Interview with Filmmaker Jay Windland (The Hunt For The Asian Giant Hornet)

“The Hunt For The Asian Giant Hornet” played to rave reviews at the August 2021 DOCUMENTARY Film Festival.

1. What motivated you to make this film?

In the Spring of 2020, I was coming off of another documentary project that took us around the world and told a very global story. It was an incredible experience and I wanted to do a lot more of it. When the lockdown started all of those plans came to a sudden halt and like most people, I was stuck at home and I was reading way too much news. When I first started hearing about Murder Hornets, it was just a bizare curiosity, but as I dug deeper into it, the story continued to fascinate me. For starters, the techniques being used to track these creatures had never been used before. This was all happening in my home state of Washington and the strategy revolved around enlisting the help of hundreds of volunteer citizen scientists. To me this was such a sharp contrast to the other widespread crisis (covid) that required everyone to stay home and not do anything.

2. From the idea to the finished product, how long did it take for you to make this short?

I started researching this story and talking to people in the field in June of 2020 and filming took place between July and November. That timeline had almost nothing to do with us though. It was the lifecycle of the Asian Giant Hornet. At the end of each season, the colony as a whole dies off and the queens go into a sort of hibernation phase, preparing to emerge and start their own new nests the following spring. This was quite literally a race to stop that proliferation before it could happen.

3. How would you describe your short film in two words!?

Insect adventure

4. What was the biggest obstacle you faced in completing this film?

Asian Giant Hornets have a stinger long enough to penetrate even the best bee suits available, and they can deliver venomous stings over and over in a short span of time. For this reason, special protective equipment is required to be in their vicinity, and it was primarily reserved for the scientists performing the extractions. That left us looking for a way to tell this story that wasn’t focused so heavily on the extraction. When we talked to the beekeepers and citizen scientists facing this challenge we knew that this was the lens we really wanted to share this story through.

5. What were your initial reactions when watching the audience talking about your film in the feedback video?

Watching the audience feedback felt so personal and authentic. In a year of mixed hybrid festival formats, the feedback video blended seamlessly with the experience of attending in-person screenings and chatting with fellow filmmakers and audience members outside a theater. It’s easy to get caught up in the logistics of a festival run and forget that the entire purpose of making your film was to share it with people and see how it impacted them. This format brought all of that back into focus in a really fun way.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

6. When did you realize that you wanted to make films?

I studied audio engineering in college and had to take film classes as a part of the program. I was only a day or two in before I started thinking about what was possible creatively with film, and I haven’t stopped since.

7. What film have you seen the most in your life?

I’m not a big repeat-watcher, but I would say the original Star Wars trilogy has the most views.

8. You submitted to the festival via FilmFreeway, what are your feelings of the submission platform from a filmmaker’s perspective?

Film Freeway has really coalesced the festival world and allowed it to persist through some strange times. There’s a lot of change happening in how we discover and share independent film and Film Freeway continues to be a platform that connects the dots. There’s really nothing else like it.

9. What is your favorite meal?

I’m a big sushi fan.

10. What is next for you? A new film?

There will definitely be more films, but right now I’m preparing to travel to Antarctica. I’m not necessarily making a documentary, but I will capture the journey and we’ll see what becomes of it.

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