We are now in the exciting lead up to the second Good Natured: A Conservation Optimism Short Film Festival! As we are now accepting submissions, we decided to have a catch up with the finalists and winners of the first edition.

Our third Q&A of this interview series is with Yaz Ellis, who won the Best Student Film Award last year and was the finalist for overall Best Film with Toads on the Roads. This film took our viewers on an emotional journey as a group of toads got ready to cross the road. Hop(p)ing to find their soulmates on the other side, some of the lovestruck amphibians had the luck to be rescued by toad patrollers who helped them cross the finish line!

Conservation Optimism: What inspired you to develop Toads on the Roads? 
Yaz Ellis: I was inspired to make Toads on the Roads when I became aware that toads migrate across roads every year. It was not something I really knew about until I moved to a city. I realised that lots of people had no clue that these epic migrations were happening and that toads were getting squashed every year by cars and bikes. So I decided to make this film to raise awareness that these toads are at risk, and for people to be aware of the migrations. I also hoped it would inspire people to join their local toad patrols and gain an appreciation for frogs, toads and newts – they are gorgeous creatures!

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

YE: The toads are in peril because of us but that we have the ability to save these toads by patrolling, rescuing and slowing down cars, so it is a story of hope. It admits that we are the problem, but also the solution. That is why I felt that this film fitted with the ethos of Conservation Optimism. There is hope, anyone can get involved and everyone can make a difference.

CO: As the winner of the Student category you had the opportunity to take part in a mentoring session with Lucie Muir from Wildscreen, could you tell us about that experience and what you gained from it?

YE: Lucie has helped me so much! In the mentoring session she gave me advice on my films, helped me get work experience on natural history programmes and helped me to make contacts. She is a wonderful person and gave me a great boost in the industry. And to this day, she is still looking out for me. I really could not imagine a better mentor!

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

YE: I am currently working towards the end of my degree in film, which I will have completed in May. I have recently made A Word of Warming – a film about how mountain hare are affected by the planet’s increasing temperatures. I am also working on a documentary about the biodiversity of the Forest of Dean, and how the wonderful creatures there work alongside each other in this enchanting forest.

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.