Podcast: Chasing Cheetahs

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Podcast on MakeYouFamous: Chasing Cheetahs with Marcy Mendelson

Marcy Mendelson has been documenting in advocating for wildlife in Africa for a decade. In this shot for media organizations like National Geographic and a far. She runs Geo-watch and runs safaris to Namibia. She currently is directing her film Chasing Cheetah. The post was published on June 21th, 2017.

Interviewer: Welcome Marcy.

Marcy: Thank you very much glad to be here.

Interviewer: I’m sure a lot of people want to know this, how did you get your first job reporting for National Geographic and shooting for them?

Marcy: I was at the time working in advertising and working at the CR club. It was a world collided; it was a fortuitous meeting and introduction. I was just reminded of this thing that I wanted to do since I was a little kid. It would help save Cheetahs or be involved somehow. To shoot for National Geographic it’s every child’s dream really. Once I made that decision, I found a fundraiser within a week. It was within an hour’s drive at the Wildlife Conservation Network. I met the head of Cheetah Conservation Botswana, Rebecca Klein and some people with a wildlife sanctuary in Southern California called Cat Haven. Everything started to connect and started meeting people in the World Conservation. I decided I’m going to go to Africa and I’m going to do this thing. I wound up applying for a big cat initiative grant but that grant was mainly geared toward scientists. So just speaking with advisers there and it is connected to National Geographic. Then that adviser had their light-bulb moment where they said you know I really think you need to speak with an editor at National Geographic.

Having the intention behind it and the passion behind it once I spoke with that editor we sort of really understood each other in a really great way. He took a chance on me and gave me that opportunity because he knew I was going to go there regardless. It was a win win for National Geographic as well. Obviously it helped open up many doors for me in my travels and connections in my work.

Interviewer: So you met the National Geographic Editor and then you went and met other people and told them I’m going to go to Africa they help you raise money? Why did you make that second step?

Marcy: It sort of all happened at once. I met people at a fundraiser and then I had decided I wanted to go to Africa and how am I going to get this money and oh my god what is my life going to be and how am I going to do this. Then I applied for a grant that was connected to National Geographic. It wasn’t a grant for media producers like myself. It wasn’t a grant for photographers so they said well apply for the grant, we really think you’ve got a great idea but at the end of the day this is who you should be speaking with, this person. Then I raised money on my own, it was the early days of Kickstarter. So I raised some money via Kickstarter. Those were the days when you people were very easy to find and Indiegogo didn’t even exist then. I did that, I took some credit cards. By that time I had written a few articles for National Geographic in America. I just went for it.

Interviewer: I see, so the lesson in this is once you get the opportunity then you go and meet as many other people as possible in that world and then they help you with your fundraising and boom you’re off to the races?

Marcy: Yeah and I think what I’d also drive home is the intention behind what you’re doing. You meet kindred spirits.

Interviewer: Let’s talk about that intention. Why cheat watch, what is it about cheetahs that are so interesting to you?

Marcy: Well they’re fabulous. I can’t quite explain it. I got a chance to meet David Attenborough a few years ago and thanked him because I think it might be all his fault. It’s just watching this enigmatic cat running across the Savannah on a little television in the 70’s. I was just completely hooked, there’s something so epically mysterious and powerful about this animal that has this very Buster Keaton like expression and this beautiful speed and this fragility at the same time. The cat itself is very mysterious to me so it stands out. I love all animals but the cheetah really stands out to me as having this kind of mystery to be solved with a vibe about it. Even in my art school days I loved cheetahs.

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Currently I'm working on my new film, Chasing Cheetah, based in Namibia; a documentary road trip searching for the cheetah in the midst of human-wildlife conflict.