Nature documentarian Alex Goetz (photo courtesy of Alex Goetz)
Ohio Life

Alex Goetz Talks Filmmaking in Nature

Documentarian Alex Goetz of Toledo shares how a career behind the camera has taken him around the world and allowed him to share stories from Ohio.

Filming blue penguins on the Australian island state of Tasmania is just another day at the office for Alex Goetz. His physical office might be in Toledo, but his conservation stories have taken him all over the world.

Raised in Cleveland, Goetz studied film and environmental science at Bowling Green State University. He later co-founded his Toledo-based media group, Running Wild Media, with classmate and fellow Ohioan Justin Grubb, who lives in Missouri. Since then, Goetz’s documentaries have appeared on National Geographic, PBS, CNN and other networks.

“I grew up watching Animal Planet,” Goetz says. “I knew at a young age that’s what I wanted to do.”

Trekking the globe for exotic animals is part of the job, but Goetz’s work at home is equally impressive. His films for Metroparks Toledo and Summit Metro Parks illuminate Ohio’s wildlife. For his next Ohio-based project, Goetz is planning to document the state’s ecologically significant Oak Openings Region. We talked with Goetz about some of his favorite places, the filming process and his upcoming documentary.

Where did your favorite Running Wild projects take you?
We spent six weeks filming in the Badlands for the first season of “America’s National Parks.” I didn’t expect to find so many interesting wildlife behaviors like the animated prairie dogs and the bighorn sheep. Another favorite was Turks and Caicos, a barely populated desert island, where we filmed these little charismatic lizards. 

Can you share a story that shows what goes into creating a nature documentary?A company hired us to film a red fox sequence. After about four weeks in the Grand Tetons, we didn’t get any fox behavior until the last three days. It was like minus 20 degrees, and we laid in the snow for hours watching a fox nap. Some amazing wolf stuff was happening, but we had to just drive by and wave sadly at the other photographers getting this great footage because we were hired to film foxes.  Once the fox mousing behavior started happening, I was so excited because that was a behavior I’d always wanted to film.

Your next documentary is about Ohio’s Oak Openings Region. What is it about the area that intrigues you?
The Oak Openings Region is a globally rare ecosystem, designated one of the last 200 unique places in the world by The Nature Conservancy. … All these unique things are going on there — sand dunes, rare oak savanna and wildflower prairies. The plan is to essentially live in Oak Openings for the next two years and document it all.

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