Pursuing the Monarchs in Iowa & Minnesota

Last week my esteemed cinematographer and myself set out on a twenty hours drive to Ames, Iowa and Minneapolis, Minnesota. There, we interviewed two professors from the University of Iowa and the University of Minnesota respectively, as well as a conventional farmer and the founders of the Joint Monarch Venture. This trip proved to be essential to the film’s success and narrative as it shed light on the United States’ responsibility in conserving monarch habitat.

Because of all the negative talk of GMOs and herbicide use around the monarch protection movement, I was particularly nervous in meeting the conventional farmer Mr. Westrum, who owns a 1,000 acres farm of GMO soybean, peas and corn in Boone, Iowa. However, we were both received with open arms and Mr. Westrum spent the whole morning showing us around his farm as well as explaining the intricacies of farming today. I will be returning to Williamsburg tomorrow and my return will mark the official end to production of Pursuing the Monarchs. Next I have two months of editing awaiting me and the entirety of post production; I will therefore be kept very busy!

Henry Sho Kellam filming for "Pursuing the Monarchs"

Henry Sho Kellam filming for “Pursuing the Monarchs” at Mrs. Westrum’s farm.


  1. jngranger says:

    That’s amazing Anna! I hope editing goes well– I’m sure it’s relieving to finally be done with the raw reporting. I know how difficult editing can be so I wish you the best of luck as you move into that stage. Now that you’re finally finished with this filming and reporting stage, do you have any advice or wisdom you’ve gathered from this process? What have been some of your biggest roadblocks?

  2. This research (and film production too) sound incredibly fascinating! What inspired you to pick this topic of the monarch butterfly decline as your focus? Also, are monarchs held in higher regard when compared to the importance of other butterflies when it comes to pollination because they travel such long distances during their migration? Because there is a decline in monarchs due to loss of winter habitat, is there anything people that live in those warmer, southern climates could do to help increase the habitat area? Would planting certain plants (or something of the sort) be beneficial in Texas, Florida, or other Gulf Coast locations, or must it happen specifically in their winter habitat in Mexico? I greatly look forward to hearing more about your film-making progress!

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