I like ideas. What they can do. Anytime an idea grows into something that makes a tangible progressive impact, even if only on an individual basis, it makes me proud. From abstraction to completion. As a filmmaker, the proudest moment is when the idea leads to something that has a life of its own, that will continue after you die.
He’s an award-winning filmmaker whose documentary work has taken him to, among numerous other places, the Middle East to follow his subjects, into the Deep South to investigate Ku Klux Klan members and their involvement in decades-old racial killings, and to the outskirts of Ontario to confront suspected child murderers. His investigative work has resulted in cold-cases being reopened and murderers being convicted, and at one point put him down the road for what many thought would be a well-deserved Oscar nomination.
But when I first met David Ridgen he wasn’t chasing murderers in search of justice, he was sticking his camera into a truck full of watermelons that several of us volunteers were emptying out at an elephant sanctuary in Northern Thailand and generally getting himself in the way. A bit of posturing and a few grunts between us and I still wasn’t sure what he was up to – unless it was work on a sequel to one of the all-time great watermelon films – but over the course of the next several days we warmed to each other and spent a fair amount of time discussing conservation, motivation and, of course, gear fetishism. That is, when he wasn’t insisting that I randomly shovel dirt into a wheelbarrow for his camera as some means of replicating the wholly inaccurate notion that shoveling elephant poo is romantic. It’s not. Elephants, however, very much are.