We decided to have a catch up with the finalists and winners of the first edition of the Good Natured Short Film Festival.

Our fourth Q&A of this interview series is with Leo Thom, who won the Best Student Film Award last year and was the finalist for the Super Short category with The Wondrous Mangrove Forest. This film took our viewers on a journey through the beautiful and biodiverse Florida mangrove swamp.

Conservation Optimism: Could you tell us a bit more about what inspired you to develop The Wondrous Mangrove? 

Leo Thom: I love mangrove forests! I have been working in mangrove conservation with Mangrove Action Project for a few years now after I came across these hugely undervalued ecosystems while living in South East Asia. Rachel Ignotofsky (illustrator) had contacted us after our website had given her some information and inspiration for her new book: The Wondrous Workings of Planet Earth.

After seeing her incredible illustrations of mangroves, I started to imagine it animated, as if we were jumping into her drawings. I do get excited when there are new ways of seeing things and I had hoped this piece would capture the imagination of others, and help shine a light on these coastal forests.

CO: How does your film align with the ethos of Conservation Optimism?

L.T: I really love the positive ethos behind Conservation Optimism and this was quite a random, but really fun collaboration between myself, Mangrove Action Project, Rachel and my sister (voice-over). I think as filmmakers in conservation it’s important to be able to reach audiences and keep inspiring them, and this piece was created with the aim of encouraging the younger generation to go and connect with their local mangrove forests. I came across your film festival while researching, and I was thrilled to see you had an animation category for submission.

CO: As the winner of the Super Short category you had the opportunity to take part in a mentoring session with Arlo Brady and Zad Rogers, could you tell us about that experience and what you gained from it?

L.T: The mentoring session with Arlo and Zad was a really great experience. They had so many ideas about my potential direction in the conservation world, and as a filmmaker, so it was hugely helpful for me and I came back from their London offices inspired and motivated. They’ve given me some potential contacts to get in touch with and I’ll be keeping in touch about future ideas and projects.

CO: What are you up to this year? Any new films in the pipeline?

LT.: This year I was accepted on the Wildlife Filmmaking Masters at UWE, in Bristol, so that I could move into a filmmaking career and reach a wider audience. It’s been a great year so far but cut short by the pandemic. I was literally a few days away from filming in the Sundarbans, the largest mangrove forest in the world. This film will have to wait (until next year), but my passion is to keep producing films about intimate relationships between people and mangrove forests around the globe.

I joined ICCS and Conservation Optimism in January 2019. My role focuses on outreach and communications and involved the organisation of the Conservation Optimism Summit. I’m also a multimedia journalist with a passion for constructive journalism and solutions-oriented reporting who loves showcasing what people from all over the globe are doing to make the world a better place.