When teenage activist Greta Thurnberg dismissed world leaders policies as “blah, blah, blah” earlier this week, she wasn't wrong. While the various chiefs of the world fiddle, Rome, and our planet burn.
Yet one man who isn't talking about saving animals and the planet, but rather doing something about it is American animal advocate and philanthropist David Casselman. With the support of NGO partners which include Born Free, The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), The United Nations’ Trillion Tree Campaign, Elephant Nature Park and National Park Rescue, Ecoflix, the first not-for-profit streaming platform devoted to saving our planet, will launch on 9 November to subscribers online as well as coming soon on iOS and android via the app stores.
Viewers can choose a ‘Changemaker’ premium membership of $3.99 per month for an annual commitment or pay a monthly $6.99 to access all content. The membership fees fund Ecoflix, with 100% of profits going directly to critical natural world campaigns that The Ecoflix Foundation is supporting. There will be no advertising on the platform, which simply makes the whole deal perfect.
Original programming focusing on the animals and iconic species with whom we share the planet, has been in production since early 2021. All content is the pursuit of benign, nature-based solutions and measures to mitigate climate change. The Ecoflix slate has been developed and produced by a multi-BAFTA and Emmy award-winning team, headed up by Fresh Start Media Creative Director, Marshall Corwin, whose Serious Adventure series enjoyed eight seasons on BBC and won several major awards including four BAFTAs.
The initial slate of international programming includes a documentary titled Free Billy, which is a story near and dear to Casselman's heart. Back in 2007, the attorney represented the late actor Robert Culp and real estate broker Aaron Leider in a decade-long, pro-bono litigation against the LA Zoo over the conditions of three elephants held there -- one of them named Billy. There is also a programme presented by Jahawi Bertolli along with Ella Meek, founder of Kids Against Plastic, as well as one titled Changemakers with National Geographic Explorer, biologist and conservationist Niall McCann.
The carefully-curated slate of programs which includes a diverse range of acquired international films, has been developed to encourage widespread behavioral change. It offers inspiration to viewers, providing them with fresh ideas for how to protect animals, nature and the planet, and make a lasting difference by volunteering their time, donating to causes, lobbying influential organizations, and overall helping to shape a more animals and wildlife-friendly world. No matter how small the commitment, any positive behavioral shift will play a significant part in achieving the overall goal of saving life on earth
MIME wanted to ask David Casselman a few questions and, in his typical vein, he answered them insightfully, and most of all, generously.
What was that lightbulb moment when you knew being a conservationist was your mission?
Interestingly enough, I had my epiphany as a young boy. I accidentally killed a chipmunk with a rock from 50+ feet. When I saw this perfect little creature laying dead with a ball of blood on its ear, something inside of me changed. It was like both sides of me became one. From then on, I was opposed to killing animals. But I didn’t actually become an animal advocate until I started practicing law. I realized that it was something I could do… to be their voice, which was secretly inside of me for a long time. The animals were always innocent and yet they were slaughtered anyway. They needed help more than any human cause.
After 40 years of pro bono work for animals, including starting a Sanctuary in Cambodia, and many other animal related efforts, I retired from practicing law last November, and within two weeks, I felt the need to do more.
Is that how Ecoflix came about?
Ecoflix was the outgrowth of much effort, multiple failures, but always followed by perseverance. As I taught my children, falling down is not failure. And I refused to stay down, particularly given the stakes. From the start of this venture, we hoped to harness the power of film, to channel it in a way that would inspire change for the benefit of animals and the planet. Ecoflix was the result, and carries with it our ethos, that no one should profit from our efforts except animals and the planet.
In the company’s press release it says “Ecoflix was founded to support and empower change to protect the natural world.” What made you go the route of a streaming platform and not, say, a TV channel?
A streaming platform is more accessible, more interactive, multi-dimensional, and global… we wanted to be more than just a channel – we wanted to be an entire interactive community... without advertising.
People like Jahawi Bertolli and Dr. Niall McCann have programmes slated on Ecoflix. How do you decide on the people you wish to collaborate with?
I suspect that our approach is somewhat unique, in that we are not looking for celebrities or famous faces. Instead, we are looking for kindred spirits. People who believe in what we are doing and also want to make a difference. As such, if you probe the backgrounds of all of our team members, they are also involved in animal/planet centric work. They agree to join us because they too see the power of a global platform committed to positive change. We welcome and appreciate their passion, and we hope and believe it will spread around the globe.
What is our own “power of one”? I mean, what each of us can do to help create a better world for animals and therefore also humans?
I live by a mantra, which I call the Starfish story. It is a simple story using the wisdom of children to help people like me break the paralysis we all feel looking at the enormity of the problem. In truth, if everyone did one or two things a day to pick up trash, eat less meat, reduce their carbon footprint, etc. the world would be transformed in no time at all. The power of our reach with Ecoflix will hopefully inspire that kind of change, making a difference for one animal or cause at a time, supported by billions of like-minded people around the world. We need to come together, not to save the planet. It will be thrilled to see us go. It will heal itself. We need to come together to save all living things on earth, including mankind.
Africa, Malaysia and the LA Zoo are all featured in your initial slate but are there any plans to feature the fauna of the Middle East?
We encourage people to upload beautiful film and pictures to our interactive map, from where they live, all over the world. The map is intended to help everyone see what it is like “Where You Are.” We are not philosophically or geographically limited to helping any region or regions. If we can help animals and the planet in any part of the world, we would hope to have the opportunity to do so.
How can people decide to donate their one month’s membership fee to an organization of their choice? How does it work?
It is as simple as we could make it. Whenever someone joins Ecoflix, we email them a receipt. It prompts them to click on a link to support their favorite affiliated NGO. They are then taken to a page where they can do exactly that. In response, we then promptly send their favorite NGO a check. Simple as that. If you know which NGO you want to support, it can all be done in seconds.
There are quite a lot of great organizations behind Ecoflix, collaborating with you on this adventure. What is your connection with Born Free and the UN’s Trillion Trees campaign?
We are hugely proud of our affiliation with many tremendous NGO’s. Born Free and the Trillion Tree campaign were known to us by virtue of the amazing efforts of Will Travers and his team, as well as Tom Crowther and his team. They are heroes in our view who deserve even greater world recognition to spread their message ever farther and wider. We are proud to be a vehicle for their efforts.
And finally, what is your dream? What do you hope to achieve with Ecoflix?
I hate to be finite in response to such a question. So, to leave it open-ended, we hope to become a much-loved channel which always inspires, educates, motivates, and hopefully provides hope for people who, like us, want to make the world a better place for animals… including human animals.