By Austin Dale | Indiewire February 2, 2012 at 12:38PM
Paladin announced today that it will release "Otter 501." The film is a documentary/narrative hybrid that chronicles the rescue of an orphaned baby otter, told through the Facebook video posts of its rescuer.
The film will have its world premiere at this week's Santa Barbara Film Festival. Paladin will release the film this spring.
Full press release reprinted below:
Paladin announced today that it will release OTTER 501, a new film that chronicles the true story of an orphaned baby otter who is rescued on the Northern California coast, per company president Mark Urman. The latest project from the award-winning and acclaimed filmmaking team at Sea Studios Foundation, OTTER 501 will have its world premiere at this week’s Santa Barbara Film Festival. Paladin plans a spring release for the film.
A unique hybrid of fact and fiction that takes the traditional wildlife documentary into new and exciting storytelling realms, OTTER 501 is about an otter pup who was separated from her mother when she was just a week old and found washed ashore in June, 2010 on a beach on the Big Sur coast. Quickly rescued by the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Sea Otter Research and Conservation Program, “501,” as she was called, became part of a groundbreaking surrogate program where she was cared for by humans, and then introduced to an adoptive sea otter mother who, in turn, raised her for months so she could develop the necessary skills to survive back in the wild.
Parallel to this remarkable tale of how 501 got a second chance at life is the story of young Katie, an aspiring biologist who volunteers at the aquarium and who participates in 501’s rescue and support. Structured as a series of Facebook video posts by Katie, 501’s amazing – and true –story is told from Katie’s point of view, as she herself comes of age emotionally, intellectually, and professionally, courtesy of this baby otter.
Blending documentary and dramatic narrative techniques, OTTER 501 combines stunning original natural history footage with extensive authentic material of 501 (who was filmed over months by the Sea Studios team from the moment she was rescued), and the most modern forms of social media. Both inspiring and illuminating, the film sheds light on important issues facing us all about our ever-changing environment and the ways in which we affect – and are affected by – other species.
About the film Urman says, “501 is one of the more adorable creatures we will see on screen this year. We are thrilled to be working with Sea Studios Foundation on this wonderful project, and their extensive relationships within the marine wildlife, conservation, and aquarium communities will allow us to build upon many of the innovative grass-roots marketing techniques we employed so successfully last year with Tom Shadyac’s ‘I Am,’ and the highly acclaimed – and similarly themed – documentary, ‘The Whale.’”
Mark Shelley, Executive Director of the Foundation, who conceived the story for OTTER 501, and served as Executive Producer and Director of Photography on the film says, “OTTER 501 is our first foray into the world of theatrical film, and I could not be more pleased than to be in the able hands of Mark Urman and Paladin. Mark has been a leader in bringing high-quality films to theaters for a long time, and I look forward to working closely with him and his team.”
With Shelley at the helm, Sea Studios Foundation has produced a number of compelling visual narratives about pressing issues, including the award-winning National Geographic prime-time series, “Shape Of Life,” and “Strange Days on Planet Earth,” hosted by Edward Norton and recipient of fourteen international awards. Joining Shelley behind the camera is director Bob Talbot, a world renowned marine photographer and long-standing Cousteau Society associate, who numbers among his credits The Academy Award-nominated IMAX film, “Dolphins-The Ride,” which he directed and photographed, “Oceanmen—Extreme Dive,” as well as the wildlife sequences for Universal’s “Flipper,” and the Warner Brothers' “Free Willy” features. Producer/Writer Josh Rosen, a specialist in long-form non-fiction science and nature programming, has created a number of hour-long documentaries for The Discovery Channel, The Learning Channel, National Geographic Channel, The Science Channel, and The History Channel, and most recently worked on the PBS series, “Fabric of the Cosmos.” He also collaborated with legendary director Werner Herzog on “Little Dieter Learns to Fly” and “My Best Fiend.”
OTTER 501 will premiere on the west coast, with its initial engagements taking place in areas where sea otters reside, including the Bay Area, (where it was filmed, and where Sea Studios makes it headquarters), Seattle, Portland, and Santa Barbara. National expansion will take place in June and will extend throughout the summer. For more information about the film, please visit http://www.Otter501.com or http://www.seastudios.org.
Paladin’s next release is Taika Waititi’s award-winning New Zealand smash, BOY, which opens in New York on March 2nd. Also coming up is Susan Seidelman’s latest film, the dance-themed romance, MUSICAL CHAIRS, which has its New York opening on March 23rd and its Los Angeles debut on March 30th.