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’Mates for Life’ aims to create a unique performing arts film motivated by the natural phenomenon of species that mate for life, in this case all birds. This intimate interpretation inspired by the avian movement will hopefully engage both supporters of conservation and the arts, resulting in support to further the causes. 

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This project benefits the International Crane Foundation. Show your support for the whooping crane and make a gift today.


This project will highlight the whooping crane, the largest bird in North America. Dancers (Olivia Duryea, Dylan Gutierrez) will perform on-location in St. John’s, Michigan in a prairie habitat much, like where you might find this elusive bird, with choreography by Xavi Núñez. They will be adorned with costumes (Jerica Hucke) that help begin to transform the human form into something a bit more bird-like. The final piece is hair and makeup (Jeraldine Mendoza) adding some red accents, and stunning yellow eyes to complete the transformation. 

On the production side, this project will lean into the look of high-end nature documentaries with a twist of performing arts with dramatic lighting and slow-motion moments. Director (Tim Whalen) wants the viewer to feel as though they have just stumbled upon a rare sighting of this magnificent creature. Using a mixture of telephoto lenses to achieve the “nature doc” look and a roaming camera to capture high action moments will immerse the viewer in this microcosm of the natural world. Bringing his commercial, performing arts and nature experience with him, DP, Michael Kettenbeil will be helping define the visual look. Assistant director duties from John Shaw, along with additional support from the Big Foot Media team and contractor friends will round out the crew.

Unique to this piece is that it is being choreographed to no music. The dancers rehearse with a mix of ambient music and a click track to keep them in sync, but this approach allows for a bit of fluidity while on-set. Once assembled in post production the piece will be scored to the movement.



The species declined to around 20 birds in the 1940’s, but through captive breeding, habitat management and restoration the population is around 600 today (Source: Cornell Lab of Ornithology). We hope to bring awareness to habitat loss that results in species decline or even extinction and inspire a new audience to donate to help fund conservation efforts that will help the whooping crane and other species.


The whooping cranes project will serve as a proof of concept for two more species of birds that mate for life, totalling three species who live in three distinct habitats. The whooping cranes project is self funded by the director and his production company, Big Foot Media. With the success of this project, we hope to attract a conservation-minded sponsor(s) to help fund future projects to pay for crew and filming expenses. Each project will align with a conservation organization and arts organization to push a call to action at the end so viewers make a difference.


For more information about the project, contact Tim Whalen at
See more work from Big Foot Media

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