Professor Chris Palmer, School of Communication

“Don’t seek comfort; rather seek something to be passionate about.”

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  • “Dancing With the Stars,” Bindi Irwin, and a terrified anaconda 

    FYI…Here is a letter I sent to Rob Wade, Executive Producer, Dancing With the Stars

    Dear Mr. Wade,

    As an Emmy-winning wildlife documentary maker and director of the Center for Environmental Filmmaking, I was disappointed that Dancing With the Stars aired a segment featuring contestant Bindi Irwin bringing a live anaconda to dance practice.

    Television productions, bright lights, and excessive handling are stressful and terrifying for wild animals. Snakes in particular have keen senses and are distressed by excessive noise and vibrations.

    Featuring wild animals on your show is also detrimental to wildlife conservation efforts, because people who see these dangerous wild animals as “pets” are sometimes inspired to purchase them, keeping them in completely unnatural conditions before the animals inevitably become too unmanageable and dangerous to handle and often end up relegated to shoddy roadside zoos, decrepit backyards, or basement cages. True wildlife experts frown on the idea of carting wild animals around to display them on TV.

    Many of the exhibitors who provide animals for TV productions have deplorable records of violating federal animal welfare laws; recent citations include failing to provide adequate veterinary care, failing to provide safe enclosures for animals, leaving enclosures covered in animals’ waste, and locking animals in barren cages for up to 18 hours a day.

    In light of this information, I hope that Dancing With the Stars will pledge never to feature live wild animals in the future. I would be happy to meet with you or someone from your team to discuss this issue further. Thank you for your consideration.

    Best regards,

    Professor Chris Palmer

    Author of Confessions of a Wildlife Filmmaker (Bluefield Publishing, 2015)

    and Shooting in the Wild (Sierra Club Books, 2010)

    Distinguished Film Producer in Residence

    Director, Center for Environmental Filmmaking

    American University School of Communication; 202-885-3408; cell 202-716-6160

    President, One World One Ocean Foundation


  • My Surprising Assessment of Shark Week 

    I thought you might enjoy my assessment of Shark Week:


  • My new book “Confessions of a Wildlife Filmmaker” 

    I’m delighted to announce that my new book, Confessions of a Wildlife Filmmaker: The Challenges of Staying Honest in an Industry Where Ratings Are King, comes out this month.

    Here is the book trailer.  And here is a review that appeared a day or so ago in The book has received lots of advance praise from VIPs like Jane Goodall.

    The book is available here.

    If you’re in DC, I warmly invite you to the Environmental Film Festival launch of the book on Tuesday, March 24 at 7pm at the Doyle/Forman Theater at AU.


  • “Eaten Alive” — TV at a low point 

    For your interest…SOC grad student Shannon Lawrence and I wrote the following op-ed for the Washington Post’s “Post Everything” page.

    The essay is based in part on my new book coming out in March entitled Confessions of a Wildlife Filmmaker: The Challenges of Staying Honest in an Industry Where Ratings are King.


  • NPR on my upcoming book: “Confessions of a Wildlife Filmmaker” 

    Thought you might enjoy this NPR story about my upcoming book Confessions of a Wildlife Filmmaker:

    Best, Chris


  • Once again, it is Shark Week 

    Once again, it is Shark Week on the Discovery Channel.

    For your interest, here is an interview I did a few days ago with the Oregonian on this topic:

    If you’d like to see how humor can help get a message out, check out the John Oliver clip!

    I have a new book coming out next year called Confessions of a Wildlife Filmmaker, which will look skeptically at what broadcasters like Discovery are airing in their zealous pursuit of ratings.

    BTW, over the last few days of Shark Week, actors pretending to be scientists say three different times that humans are sharks’ “meal of choice.” This is not true. These so-called documentaries, while sporadically containing good science-based information, are more often presenting fiction as fact.


  • Prostate cancer (again) 

    I had my PSA tested again last week, and after rising steadily and ominously for some years, it has now come down (from 4.7 to 4.1) which is very good news. I’m convinced that the reduction is the result of my extremely healthy diet and lifestyle: no meat, no sugar, no cow’s milk, and lots of fruits and vegetables every day like pomegranates, blueberries, kale, spinach, tomatoes, carrots, etc., plus lots of beans and nuts and daily exercise.

