly low-key living in the Alaskan wilderness—I realized that they all shared a singular and very admirable quality: passion.
Even cool jobs are work, right? Yet I was continually struck with the feeling that the people I encountered were living enchanted lives—they all considered their roles among wildlife a privilege. Naturalist guide Simyra Taback-Hlebechuk recognized the bears we encountered faster than I recognize some of my nieces and nephews (to be fair, I have 30 … or 31). She answered every question as if it were the first time she heard it. She seemed as comfortable—if not more so—sitting on a piece of driftwood with a couple of bears in her sights as she was dining the night before in a Homer restaurant.
Camerawoman Sophie Darlington had trouble packing up for the night after 14 hours behind the camera. When one would think she’d be looking forward to closing her eyes, she actually feared she’d miss some incredible bear moment. It was her last night on location, and though she looked forward to going home to see her 13-year-old son, she said it was always hard to leave a place like Alaska. Following the birth of her son, Darlington had a hard time reconciling her love of wildlife filmmaking with the demands of motherhood. In the end, she said, she had to honor her passion, and with the support of her family, she found a way to make it work. “It’s who I am,” she said.
Everyone I spoke to on site seemed to share the sentiment. Most admitted the lifestyle made family life challenging—birthdays, weddings and celebrations are missed along the way. But all agree that the time they dedicate to family is particularly precious as a result.
Director Keith Scholey, who grew up in Africa, passed on his passion to son Matt, who works for Disneynature as marketing coordinator, while son Olly served as a field assistant in Alaska, and also captured incredible still shots. Like all parents, really, Scholey introduced his sons to his world from the time they could walk—his world just happened to include lions and bears. It’s fair to say their summer vacations differed somewhat from mine—Wisconsin Dells was a family favorite while I was growing up.
I can think of no greater gift to my own kids than to lead them to do something they truly love for a living. And maybe this experience—brief as it was—will someday inspire them to pursue a career in the wild.
How do you help your kids find their passion? Leave a comment below!
“Bears” is now playing in theatres everywhere!
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