When Toronto Film School alumnus Egor Trushin was first approached to direct and produce a short documentary about turtle poaching, he wasn’t sure what to make of the request.
“It’s not a topic I had ever considered, because I wasn’t even aware of it before,” remarked the March 2021 Film Production graduate, who’s currently enrolled in the Bachelor of Business Administration program at Yorkville University.
“But when I thought about it, that’s honestly a dream come true for a documentary filmmaker. If you’re interested in making documentaries, the biggest thing you can probably discover is something that’s never been heard about or done before – so it was an amazing opportunity.”
In fact, the more Trushin learned about turtle poaching throughout the making of Turtles of Ontario: A Silent Cry for Help, the more engaged in the topic he became.
“When I worked on the project, I got deeply involved with everything – especially when interviewing all the people in the film who are extremely passionate about this issue,” he said of the 30-minute documentary, which will be screened for Toronto Film School students and staff during a special event at La Liga Indoor Soccer, 1107 Finch Ave. W. on Wednesday, Oct. 20 at 3 p.m.
“When someone is that into something, it definitely drives you into it – it’s contagious.”
Perhaps the person whose passion most drove Trushin was that of Yorkville University professor Andrew Fuyarchuk – the self-professed nature lover who spearheaded the film’s production and acted as its executive producer.
For Fuyarchuk, the topic of turtle poaching is one that has consumed him – and all his spare time – in the 10 years since he first witnessed a man fishing turtles out of his local pond and tossing them in a bucket in Markham Stouffville.
“I’ve got an eye and a love for nature, so it was natural for me to notice what was going on with the turtles. I realized pretty early on that this was organized poaching and that people were doing it for profit, but I had no idea of the scale at the time,” Fuyarchuk said, noting that turtles are often poached for the food, medicine, and pet trades.
“At first I thought it was just local people doing it for pocket money. But when I noticed them disappearing from my local pond in large numbers, that’s when I got on the case.”
After years of jotting down license plate numbers and logging countless calls to Ministry of Natural Resources and law enforcement officials to report suspected turtle poachers, Fuyarchuk decided last year to take a new approach to his turtle conservation efforts – to produce a documentary on the subject.
A novice to the world of filmmaking, Fuyarchuk applied for and received faculty development funding from Yorkville, which enabled him to hire Trushin on as the film’s director and producer.
From there, the pair interviewed a broad spectrum of people involved in the fight against turtle poaching in Ontario, including both ministry officials and local grassroots conservationists.
On the law enforcement side of things, they sat down with Julie Lawrence, a Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry officer based out of Peterborough, and Andre Lupert, the Acting Regional Director for Wildlife Enforcement from Environment Canada.
On the conservation front, Trushin and Fuyarchuk also talked to Sue Carstairs, the medical director for the Ontario Turtle Conservation Centre, and Lori Leckie and Christina Cicconetti from the Heart Lake Turtle Troopers.
“So, on the one side you’ve got the perspective of law enforcement on poaching, and we really get to see the issue through the eyes of what (Lawrence and Lupert) do, which was really enlightening, and I’m so grateful for their time,” Fuyarchuk said.
“Then, on the other side, we’ve got the conservation efforts through the eyes of the NGO and citizens…You meet these people, and there’s no reason they do what they do but pure passion.”
Come the new year, Trushin plans to get Turtles of Ontario: A Silent Cry for Help on the festival circuit – focusing his efforts on environmental and short film fests – in order to get it in front of as many eyes as possible.
“We want people to watch this film and recognize this is a big issue in Toronto, because when Andrew explained to me what was happening, I, like many, was surprised to learn about it…” Trushin said.
“My goal with this documentary is to showcase the issue, then show what’s being done now to solve this issue, then send a message of hope and a call to action to show regular people what they can do to help improve the situation.”
Invitations to the Oct. 20 screening of Turtles of Ontario: A Silent Cry for Help will be emailed out to staff and students in the coming weeks.