Founder, Conservation Media Group
Director, Compass Light Productions
Many O.A.T. travelers are familiar with David Conover as a filmmaker and conservationist, as his production team has curated hundreds of independently produced films for the company for several years. Here, he discusses how storytelling also propels his other efforts with Conservation Media Group (CMG).
Foundation: How is storytelling valuable as a conservation tool?
David: As a filmmaker, I’ve seen and experienced the power of stories and storytelling. A lot of people who take trips are familiar with the power of storytelling as a way to convey the incredible things they’ve experienced. Storytelling is also a powerful tool for conservation activists, because stories are really, really good at engaging emotions. Yes, they do entertain, but they also convey evidence of what we’re changing and what needs attention. Stories do a great job of motivating people—and modeling how problems get solved.
Foundation: Tell me about Conservation Media Group.
David: Conservation Media Group is built around the potential of using stories as a way to get more conservation activism going. Specifically, what we do is we pair young, emerging, media-making storytellers with a proven network of ocean conservation organizations. They produce video for targeted impact, and then measure results
Foundation: How do you decide what topics to film?
David: A lot of it comes from the organizations that are doing the activist work and the campaigns they’re working on. We have three specific program areas we focus on: sanctuary for marine life, using video to stop plastics in the ocean, and supporting organizations and media makers interested in transitioning to a fossil-free and just economy, like 350.org.
Foundation: How did you get interested in storytelling as a profession?
David: It started with a really strong love for the ocean. My parents very much appreciated the ocean, as well, and they were storytellers themselves. That had a big impact. It deepened in the work I did as a teacher and through ocean expeditions I did in my 20s. Out of that, I became an outdoor filmmaker.
Foundation: How does Grand Circle Foundation support your conservation efforts?
David: Both Grand Circle Foundation and the Lewis Family Foundation were founding supporters and really the primary reasons CMG was able to launch and do its work, so I’m very, very grateful for that trust and support. With that founding support, we succeeded in getting the family of ocean rays listed as protected. The support gave us a model for what could work, which is expanding to whale and mako sharks. On a personal level, I think we have a shared curiosity, a commitment to learning and travel, and a fascination with how certain experiences can change people’s lives—and, increasingly, the lives of non-humans that are living on the planet.
Foundation: What’s your vision for the future of CMG?
David: The future certainly is going to go on well beyond my own efforts, so a big part of my goal is to really engage these younger, emerging media makers and help them tell the stories that are really important to them in the conservation area—and to act! We’re well beyond the realm of raising awareness. We need activism, and it’s very comforting for me to see their engagement. Despite knowing the evidence of how life is really being threatened and damaged by us right now, I’m still very much of an optimist.
Foundation: What do you like to do when you’re not working?
David: I love messing around in boats. I also like mountains—I’m a skier. And I like spending time with my family.
Foundation: What would people be surprised to learn about you?
David: I was an avid knitter in my 20s. I’ve never had a cup of coffee in my life. And I co-authored a book that was published only in Swedish—and I don’t speak the language!
Tell us a little about yourself. Which do you prefer?
Chocolate or vanilla?
Reading a book or seeing a movie?
Reading a book
Going for a hike or sitting by a fire?
I love both those things.
Talking or listening?
Does questioning count? I’d say active listening and questioning.
Dogs or cats?
Both—I love animals.
Being interviewed or having a tooth pulled?
I don’t mind being interviewed. I’m at a point in life where tooth-pulling is more of a fear!