Ready for Their Big Cat Close-up

The dramatic story of the two Burbank mountain lions — Olive and Leno, now living in Paso Robles at a conservation education facility Zoo to You – is being filmed by Elkins Eye Visuals and Totem Pictures , San Francisco-based film companies under the auspices of directors David Elkins and Aneeta Akhurst.

Filmmakers David Elkins and Aneeta Akhurst
Filmmakers David Elkins and Aneeta Akhurst. Photo courtesy of Elkins Eye Visuals


Elkins has “always wanted to do a documentary” on the plight of mountain lions, a critter he’s been fond of since he was a youth. “But I just needed an angle,” he said. He was contemplating using the story of a big cat that traveled from the Black Hills of South Dakota to Connecticut (only to get killed on a freeway).

But then the news of the Burbank kittens caught Elkins’ eye. “Their story is perfect, good bit of drama and we started going down to the facility to film them last January,” he says.

Yum....a spoonful of meat. Photo courtesy of Elkins Eye Productions
Yum….a spoonful of meat. Photo courtesy of Elkins Eye Visuals

Elkins and crew have come down every other month to capture how the cubs have not only grown, but have adjusted to a life of captivity. He discovered that big cats are usually more active in the evening, so he set up an infrared camera and got some amazing images of the junior mountain lions. “We have them playing, talking to each other, using their toys,” he says.

Footage captures the change from cubs to cats with furry coats turning smooth and spots fading into adulthood. For Elkins, it’s been a dream come true to see these cats up-close and to be privy to their growth.

“My goal with this film is to show the cats in their true light and to show that they are not dangerous to humans,” he says. “They have a healthy fear of humans. They are as much a part of the ecosystem as we are and a very necessary apex predator. They are such a big, beautiful animal.”

Southern California Wildlife will give updates when Elkins’ film hits the screen. Stay tuned!

— by Brenda Rees, editor