Not long after Chris Palmer broke into environmental filmmaking in the early 1980s, he brought home a newly completed film to show his wife, Gail.
She loved it — especially the close-up of the grizzly bear splashing in a stream. She asked Palmer how the crew had captured the sound of water dripping from the bear’s paws. He confessed: The sound guy had miked up a water basin and recorded splashing sounds made by his own hands.
She turned to him and said, “You’re a big fake.”
Three decades later, Palmer hasn’t quite recovered. And, at 63, he has written a confessional for an entire industry. “Shooting in the Wild,” published this year by Sierra Club Books, exposes the unpleasant secrets of environmental filmmaking: manufactured sounds, staged fights, wild animals that aren’t quite wild filmed in nature that isn’t entirely natural.