Filmmaker Mike Webber has begun a Kickstarter campaign in an effort to raise about $70,000 in funds to support a web based series focused on the issues surrounding domesticated wildlife in the United States. The funding will serve to cover the cost of post-production of the first six episodes that follow Tim Harrison, a Ohio based ex-public safety officer, that currently runs an Outreach for Animals. The outreach works to rescue exotic animals which are loose in the Dayton area.
Three years ago, Webber produced a documentary film, The Elephant in the Room, showing the work of Harrison, following him as he traced and contained full grown lions, bears, wolves and other exotic pets that have escaped from where ever they were being kept. The film was meant to draw attention to the risk that these animals present to the public at large and shortly after its release a real life disaster came to fruition.
Owner of the Muskingum County Animal farm, 62 year old Terry Thompson loosed over 50 wild animals into the Zanesville, Ohio area, putting everyone at risk. Schools were cancelled, people were warned to stay in their homes and it was up to local police to find a number of grizzlies, tigers, lions and wolves. Many were shot by authorities without any option to contain them and in the end, Thompson killed himself. It was a tragic event for all concerned and it was the trigger for greater regulations in the area around exotic animals.
The state put some strict laws into place regulating the ownership of exotics and Webber received greater attention for his documentary and began doing the talk show and news program rounds to speak along with Tim Harrison about the message they were trying to convey in their documentary. Once the media frenzy slowed down, Webber kept filming the work of Harrison and has now collected enough material to propose the web series, American Exotic. The hope is that it will be able to make it online by or before early 2015.
Some of the networks have shown interest in the series and have approached the pair with deals but they have decided instead to self-release to maintain the majority of control over the content. Webber said that they had disagreed with some of concepts that were being suggested such as staging fights or rescues within the context of the material. With American Exotic, Webber is interested in using much of the stories that they have already collect and both he and Harrison believe that staging activities involving the animals is potentially harmful to the animals and they don’t condone it. There are already enough stories that are actually happening without having to contrive any. Webber has collected stories of panthers terrorizing a town in Amish country or escaped chimps in California and even just trying to find living facilities for domesticated bears or alligators where the owners are no longer willing to keep them.
Webbers says the stories go on and on and he does not seem concerned that they will run short of material for the series.