William Neal, writer-director of “Long Gone Wild”

by | Jul 8, 2020

William Neal —writer-director of “Long Gone Wild,” a documentary that focuses on captive orcas, arriving as a cinematic successor to “Blackfish”—provides an overview of his pre-doc career, a mix of all sort of television work, writing books, and, early on, coaching hockey at the college and professional levels.He recounts how he began considering the idea for “Long Gone Wild,” and rather than feeling trepidation at following “Blackfish”—and enormously successful and influential film—he saw the opportunity to update the captive orca saga, including the point that the whales covered in the previous movie were still there, with their status largely unchanged. There was also entirely new information to present, including that the whale wildlife trade has undergone a significant shift, whereby Russia is capturing orcas and then selling them to China, which is amidst a period of building numerous marine parks. Neal addresses the complex perceptions and feelings about Tilikum, the humongous orca who had, over the years, killed three people, famously including Dawn Brancheau, the veteran trainer at SeaWorld Orlando. (Tilikum died in early 2017.)  He also elaborates on the section of his film dealing with China’s aggressive inroads into the marine park business, and the attendant effort to populate the expanding number of parks with freshly-captured orcas; one park alone holds nine orcas. He does correct the misinterpretation I’d developed from watching “Long Gone Wild: that the new marine stadiumsbeing built in China reflect the structures and technology of American parks in the 1960s—turns out, this was an anomaly, not widely characteristic. We also touched on the value of orcas in that emerging Chinese market ($6-7 million per whale), The Whale Sanctuary, and the platforms on which “Long Gone Wild” can be watched, including Amazon Prime. (https://www.longgonewild.com, https://www.facebook.com/longgonewild/, https://www.instagram.com/longgonewild/)


ALSO: I spoke briefly with Debbie Burns, vice-president of the Friends of Largo Nature Park, specifically about the Park’s Bird of Prey exhibit. This involves 22 raptors who were injured at some point, and rehabilitated, but are unable to be released back into the wild. She explains how the pandemic forced the exhibit to close down for three months, it reopened in recent weeks, but some of the educational tours and presentations—at schools, festivals, and so on—they would typically do, and which would ordinarily generate donations and other revenues that would help offset the cost of the birds’ food and care, have been foreclosed by COVID-19. She mentions that there is a way to donate in support of this effort on The Friends of The Largo Nature Park’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/thefriendsoflargonatureparks/     (http://www.natureparkfriends.org/our-parks.html)

COMEDY CORNER:  Ron White’s  “Killer Whale”  (https://tatersalad.com)

MUSIC: Rebekah Pulley’s “Talking Animals Theme,” instrumentals

NAME THAT ANIMAL TUNE:  The B-52s’ “Rock Lobster”


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