Hero Film Festival & Awards, which works to shine a spotlight on depictions of heroism in film, is currently in its first quarterly cycle. Selected films for this first edition of the festival will be announced in September.
This week, our own Nicholas Crawford (NC) interviewed director Chuck Coleman (CC) of submitted film “The Tortoise Whisperer.”
Introducing The Tortoise Whisperer
A Peripheral Vistas Production, The Tortoise Whisperer is a short film about Kevin Proulx and his loving care of endangered California tortoises. Expecting just ten of his forty-five eggs to hatch, he is overwhelmed when over thirty babies emerge, each capable of growing to over one hundred pounds. This unique documentary showcases the passion of a man who refuses to see tortoises simply as cold-blooded creatures.
Coleman was born in Los Angeles where he attended LACC and UC Santa Cruz. He’s played piano since the age of three. His filmmaking career began accidentally about twelve years ago, after buying a computer to orchestrate music and discovering iMovie. Chuck cites this discovery along with weekly lessons at the Apple Store as having changed the course of his life. His passions are editing and sharing stories that people might otherwise never witness.
NC: How did you meet the subject of your documentary, Kevin Proulx?
CC: I met Kevin at a support group during a very difficult time in my life. He identified as being an editor and given that I was just beginning in that field, I pursued a friendship with him. He was very supportive of my early work and would often give me notes to consider on my projects.
NC: What made you decide to work with him on this project?
CC: As I got to know Kevin, I discovered that he had a passion for tortoises and had an area on the side of his house which he had dedicated to their care. I repeatedly mentioned that we should make a movie about them. Many years later, after thirty-six of his tortoise eggs had hatched, I received a phone call from him saying that he had found a home for most of the babies. He told me that if I wanted to make a movie, I should come film him delivering them to their new home.
NC: What did you learn about tortoises during the production of this documentary?
CC: I learned a lot from Kevin during production. One particular lesson was the distinction that tortoises are exclusively land dwellers. There are friendly tortoises and unresponsive ones; Kevin prefers the responsive ones.
While Kevin has raised these animals to behave like pets, they would not necessarily be a good pet for children. They are carriers of salmonella bacteria, so after any contact, it is important to wash one’s hands with hot water and anti-bacterial soap.
NC: Creating an independent film is no easy task. What was the biggest challenge for you during this process?
CC: This was a problem-free endeavor. I had a willing subject with an ever-expanding library of footage depicting his own history with the tortoises. Honestly, the biggest challenge has been trying to find an audience for this very quirky, original and heartwarming film.
NC: Your film has one of the best end-credits scenes I’ve ever seen. Can you discuss the decision to include it?
CC: I am really glad you liked it. I actually did not film that scene. It was filmed by Kevin and sent to me as I neared the end of post production. We both agreed that this update would be a perfect addition to film’s end.
NC: What do you think makes this film a good fit for Hero Film Festival & Awards?
CC: Kevin’s passion and dedication to these marvelous creatures is commendable. This documentary is the story of an unsung hero who goes about his business without recognition solely because of his love for these animals. Kevin is my hero and I hope that when the audience sees this film, he will become one of theirs as well.
NC: If nothing else, what do you hope the audience takes away from The Tortoise Whisperer?
I hope they can feel the love depicted in this film along with the joy that I experienced in capturing it. In my opinion, this movie represents the fact that one person can make a difference. It spotlights the good in humanity and the celebration of life.