DirectorInterview

JoanEmbreyJoan Embery : Producer

Joan Embery is nationally famous for her television appearances with live animals, her comments and perspectives on conservation in the media, and her public speaking engagements with her Animal Ambassadors to the general public. The Embery Institute for Wildlife Conservation is dedicated to supporting conservation initiatives worldwide. She and her husband Duane Pillsbury run a ranch where 35 of their exotic Animal Ambassadors are cared for in Lakeside, California.

Q: Joan, how does your work – what you do - support conservation?

Joan Embery: My goal is to connect people to wild life and wild places and build a desire to conserve and protect them. My Animal Ambassadors are one of the ways I can highlight the wonders of nature and inspire people to conserve nature.

Q: Joan, you are forever in front of the camera. How is it to be working behind the scenes on Turtle Reef 3D? What was that like?

Joan Embery: I loved it! I could better appreciate the challenge of filming wild creatures in their own environment. Aside from just the wonder of being there, it was interesting to work underwater to capture wildlife behaviors. Having worked with wildlife in television and on film – going underwater provides a whole new level of complexity. I’m so amazed watching how these animals lead their daily lives. One quickly gains an enormous appreciation of how well these creatures are adapted to their environment. They have it figured out. They’re amazing.

Q: You are primarily known for your conservation work in San Diego and around the country on land. Is this your first incursion into a marine conservation project, and how did that come about?

Joan Embery: I’m definitely a water person. I grew up on the coast – spent a lot of time as a kid on the ocean and so I’ve always been attracted to marine life. Working with Soames gave me an opportunity to explore it further and become immersed in this marine story. For the first time, for me, I had an opportunity to return to the same locations on a daily basis and get to know where the creatures hung out – and learn how their day was spent, how they interact – and to become part of their world. Who would have thought that fish have a program for the day? There’s a lot going on down there.  

Q: What was your role in the production of Turtle Reef 3D – and why was it so important?

Joan Embery: I’ve spent my life interpreting wildlife for the general public. I think I have a good handle on what people know and what interests them – and that is not always obvious. Working with Soames and his team I’m like another person sitting in the audience – I can ask the same questions that they’d ask. I add another important perspective.

Q: You and Producer, Soames Summerhays, have been collaborating on projects for some time now – how do you work together?

Joan Embery: We work very well together because we share the same goals and the same passions but with different perspectives – so we cross-reference each other. We appreciate one another’s blunt uncompromising perspectives. Soames drags me in on his projects and I drag him in on mine. It’s a good exchange!

Q: What do you think is it about Turtle Reef 3D that captures the audience? How does it propel conservation outcomes?

Joan Embery: When it comes to oceans on the whole, people’s understanding stops at the shoreline. They don’t see what’s beneath the surface – they don’t realize about the complexities of marine ecosystems. Turtle Reef 3D takes people underwater to a world unknown to most of them.  It makes sense of this alien world. The film gives people an emotional connection to the underwater life – they are not just fish and turtles – they seem more like a community.  This causes people value and protect them. Besides which, revenues from Turtle Reef 3D go directly into conservation. 

Q: Did you get to dive with the turtles on location – what was that like?

Joan Embery: I didn’t want to get out of the water – I was mesmerized by it all. They are such peaceful creatures – and curious too! If you are very gentle they show no fear and seem absolutely accepting of my presence – I can see how vulnerable that must make them. Once you experience this it makes one want to care for them.

Q: What is the big story carried by Turtle Reef 3D thatpeople need to understand?

Joan Embery: I think the film leads the audience to discover more about the way a coral reef works and gently raises their awareness about issues the ocean’s face. Coral reefs are like the rain forests of the ocean – and they exist in shallow waters near land and very often in close proximity to people. These reefs are like the canaries in the coalmine – and we’re losing them rapidly. People think of trash on the beach as pollution – but they can’t imagine that what they do on land effects what happens in the ocean. Poor water quality is one of the biggest threats to coral reefs and coastal ecosystems worldwide. Our poisons flow downhill and into the ocean. Everything we do affects the ocean. Our individual actions – fertilizers from our lawns - our dog’s waste, our cat’s parasites, and oil from our cars - all of them adversely affect ocean life. When people know that they become more aware about their own actions.

Q: You’ve been working with Soames on the America’s Ocean Challenge project - of which this is a part. What is the objective of that program?

Joan Embery: What most people don’t know is that our marine heritage is about one and one half times the size of all the land area of the US combined – and few people know anything it. As a result our marine ecosystems are degraded. Our ocean is the lifeline for every living American. And yet the constituents working for healthy ocean ecosystems are few. We need everyone to be involved in its future. We’ve done a pretty good job at conserving wild places and wildlife on land - we now need to translate our conservation successes on land to our underwater heritage.

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