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Taira Malaney Coming Home to Jackson Wild 2022

Taira Malaney Coming Home to the 2023 Jackson Wild Summit

by Taira Malaney 

Taira Malaney, Director at Emaho Films, speaking at the 2023 Jackson Wild Summit 

Every year, I look forward to what has become an annual gathering at Jackson Wild in the beautiful Grand Teton National Park. It has only been four years since I first attended the summit, but somehow it feels like home. Perhaps it is being surrounded by people who love the wilderness, or it is the kind and genuine nature of those who find their way into this career. Or perhaps it is that sense of excitement, wonder, and hope that I leave feeling when I return home.

Taira Malaney, Director at Emaho Films, speaking at the 2023 Jackson Wild Summit 

This year, I decided (rather last minute) to apply to work as a volunteer. I thought it would be a nice way to experience the summit differently, and also contribute in some way for others to enjoy what I have over the past few years. Luckily, there was a spot available, and before I knew it I had my flight booked and ready to go to Jackson. Coincidentally around that same time, Jared Lipworth from HHMI Tangled Bank Studios, reached out to me to see if I would be interested in participating in a panel about impact filmmaking.

Taira Malaney, Director at Emaho Films Speaking on Impact Panel at 2023 Jackson Wild Summit

As leaders in the field, Tangled Bank has been creating and supporting powerful impact driven stories about nature and science for years. I was a media lab fellow at Jackson Wild back in 2019, an incubator programme for emerging filmmakers to develop their skill sets, build connections, and to get a taste of what it means to be a storyteller in the wildlife filmmaking industry. It was at that summit that I decided to create an impact campaign for our film Turtle Walker.

Taira Malaney, Director at Emaho Films speaking to the participants.

Just a few months earlier, I had been at Sunny Side of the Doc with Krish Makhija, pitching the film. We happened to sit in on a session where Rue Mahoney talked about the incredible campaign they were doing for Sea of Shadows. It was inspiring and impressive, but I didn’t think it was something we could do with our small independent film. When I saw her speak again at Jackson Wild, this time as a media lab fellow, I decided I would give it a shot. It definitely helped that my parents (who were traveling through the tetons that day and happened to attend Rue’s session) were equally inspired by what they heard!

Taira Malaney, Director at Emaho Films speaking to the participants.

Fast forward four years, and here I was sitting on the same stage talking about our impact campaign for Turtle Walker. Jared told me that he wanted to highlight case studies of grassroots initiatives, perhaps to showcase that impact does not necessarily need to involve large-scale organizations and budgets in order to be successful. It can be effective even when done by a small team, with limited resources. As I sat on the stage, sharing stories of our challenges, victories and learning outcomes, I couldn’t help but hope that there was someone out there who, just like me, would leave the session feeling inspired to create their own impact film. 

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