Nature films and filmmakers were in the spotlight at the Sun Valley Film Festival, where the winners of first annual Wild to Inspire Short Film Competition were announced. Sponsored by Nat Geo Wild and the African Wildlife Foundation, the contest was judged by a panel including “America the Wild” host Casey Anderson, cinematographer Bob Poole, and journalists (including this writer) who voted on three finalists, selecting Dan Duran and co-filmmakers Sam Price-Waldman and Brendan Nahmias for their short “Wolf Mountain.”

The film, which focuses on dedicated wolf rescuer Tonya Littlewolf, beat runners up “Always Endangered,” Jim Laybourn’s short about a mama grizzly bear that delights human visitors to Grand Teton National Park, and David Thompson and Jacob Taylor’s “Bee Happy,” a loving portrait of a beekeeper, for the top prize. Duran will have the opportunity to study wildlife documentary filmmaking at AWF’s Maasai Steppe landscape in northern Tanzania with Bob Poole, and serve as documentarian of record for Tarangire National Park, Lake Manyara National Park and Manyara Ranch Conservancy on behalf of Nat Geo WILD and AWF. His blog posts, videos and photos will spotlight African wildlife and conservation efforts, giving Nat Geo Wild fans a glimpse into what it takes to be a wildlife filmmaker.

“Winning the Nat Geo Wild to Inspire short film competition with my short documentary ‘Wolf Mountain’ means the world to me,” said Duran. “Ever since I was a child, I always dreamed of working for National Geographic and I'm honestly over the moon right now. Having the opportunity to apprentice with accomplished Nat Geo cinematographer Bob Poole is incredibly surreal. I guess dreams do come true! I look forward to learning a ton from Bob and finessing my wild life filmmaking skills during my stay in Tanzania. From here, I want to continue to pursue my love and passion for the documentary medium with stories that never cease to inspire.”

Nat Geo Wild will hold a second competition at next year’s Sun Valley Film Festival, and will announce details soon.

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Wild to Inspire contest honors nature films
'Wolf Mountain,' about wolf rescuer Tonya Littlewolf, named winner of this new short film competition.