WILD LOVE, directed by Eben Portnoy, is about a student primatologist who travels to Costa Rica. He begins work as a field assistant studying mating rituals of the indigenous wild capuchin monkeys. As he learns about the monkeys, the student gathers confidence in his own love life. The 15-minute short received a Sloan Production Grant in 2012 while Portnoy was getting his MFA from the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television. It is now premiering on Science & Film.
As with all students who receive Sloan funding, Portnoy was paired with a scientist, Dr. Jessica Lynch Alfaro from the UCLA Center for Society and Genetics who advised him on the WILD LOVE script. “The idea for my film actually came from a lecture Professor Alfaro gave on cultures of trust behavior among wild capuchin monkeys,” Portnoy wrote to Science & Film. “She introduced me to the research her lecture was based on, and met with me to discuss my script. She helped insure that the script was scientifically accurate, and also gave me feedback on the realism of the characters, their work relationships, and the fictional field site environment I was creating.”
WILD LOVE was filmed on location in Costa Rica. “After I found out I had been granted the Sloan Production grant, Prof. Alfaro helped put me in touch with primatologists working with capuchins in Costa Rica,” Portnoy continued. “Through these contacts I was able to visit a working field site, where a small team of researchers were studying a habituated troupe of wild capuchins. I stayed with the researchers for five days, filming monkey footage to edit into my film. While there I was also able to get an inside look at the daily workings of the research site.”
Returning to UCLA to cull through the footage, Portnoy then returned to Costa Rica in order to find a local producer. The filming took place over the course of nine days, “in the rainforest around a small town on the southern Pacific coast. We worked with a small crew and a tiny equipment package. We had only two film lights, so we lit our sets with practicals and used bed sheets to control the light outdoors. Because we were filming in the rainy season, every day's schedule depended on weather. Despite these challenges, the cast and crew showed immense solidarity. I was constantly inspired by their creativity, as I was by the rainforest itself, where the density of life gave us many happy accidents and unexpected magic.” WILD LOVE is written, directed, edited, and produced by Portnoy. It is co-produced by Laura Avila Tacsan.
WILD LOVE is available to stream in the Science & Film library of Sloan-supported short films. It will be included in future iterations of the Teacher’s Guide, which makes these films available to students and teachers.