Mike McKinlay and Isabelle Groc recently won an award for their documentary Toad People at the Wildscreen Panda Awards. - Credit: Jakob Dulisse

B.C. filmmaker wins Wildlife Oscar for toad documentary

Mike McKinlay’s Toad People won an award at the Wildscreen Panda Awards Oct. 19

A Lake Country man’s dream of documenting wildlife and making a difference in the world has come true.

Filmmaker Mike McKinlay spent the last three and a half years creating Toad People, with co-creator Isabelle Groc, which is a documentary based on the conservation efforts that Chilliwack residents and grassroots conservationists have been making in order to preserve western toad populations.

The toads are at risk due to habitat loss as humans encroach on their wetlands.

The film recently won the Impact category at the Wildscreen Panda Awards, which have been dubbed the ‘Wildlife Oscars.’

“When we won, for the first time, my jaw actually (dropped),” McKinlay said.

READ MORE: Documentary filmed in B.C. nominated in ‘Wildlife Oscars’’

“When I heard the name and the winner is ‘Toad People’ we were in disbelief, it was very exciting, I almost fainted when I tried to get up the stairs.”

Produced by the Wilderness Committee, Toad People not only tells the story of the western toad, but of any wildlife species that people across B.C. are attempting to save—be it amphibians, mountain caribou, rattlesnakes or barn owls.

Toad People is the only fully Canadian film nominated this year. The awards are part of the world’s biggest festival of natural history storytelling and receive hundreds of submissions annually. The awards were announced Oct. 19 at The Passenger Shed in Bristol, England, one of the oldest train stations in the world.

McKinlay, 42, attributes his passion for film and wildlife conservation to growing up in the Okanagan, surrounded by nature.

“We grew up in the forests near Coral Beach in Winfield and I spent my whole life until I was about 22,” he said.

Growing up in Lake Country, he attended George Elliot Secondary before Kelowna Secondary School after he moved to Kelowna.

“That was just where I became who I was,” he said. “It’s definitely a part of who I am.”

After having an epiphany at 23 that led him to want to pursue filmmaking, he moved to Vancouver.

He started by creating wildlife documentaries on the side, often for no money.

“Filming wildlife is a tricky business,” he said.

His first documentary Crows was sold to the Knowledge Network.

“You need to get out and film these animals and do it for no money because you’re not going to get paid to do it right away and you need to make these contacts. When I think about my journey through all these years, it’s just been meeting people and connecting people,” McKinley said.

After Crows, McKinlay started getting phone calls from biologists and conservationists, asking to make videos. Those connections eventually led to the creation of Toad People.

“You’re not just going to jump into a big film like that and be a success, (you really have to) crawl your way to the top,” he said. “It was literally 15 years of just getting to know everybody that I needed to know and then getting to a point where you have the trust of the wildlife and conservation community, so they let you into their world.”

He said people connected with Toad People because it shows the co-existence of people with nature and it also showcased an at-risk species that no one knows about.

“We took a risk in not documenting a big ticket species like a bear or a whale. Instead, we targeted a species that never gets championed and I think it struck a chord with the festival and with people,” he said.

The crew is currently talking with international distributors to decide where the film will be showcased.

“I think we’re sort of at a plateau now,” he said. “It’s all been a little bit exciting to see where this continues.”

At the end of the day, the centre of the film is about the ability of the average everyday person’s ability to make a difference in the world.

READ MORE: Toad pond transfer a Chilliwack community project

“The only hope that we have is that it changes how people look at the world and wildlife and endangered species… that’s what this is all about, changing the laws and making people understand what’s at stake and making people realize that anyone no matter who you are… anybody can go out and make (a) change like this. The more that the film gets out there, the more people learn that they can make change and we can change the world. That’s the only reason we make these films,” he said.

He said the next step is working with the Knowledge Network to create another community-focused documentary.

With files from Sarah Gawdin

@carliberry_
carli.berry@kelownacapnews.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

 

An adult western toad. - Credit: Isabelle Groc

Just Posted

ILWU Local 508 organized toy drive to support families impacted by WFP strike

The toy drive raised over $2,500 in cash, over $1,000 in gift cards, and a big pile of toys

Local family invites the community to enjoy their Christmas light display

Kelly, Carrie, and Vincent Giesbrecht spent the last month decorating their home for the holidays

The Russell Troupe finds a comfort zone in Chemainus

Family gathering with two parents and five kids a common scene around town

Japanese students visit LSS for cultural exchange

Ladysmith families hosted 35 students from Furukawa Gakuen High School

Campbell River mom’s iPhone containing priceless photos stolen from Victoria hospital parkade

The phone contained photos, heartbeat recordings of her late son

‘A loud sonic boom’: Gabriola Island residents recount fatal plane crash

Area where the plane went down is primarily a residential neighbourhood, RCMP say

Thunberg ‘a bit surprised’ to be Time ‘Person of the Year’

‘I could never have imagined anything like that happening,’ she said in a phone interview

B.C. patients wait 41% longer than national average to see a walk-in doctor: Medimap

The longest wait time was found in Sidney, B.C., where patients waited an average of 180 minutes

Toronto Raptors, Don Cherry top the list of Canadians’ Google searches in 2019

‘Champions’ was the theme of the last year, Google said

Tavares scores twice as Maple Leafs earn 4-1 win over Canucks

Vancouver sees two-game win streak snapped

UPDATED: No survivors in Gabriola Island plane crash: RCMP

Coroner confirms multiple fatalities after small plane goes down Tuesday night near Nanaimo

VIDEO: Harbour Air makes history with first electric aircraft test flight

Successful flight marks first of its kind in the world

The Grinch who Stole a Hedge: Security camera captures Chilliwack tree theft

RCMP arrives as person calmly walks away with tree in downtown area

Dogs and cat rescued in house fire in Nanaimo

Section of Old Victoria Road was closed to traffic Tuesday afternoon

Most Read