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Creating the Paper Bear Film

Updated: Sep 16, 2022

Director, Arix Zalace, Filming at Wakulla Springs

Over the last two years, our team has been all over the Panhandle, filming wildlife and the ecosystems they call home. While collecting this footage, we were also developing the screenplay of our first film and doing market research on ways to captivate audiences. With a charitable mission focused on education and awareness, it was clear that the story needed to be told in a way that would appeal to a broad viewership. The Paper Bear needed to be accessible to people of all ages and charitable organizations that could use its content to further the cause.

Capturing Wild Black Bear Climbing Tree

To accomplish this objective, we studied some of the most successful films from each decade, starting in the 1980s. We likewise researched the most popular trends in the film industry today. The buzz around this film has also created tremendous feedback from specialists and other key stakeholders. One of our advisors, Dr. Matthew J. Aresco, has especially motivated us with his wisdom and expertise. Dr. Aresco is an expert in restoration ecology and is the Director of Nokuse Plantation, a 55,000-acre privately-owned wildlife preserve in Walton County, Florida. He directs the ecological restoration of this property, converting pine plantations and agricultural areas back to the native longleaf pine-wiregrass ecosystem, conducting prescribed burns, and re-establishing and augmenting populations of rare species. Dr. Aresco is the primary author of 15 peer-reviewed scientific publications and four book chapters.

"This feature film will be a catalyst for a great public appreciation and knowledge of the natural ecosystems and biodiversity in northwest Florida. Large-scale, meaningful conservation of these unique and incredibly beautiful natural areas can only be accomplished through greater public involvement in conservation and funding for land protection. Each day the incremental loss of habitat often goes unnoticed by the public. The trend of rapid development of our remaining unprotected natural areas must be reversed soon. The timely release of this film will educate viewers on why we must strive to protect nature and wildlife habitats and instill a sense of urgency in the need for conservation." -Dr. Matthew J. Aresco, PhD

It became evident very quickly that we needed to make a more personal nostalgic human story to achieve our goals successfully. We also wanted to have overarching themes of humor, demonstrating our disconnect with nature and our over-dependence on technology that can prevent us from being present.

Paper Bear Storyboard Sneak Peeks

The Paper Bear is a coming-of-age story about a young boy named Max and his father who embark on a journey together into the wild areas of the Florida Panhandle. Max's father, a seasoned outdoorsman, takes his son into the wilderness for a week while he is on assignment tracking a young female black bear. As the journey unfolds, it's clear that Max is out of his element and more focused on his phone than being present with his father. Through their shared experiences, mysterious encounters, and imaginative campfire stories, Max evolves and gains a new appreciation for his home after learning more about its history and his family legacy.

Campfire stories are inspired by Max's late grandfather and a journal he left behind that chronicled his own experiences in the Panhandle's wild habitats. The journal is the source of a family legacy that Max's father continues. As the father reads it to his son, Max's imagination creates an animated world inspired by the stories he hears and the environments they explore daily. Max's animated imagination shares the rich history of the Panhandle as seen from the black bear's perspective.

Original Animation Art Preview

We hope everyone will enjoy our story and inspire others to have their outdoor adventures across the Florida Panhandle. The best way to protect nature is for more people to experience it for themselves and marvel at its beauty.


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