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Postcards from Utila

A feature-length doc examining the exacerbation of environmental issues due to unsustainable tourism development in Utila, Honduras, and exploring solutions.

As one of the only places in the world with a year-long presence of whale sharks, Utila, Honduras, is a small Caribbean island that has experienced a colossal tourist boom in the last couple of decades. As the main contributor to the Utilian economy, tourism is important to the livelihood of the local population. Many efforts are being made by the Honduran government to promote Utila and the Bay Islands as top tourist destinations without much regard for the potential negative after-effects of the industry.

However, in addition to tourism - which in 2008 has brought in US$680 million and 1.591.9 million tourists to Honduras - it has also brought numerous problems, most notably, the commodification and depletion of natural resources and the destruction of marine and terrestrial ecosystems. Exacerbating the matter is a complete negation of such realities in travel publication, and their subsequent perpetuation due to a lack of awareness and education. The number of visitors to Utila has been steadily declining during the last few years. Many tourists have noted that if the environmental situation does not improve, they will not visit the island again; taking wih them the island's only revenue and leaving the local communities in financial despair.

 

Postcards from Utila is a documentary film and photo project, examining the tourist-associated exacerbation of environmental destruction using Utila, Honduras as a case study. The film shines light on little-known Utilian issues in the hopes of educating other travellers about their existence. In focusing on both marine and terrestrial problems - vast overfishing for tourist consumption, destruction of the coral reef due to an oversaturation of novice divers, depletion of shark populations, inadequate garbage disposal systems, mangrove contamination and clear-cutting for housing developments and tourist infrastructure, as well as the illegal consumption of the endangered and endemic Swamper Iguana - the film addresses how the majority of these issues have been caused by tourism, and are further perpetuated by the industry. The film will also address the representation of Utila in travel literature and tourist ephemera and urge the audience to recognize the ways such framing dictates their perceptions. Postcards from Utila will examine these issues from the perspective of the local population, and most importantly, discuss solutions and current efforts that are being made by the local NGOs and communities to ameliorate them.

Although the island of Utila is only approximately 11 km long and 4 km wide, the issues - or the broader implications thereof - that the island faces are by no means endemic to Utila, or contained within it. As a major force and industry in the 21st century, tourism impacts nations on a global scale, and Postcards from Utila will urge  the audience to adopt a more responsible, sustainable, and conscious way of travelling, while in Utila, or otherwise. The negative aftereffects of tourism are already distressingly obvious throughout the island. Help us make this film so that we have a chance of reversing the damage. 

  

Our team is made up of 6 diversely talented individuals, and growing every day! We are backpackers, filmmakers, photographers, educators and conservationists working together to bring the Postcards from Utila story to life. We are incredibly passionate about conscious travel, sustainable development, and the creation of long-term solutions that benefit local communities first, and foremost. 

The Postcards from Utila project started off as a M.F.A completion work by Maja Zonjic, our film director. Having travelled extensively throughout Guatemala and Honduras, Maja fell in love with Utila as a diver, but couldn't help but notice the impact that the unsustainable overdevelopment has had on the terrestrial and marine ecosystems. In November 2010, she set out to Utila for 2.5 months (where she lived with Sean and Alec) to work on a photography project to document some of the lesser known aspects of the island in hopes of bringing some of the issues to light and encouraging other fellow travellers to consider a more sustainable way to travel. Entirely self-funded, the project has been a success - the short film has been screened at the Tiff Bell Lightbox as part of the DOC NOW Festival, and the photographs have been exhibited at the Go Global Expo and the IMA gallery. Additionally, she has published a Postcards from Utila article/photo essay in the September issue of Verge magazine for travellers - we will post it here when it becomes available online. 

For the film, she has expanded the crew to include; FCP superstar Roop Gill (editor/assistant social media); Camera Guru Coco Flower (Director of Photography); HTML techy Monika Krupa (Community outreach facilitator and tech consultant); Underwater Production Assistant Alec Lister (Ensures no animals nibble on her BCD while she is shooting underwater); and Wildlife Production Assistant Sean Clifford (handles Iguanas - currently working off the grid with turtles in Costa Rica - profile coming soon). Read more about us on our Team member page!

 

We can't make this film without you, so you can rest assured that your donations are used to full capacity and vastly needed. Your contributions will fund the basic costs of living in Utila for the month of September, and will aid in funding daily shooting costs.

