Filmmaker Kelly Guerin is a vital and irreplaceable creative member of the Toronto-based We Animals team. Guerin is one of few filmmakers today engaged in the difficult task of capturing and telling the stories of the animals we use for food, clothing, research, and entertainment. Her work is nuanced and engaging, always examining layers instead of the surface. This has become her signature in both short- and long-form storytelling. Guerin’s quiet presence and sensitive nature allow her to immerse herself, wholly observant, in shoots and events, gaining the trust of those she works with and films. Her interviewing style gives the space that people need to be themselves, and her editing always brilliantly weaves to the poignant moments that brings her films, and all of the We Animals work, to life.
Guerin has created many short films for We Animals, the Unbound Project and for other animal protection organizations. Her first feature documentary film, Nations of Their Own (Palestine), is currently slated for release in 2019. I’m grateful to be able to work with an artist of her calibre and I look forward to following her evolving body of work in the years to come.
-Contributed by Toronto-based photojournalist Jo-Anne McArthur
What “hood” are you in?
I’m based out of Colorado Springs, Colorado in the United States; however, for my own sanity, I try to get out of the country as much as possible. Fortunately, I’m a part of a Toronto-based photojournalism organization called We Animals which provides me a home away from home at my boss/ colleague/ BFF Jo-Anne McArthur’s house near Greektown.
What do you do?
I’m a filmmaker for We Animals, an organization which documents, through photography and video, the invisible animals in the human world. Our work goes beyond the subject matter of traditional animal photography, such as pets and wildlife; instead, we turn our lenses to those whose images we are less comfortable with seeing – the animals we use for food, clothes, medical research, and entertainment.
Jo-Anne McArthur is an acclaimed photographer and the founder of We Animals, and over the past three years, I have taken on the role of filmmaker at We Animals. Each assignment is unique, both in subject matter and access. We’ve covered everything: factory farms in Europe, remote zoos in China, slaughterhouses in Bulgaria, rescued laboratory chimpanzees in Florida, elephant sanctuaries in Thailand, anti-whaling efforts on the open ocean. We set out with our gear in our backpacks and try to capture animals and their stories with the same artistic integrity given to other subject matters. A powerful photo or film has the ability to draw the public in a little closer, perhaps just long enough to make a connection and see an animal in a different light.
I follow each of our films from start to finish, from planning to shooting to interviewing to sound mixing and editing (except for the color correcting, which I have to hand off to another member of our team because I’m a bit colorblind!). In the beginning, there was a lot of archival footage of Jo-Anne’s to make use of – footage that she had snagged while taking photos. Increasingly, however, our exploration into the film genre has reached exciting new depths as we actively seek out new stories that will make for compelling short documentaries.
What are you currently working on?
Too many things at once!
Last month we went to North Carolina to document animals in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Florence. Some of the most devastated areas were also some of the most heavily-farmed counties in the US and the industry had self-reported that over 3.4 million chickens and 5,500 pigs had perished in the floods. Most often, if these numbers are ever reported, they are mentioned only briefly and are included to support a human-centered story such as farmers’ profit losses. Jo and I went into these affected areas, up in planes and out in boats, to provide the media with photographs and footage that could be used to tell another story. We documented thousands of bodies of chickens floating out of flooded CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operations). I found a group of pigs stranded on a bridge who had miraculously survived the storm – only to film them being reclaimed by the farmer who had abandoned them. We joined Waterkeeper Alliance as they sampled contaminated water downriver from flooded farms. We captured images of thousands of dead and dying fish suffocated in the toxic floodwater. We interviewed rescuers, activists, and local residents speaking out against the corruption and reckless pollution of the pork industry. Currently, we’re working our way through editing these stories.
In addition to this latest investigation, we’re working on a short film series about fur farming in Nova Scotia and stories of the local community who have watched their beloved natural environment suffer drastically from the runoff of these concentrated farms. I constantly have films in the works for the Unbound Project which celebrates women on the front lines of animal activism worldwide. And I’m currently directing a documentary on animal activism in the occupied Palestinian territories.
Where can you find my work?
You can find my films on the We Animals Facebook page, on my Vimeo, and most recently on a billboard in South Carolina!