The Keepers

A New Kind of Documentary Film

The Keepers is a character-driven documentary about the work and personalities of zoo keepers. It paints a portrait of a work subculture that shows what it means to find a place for yourself through your work. 

The Keepers follows four different zookeepers and takes viewers behind the scenes with unprecedented access. In addition to learning more about the people that work this fascinating job, viewers will get to see big cats, giraffes, penguins, snakes, Komodo dragons up close, beyond the zoo exhibits. The film is produced and directed by two Memphians: Joann Self Selvidge and Sara Kaye Larson and shot entirely at the Memphis Zoo. It is an exclusively Memphis story with universal appeal, telling the larger stories of our relationship to work and animals.

Watch other sneak preview footage here! Follow us on Facebook for up-to-date postings about this project. Make a donation to support this film.

A synopsis...

The average visitor to a zoo takes about two hours to spin through all the exhibits, about the time it takes to watch a movie. They tend to see the animals in human terms, declaring them “sad” “happy” or “jealous”, like characters in a daytime drama. They don’t give a thought to the long-term planning and daily grind work that goes into caring for and presenting these animals.

The average visitor doesn’t know the intricate balance of conservation, ethics, and entertainment that every zoo must consider every moment, every season, every year.

We aren’t your average visitor.

Our new film will take you on the other side, behind the food stations, below the sea lions, into the night houses of the big cats, and most importantly, into the lives, hearts, and minds of the people that provide the zoo experience: the keepers. 

Press and Information About Our Fundraising

Read about our adventures with this project: Filmmaker Magazine (3/11/13), Filmmaker Magazine (2/20/13), The Memphis Flyer, and The Daily News. Watch a news segment on WMC-TV. Read an article about the film from The Commercial Appeal (11/24/12).

THANK YOU to everyone who has donated to help make this film possible!

The Zookeeper Ambassador Program

Are you a zookeeper? Sign up for our zookeeper ambassador program to help us spread the word about this film to your zoo community.

Above: Baby Komodo Dragon at Memphis Zoo, held by keeper Chris Baker.

Just as a zoo serves multiple functions, The Keepers will consider multiple viewpoints. Operating from the knowledge that zoos possess an inherent contradiction (wild animals in captivity), this film will focus on three to four zookeepers who in some way reflect the range of opinions that the public may share. 

Thanks to the Memphis Zoo, we are gaining insider access to the knowledge, skills, and experiences of the zookeepers we are following. The Keepers will document the zookeepers' daily tasks, their relationships with the animals, and their personal insights and opinions of their work.

Learn more about filmmakers Sara Kaye Larson and Joann Self Selvidge.

Above: Silverback gorilla at the Memphis Zoo. Special thanks to zookeeper Sandi Shoemaker, who gave the filmmakers a behind-the-scenes tour where we learned that this big guy, who weighs in over 500 pounds, loves eating peanut butter and bananas.

How You Can Help

Fractured Atlas is providing fiscal sponsorship for The Keepers, which means your contributions to this project are tax-deductible to the extent allowed by law. We've already raised $30,000 for production, and we have another $100,000 to raise for post-production and marketing. With your help, The Keepers will reach national audiences. 

If you'd like to support the film, you can donate online. Your contributions will cover expenses related to film production and post-production activities (filming, editing, sound/color corrections, art direction, music) and industry-savvy audience development by a producer of marketing and distribution. If you are interested in hosting a house-party to introduce this project to your friends, please email us!

If you prefer to donate by check, please make it out to "Fractured Atlas" and mail it to 2104 University Circle, Memphis, TN 38112. Thank you!!