MAKING THE FILM ON PENNY THE PUMA
|It's that look! c. Laurie Campbell|
'He who dares - wins'
The mountain lion, cougar, puma and panther, all the same species and most widespread of the big cats in the Americas. Most adaptable of animals, it’s at home in jungles, deserts, forests and mountains, even close to man, [who occasionally end up as prey]. But it is seldom seen, let alone filmed. So in the early ‘90’s I set out on a quest to make a first ever film in the wild about this elusive cat, a subject that filled the 'impossible' category perfectly.
After several challenging meetings National Geographic agreed to fund my ambition, allowing me to head off into the Andes Mountains of Patagonia with camera gear and tents, my sole companion being Donaldo MacIver, my friend and assistant when filming the BBC series “Flight of the Condor” in the early ‘80’s.
Ten days later we had seen only one puma, six weeks later I had hardly any film in the can and was struggling but I had found a young female puma who was inquisitive … and I wondered if ‘curiosity might catch the cat’. All the others we saw just fled, terrified of man due to relentless persecution by the local gauchos. [Pumas had a naughty habit of going sheep shearing in the night]!
With my ‘star’ selected, a serious game of cat and mouse followed, with me being the mouse … but three months of patient stalking later I had this young female ‘eating out of my hand’ … instead of eating my hand! … and she now trusted me to be close to her, even when she went to sleep. Absolute magic.
I named my star Penny and for the next two years I tried to document her struggles to survive and raise her cubs in the beautiful but hostile mountains in which she lived - life doesn’t get any better than that.