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  • Writer's pictureSajid Darr

Jean Hartley (1943 – 2017)

"We never take no for an answer" – Jean Hartley

Jean Hartley made history as the first person to formalise fixing as a sector in wildlife filmmaking. Her ‘fixing’ journey began in 1986 when she organised the first ever international bird-watching fundraiser marathon in Kenya. The project involved seven teams from different countries and two BBC crews that produced ‘The Great Safari Bird Rally’. It was at this event that Jean met producer Adrian Warren. He immediately felt her enthusiasm and was interested in securing her as a fixer for his next project, ‘The Great Rift’. For the following two years, Jean very ably organised everything in Kenya for the film crews that worked on the three-part documentary.

It was only a matter of time before Jean realised that this is what she is meant to do fulltime. She enjoyed the challenges that come with fixing and what could be better than fixing for clients that make an impact in wildlife conservation and education?

In 1988, at the Wildscreen Film Festival, Jean won her first two clients under her newly founded company, Viewfinders Kenya. As expected by many, her first two projects won awards and since then, Viewfinders has been in great demand as a unique, high-quality fixing agent in East Africa.

Viewfinders continued to work with the BBC and many other broadcasters and independent production houses from all over the globe. Jean has personally worked on more than 1000 films, with the majority concerning wildlife and nature. In addition to this accomplishment, Jean was an author of three guides to Kenya and also wrote a book named ‘Africa’s Big Five and Other Wildlife Film Makers’. Jean’s knowledge about wildlife, Kenya and the technicalities in filmmaking was enviable and highly intriguing!

In 2017, Jean retired and handed over to Sajid Darr who is the current Director. Sajid worked closely with her and his vision is to see her legacy grow and never die. Viewfinders’ aim is to ensure that every film crew will return to capture the marvels of wildlife and Kenya, and share it with the rest of the world.

For those who knew her, she was an unconquerable soul with a never ending fighting spirit. We like to think she managed to attain immortality through her contribution to the wildlife film making industry. Her legacy and business will be carried on by Sajid and the team.

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