Filmmaker details ‘Colorado’s Moose’ documentary ahead of Frisco event
FRISCO — In fall 2016, Sean Ender grabbed his Sony FS5 and auxiliary camera gear and returned to the place he first saw the massive, majestic creatures that would be a part of his 2 1/2 year passion project.
The filmmaker and Loveland native trudged back to the Nokhu Crags near Cameron Pass. It’s a place he saw moose for the first time feeding in the willows nearly two decades prior.
“I had the same reaction as anybody else when they first see a moose,” Ender said. “How incredibly big they are. They are so much bigger than even elk, and they kind of let you hang around if you keep ’em at a distance and don’t startle ’em. It’s just cool to see these giant animals move across the willows and landscape.”
In February, the 30-year-old Ender wrapped up work on the passion project, which he estimated involved 45 days of filming. In between his work projects, Ender wanted to be out there to see a bull shed its velvet as the fall became winter. He wanted to be there to see a 7-foot-tall moose make its way through 5 feet of powder in the winter. And he wanted to capture newborn calves getting to know the world in the springtime.
From a distance and with a thorough understanding of the creatures, Ender filmed them “as much as his batteries and cards would allow.” In the end, he had 60 hours of footage, spending six months combing through the editing process before the hourlong “Colorado’s Moose” made its world premiere in April at the International Wildlife Film Festival in Missoula, Montana. It also will screen later this month at the Wildlife Conservation Film Festival in New York City.
Through the entire process, Ender tasked himself with shooting some of the most stunning 4K footage of Colorado’s moose while carefully chronicling the story of how the species was reintroduced to the state in the late ’70s. Ender ultimately tells the story of the lingering effects and realities of reintroduction.
Ender filmed primarily in the North Park area near Walden. By the end of filming, he said the area had become almost a character in the film.
The filmmaking process led Ender to one interesting character after another tied to Colorado’s moose story. That included photographer Fi Rust, who Ender learned from in terms of focusing on cows and their calves.
Ender also met important figures tied to the management of the reintroduced wildlife. Ender learned how there aren’t necessarily the same resources devoted to moose as other species and detailed the challenges an agency like Colorado Parks and Wildlife has in managing them in a cost-effective manner.
Ender learned how moose eventually spread to the Collegiate Peaks in the heart of the Rocky Mountains and as far as Creede and Grand Mesa to the west.
The filmmaker also experienced the hunting element of the species’ story here in Colorado. Filming at Silver Spur Ranch in Walden, Ender tells the story of how a young hunter, Billy Lor of Brighton, works with the ranch guide to harvest a cow, one that isn’t still breeding or a member of the healthy population.
Ender also followed wildlife biologists working with the animals deep in the maze-like willows. In total, Ender conducted 13 interviews, including many members of Parks and Wildlife. That included Parks and Wildlife researcher Eric Bergman and wildlife officer Josh Dilley of North Park, two of the most important characters in the story. Dilley helped Ender get to know local ranchers to understand how the private residents work with Parks and Wildlife to manage the effect of the moose on civilization as well as civilization’s effects on the moose.
The filming led to awe-inspiring scenes, such as the sight of the biggest bull moose Ender has ever seen rising up through the water’s surface from gnawing on a lake’s bottom near Walden.
Then there’s the monologue that introduces the film. It’s of the one moose Ender said he felt the closest connection with. Early one morning, the filmmaker came across the bull feeding in the short willows. With the unbelievable backdrop of the early morning sunrise illuminating the Rocky Mountains behind him, the moose watched Ender get out of his car and watched him set up his gear.
“It’s about respecting the fact that, whether you’ve been here your whole life or are new here, Colorado is wild,” Ender said. “There is wildlife here, and you have to coexist with them and properly enjoy that you live in a place where you can see them.”
The film will be screened from 6:30-9 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 2, at HighSide Brewing in Frisco. The screening is hosted by the Colorado Chapter of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers and will be followed by a Q&A session with Ender.
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