StoryScout 2024

Documentary Business

Peter Hamilton Consultants, Inc

Takeaways from NEWF 2019 in Durban. At the Nature Environment Wildlife Filmmakers Congress, “My mind is blown. My heart is full!”

by Robin McGahey:

This past week, I had the incredible opportunity to attend the 3rd annual Nature Environment Wildlife Filmmakers Congress (NEWF) in Durban, South Africa.

  • Fearlessly led by Noel Kok and his partner Pragna, the theme was #Partnership.
  • I arrived unsure of what to expect, and left feeling awe, inspiration, drive, and hope for what is to come

Key Takeaways

  • Dominique Goncalve’s work with Elephant conservation proves that human – animal coexistence is possible with proper understanding and respect for one another.
  • Thanks to the spirited Tiassa Mutunkei, youth movements for support of MPA’s are popping up around schools and Universities all across the nation
  • Kenya has the most spectacular wildlife, and everyone should watch Dr. Paula Kahumba’s Wildlife Warriors to learn more
  • Kaitlin Yarnall and Nat Geo are actively supporting young creative storytellers through the Nat Geo Explorer grants
  • VR is a tool that we need to change people’s minds
  • Akanksha Sood Singh, Doel Trivedy, Gunjan Menon, and Malaika Vaz are four women reinventing the Wildlife Conservation filmmaking sector in India
  • Rhino Poaching continues to be an ongoing struggle, that Susan Scott and Bonne de Bod are courageously battling
  • Noel’s mother should probably have her own storytelling panel.

The Pitch

  • The NEWF Pitch competition was a dramatic event.
  • 11 budding storytellers got 5 minutes each to pitch a panel of executives.
  • The payoff was R50,000 towards their projects and mentorship from some of the best and brightest in their fields.
  • Only four were planned to be selected, but Dr. Andrew Venter, CEO of WILDTRUST, was so moved by their presentations, that he decided to sponsor two more.

More Highlights

  • The nightly Happy Hour VR Seminar, ReWild, put on by Johannesburg based company Habitat XR and NFVF took us up close and personal to wild Rhino.
  • The Screening of Our Oceans, directed by Charlie Luckock and produced by WildTrust.
  • The keynote by Off The Fence‘s Ellen Windemuth.
  • Our Gorgongosa, a movie from Tangled Bank Studios so powerful that it brought the audience to tears
  • The Narrative Competition, introduced by the South African mother of storytelling, Gcina Mhlophe.

The Vibe

  • Throughout the week, I met the most wonderful people, discussed the future of Marine Protected Areas over coffee, debated the role of human-animal interaction over the best curry, got to help prepare the fearless young men and women participating in the Pitch competition, and even watched a new friend swim in the ocean for the first time.
  • To sum it all up, my mind is blown and my heart is full.
  • I look forward to seeing the fruits of the partnerships that come out of this Congress and hope to get the chance to take part in them in the future.
  • And finally: Give yourself a treat — attend NEWF in 2020


Huge thanks to and NEWF advisor Peter Hamilton for arranging this opportunity, Noel and Pragna for welcoming me into this community, Yolanda Mogatusi for guiding me, and James Manfull and Andrew Solomon for your amusing stories and encouragement.

Robin McGahey is a passionate Ocean Conservationist based in San Francisco and a recent graduate from the University of Washington in Seattle.