Richard Kern will narrate nature film at Thalatta

Old Cutler Presbyterian Church welcomes new senior pastor
Old Cutler Presbyterian Church welcomes new senior pastor
Filmmaker Richard Kern is pictured on location in the Big Cypress swamp.

Following a family tradition, wildlife filmmaker Richard Kern will present his documentary film, Ghost of the Western Glades, at Thalatta Estate Park on Friday, Sept. 18.

Set to start at 7:45 p.m., the special outdoor film premiere will have live narration of his explorations among the prairies, tree islands and swamps of the Big Cypress and the Fakahatchee Strand, featuring some of North America’s rarest flora and fauna. Following the film will be a question and answer session.

Kern said his career choice was inevitable.

“I’m a second generation filmmaker,” Kern said. “My father started producing wildlife documentaries in the early ’70s through the National Audubon Society and National Geographic lecture tours with his program. Back then with his travelogue films during the presentation they would do exactly what I do now, they would project a 16-millimeter print and narrate it live for the crowd.”

He said that at some point his father, who was living in Miami-Dade, met people who suggested that format might work very well in public schools, so his parents formed a non-profit called Encounters in Excellence in 1980.

“Since then they’ve been doing what I’m doing now, taking their films into Miami- Dade County public schools to a live audience with a memorized narration accompanying it, and it’s been a hit,” Kern said. “We believe we’ve reached somewhere around 1.6 million students.”

Kern thinks that today’s technology would make it possible to record their narration and sit back and enjoy the film along with the students.

But there are advantages to doing it the way they do.

“I’ve noticed that there is a really subconscious thing that grabs the students’ attention when we’re off to the side of the screen,” Kern said.

“By us being there, I think it breaks a certain barrier you might have by watching Animal Planet in your living room.

“There’s also a very practical reason we do it this way.We’re visiting probably 75 to 78 schools and each school is different. Each crowd responds in a slightly different way to the theme, so by narrating live I have the ability to moderate my inflection and my pacing. If the crowd laughs or gasps at a certain scene I can hold back and watch it and it’s a lot more organic that way.”

Kern explained that although he mostly presents to middle and high school students he never tries to write down to a younger audience.

That gives it appeal for adults as well.

“There might be a few words thrown out that your average fourth grader won’t get, but there’s an amazing amount of visual context and we’ve found out that even our youngest audience members can really grab a hold of this stuff because of the format it’s presented in,” Kern said. “I think it’s a very effective way to teach, and you see that more and more today. There are smart boards in virtually every science classroom in Miami-Dade County and they’re really being used to push video as a teaching tool.”

Kern said that his films are like an inhouse field trip. They’re taking the Everglades and bringing it to the students.

“With each of our films we’re trying to teach the students specific science concepts they need to know, while also trying to instill in them a sort of ownership and responsibility and the idea that we can all be good stewards of this amazing planet we live in,” Kern said.

The trailer for the film premiere can be viewed online at Thalatta Estate Park is located at 17301 Old Cutler Rd. For information call 305-259-1234.

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