A basic breakdown includes:

  • $1,000 - Food for the crew
  • $800 - Accommodation for the crew
  • $650 - Maja's plane ride from Toronto to Honduras (Sean and Alec are coming in from Nicaragua, and we are meeting Coco in Honduras) 
  • $500 - Shooting costs and related supplies (electricity, internet, entrance fees, release form photocopying etc)
  • $400 - Bike rental, bus, ferry, and other transportation for the crew
  • $350 - Underwater time (Scuba equipment and oxygen tank rentals)
  • $300 - The world's smallest contingency budget (so we don't have to busk in the event of a medical mishap - we are all terrible singers and wouldn't make much anyway)

We are fundraising for the minimal cost needed to sustain us while shooting the first out of the two project stages, and in the event of raising more funds, we will use them towards equipment rentals, and additional daily shooting costs. In other words, everyone who is working on this film is doing it for the passion we have towards the project, for free, and for those of us on the ground in Honduras, (Maja, Coco, Sean, and Alec) in very basic conditions. We can stretch $4,000 dollars far, and we can do so while eating candle-lit bean dinners every night, and sharing our rooms with tarantulas. (It's ok, Maja, Alec and Sean have spent 2.5 months in 2010/2011 doing this while working on the preliminary stage of the project; Coco loves challenges; we all like beans; and tarantulas are actually really friendly and soft) 

We couldn't complete this project without you, and we are infinitely grateful for any contribution you can make in helping us create a film that will lead to positive and lasting impacts in Utila!

 

Now that we told you how we're spending the money, we should also tell you what you get for helping us out. As thanks for your donations, we have come up with some amazing perks to get you excited about contributing!

Just for thanking you for stopping by our IndieGoGo site, every Wednesday for the duration of the campaign, we will reveal fresh Team artwork, starting with Team Postcards from Utila.

Every Team gets a basic donation pack, which includes;

  • Your name on the film website 'sponsor' page, as well as a personal thanks via twitter (please provide your handle with your donation, otherwise, we will thank you by name)  
  • One 'Team' and One 'Postcards from Utila', sticker
  • A handwritten thank-you certificate
  • A film postcard that you can share with your friends, or keep for yourself
  • A digital download pack including; desktop wallpaper, postcard, and Team artwork

In addition, we came up with other great incentives at different levels;

PHOTO BOOK: 1/10:  40-page PIKTO photo book printed on professional photography-grade paper with a personalized handwritten message by Maja

16"x 20" AND 20" x 24" EDITIONED AND SIGNED PHOTO PRINTS: 1/10 and 1/5 respectively: photographic prints with acid-free matting. Choice of 5 to select from, sizes and choice vary by contribution.

SPECIAL SPONSOR VIDEO: A special sponsor video starring Team Reef, Turtle, Shark, Utila, and Big Kahuna, that features a personalized thank-you filmed in Utila updating you all individually on what your donation was specifically used for.

CREATIVE SERVICES PACKAGE: 4-hour, 8-hour, 15-hour, and 30-hour Creative services packages by Maja Zonjic that can be used for photography, design, or illustration. A great incentive if you're looking to get an event photographed, need headshots for your staff, illustration for your CD cover, or are re-branding your company! Why not support a conservation film while getting the services you need anyways?

UNDERWATER DANCE AND UNDYING LOVE & DEVOTION: For Team Utila and Team Big Kahuna donors, we will take your name (or message), write it on a banner and go for a dive with it. Maja, Alec, and Sean will then attempt to coordinate a Makarena dance underwater in your honour as a conclusion to the Special Sponsor video. You will also receive copious virtual hugs, progress emails and tons of good karma.

 

Sometimes though, you can't contribute, and that's ok. If you can't donate, we would still greatly appreciate all the help we can get in spreading the Postcards from Utila IndieGoGo campaign. Tell your family, friends and co-workers!

If you think you have something you could add to our crew or the project, or wish to enquire about a different level of sponsorship, we'd love to hear from you!

Email us at postcardsfromutilafilm@gmail.com.

Team on This Campaign:

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    Maja Zonjic

    Director / Photographer (Creative Sherpa)

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    Roop Gill

    Film editor / Assistant Social Media (FCP superstar and Twitter junkie)

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    Alec Lister

    Underwater Camera Guy (Really loves whalesharks)

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    Coco Flower

    Director of Photography (Camera guru and White balance specialist)

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    Jessica Houghton

    Social Media (Facebook Yoda and resident dancer)

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    Ian Drysdale

    Roatán Production Manager & Environmental Engineer (Couch Surfing facilitator & Ocean lover)

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    Monika Krupa

    Community outreach facilitator & tech consultant (HTML savvy and really friendly)

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    Sean Clifford

    Wildlife Handler (Turtle whisperer)