    Last year, my two urologists were adamant that I have a biopsy, which I resisted because of its unreliability and barbarity. Both of them were skeptical that diet could affect the growth of prostate cancer cells, but in a TED talk last year, Dr. Dean Ornish (Bill Clinton’s doctor) showed X-rays of a cancerous tumor in a patient’s prostate and how it dramatically reduced in size (to the point of atrophy) when the patient changed to a plant-based diet. I don’t want to sound smug or overconfident, because one has to be constantly vigilant and the battle to stay in good health is never ending.  (I’m vulnerable to prostate cancer because my father died of it and my body is very similar to his.)

    Here is the relevant part of my personal mission statement: “I will move as much as possible to an organic, plant-based diet to avoid malnourishment and toxic food. Because my father died of prostate cancer, I have to accept the reality that in all likelihood there are malignant cells in my prostate. I will maintain an aggressive prostate cancer treatment regimen (through diet and exercise) and in the process reduce my risk for virtually every other age-related disease.”


  • Randy Olson’s new book on storytelling 

    I highly recommend a new book on storytelling called “Connection: Hollywood Storytelling meets Critical Thinking,” written by Randy Olson, Dorie Barton, and Brian Palermo.

    After all the books written about storytelling, could there be anything left to say on the topic? Before reading Randy Olson’s “Connection,” I would have said no. But now? Yes!  This is a startlingly good book.

    Randy Olson and his two coauthors have dug more rigorously into the best way to tell stories than anyone else I know, and have developed practical, down-to-earth methods for helping the rest of us tell stories more powerfully.

    The muscularity, freshness, and verve of their writing is like warm air blowing on your face when you are out in frigidly cold weather.

    Anyone who wants to survive in this brutal economy must be an effective storyteller, and this book makes a genuine and wholly original contribution to creative and effective communication. It brings the power of storytelling to everyday life. This is more than a “must read.” It is more a “must absorb and put to work immediately.”


  • Be The Change: Three Meals a Day! (New PSA) 

    I hope you had a Happy Earth Day yesterday!

    I am excited to announce the launch of our fun 40 second PSA: Be the Change: Three Meals a Day!

    To watch the video, please visit:

    Here is the direct link to the video:

    This delightful animation was produced by Sarah Gulick for the Center for Environmental Filmmaking through a donation by Sheila and Bill Wasserman. Sarah is a Center for Environmental Filmmaking Scholar, a recipient of the first Mavis and Sidney John Palmer Scholarship, and a film Fellow at the National Park Service.

    I know you’ve swapped your light bulbs, recycle everything, and carry reusable bags and water bottles, but how else can you make a difference? Eating green is one of the biggest ways we can be part of the solution. A plant-based diet is better for you, better for the animals, and better for the planet.

    The animation is a good vibes way to launch positive conversations about the interconnectedness of our own diets and global environmental challenges. The PSA has already received rave reviews by high school students as being ‘really cute’ and ‘adorable’; qualities we are hoping will encourage sharing and dialogue. I advocate the use of humor for conservation messaging, and this is an excellent example!

    The animation is inspired by the Ghandi quote “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” As conservationists we are well aware of the challenges, but three meals a day we have an opportunity to make a difference and create positive change for our environment.

    Please feel free to link, embed, or share the animation in any way. If you are interested in showing the video offline, please let us know and we can get you a HD version for download. We also welcome any ideas for collaboration or distribution, and please feel free to send any relevant links we can add to the youtube description.

    I hope this PSA inspires you to give some thought to your own diet. It’s not just about the polar bears or the turtles; it’s about our own future and the future of our grandchildren.


  • Can Comedy Encourage Conservation? And the Eco-Comedy Winners 

    I hope you enjoy the funny film clips in a recent speech I gave on comedy and conservation at the DC Environmental Film Festival. Here is the link:

    At the end of the speech, I announced the winners of the 2014 Eco-Comedy Video Competition. I hope you enjoy watching those as well.





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