Étienne Plasse, or the art of observing the unnoticed

Étienne Plasse
Étienne Plasse, or the art of observing the unnoticed

Observing the unnoticed

The spotted salamander, the spotted turtle, the eastern milk snake, the spring peeper... A list of names unknown to most Quebecers. And yet, they’re highly local species.

Étienne Plasse, a young filmmaker, took on the mandate of helping us discover creatures like these, about which we still know very little.

From skateboarding to snakes

From childhood Étienne was fascinated by nature, and took a very special interest in amphibians and reptiles. From his many explorations he would bring home frogs and snakes so that he could observe them up close.

Then, in 2007 at the age of 17, he picked up a video camera to film himself skateboarding with his friends. At the same time he was exploring the wooded areas of Laval, near the family home, and filming everything he found there. As he puts it, the camera made it possible for him to “collect” the animals he met up with, without disturbing them.

Shortly afterward he came across a snake he wasn’t familiar with. Intrigued, Étienne Plasse undertook some research and identified the species in question. It turned out to be a northern brown snake, very rare in Québec. The young man went deeper into his reading, discovering that a great number of amphibians and reptiles are endangered in this province. It was then that he decided to get to know them in his own way.

Seven years of secret lives

In October 2009, when I met him, when he was a CEGEP student, he got himself a new and more efficient video camera and did the first official shooting of his film. I was impressed by the quality of his footage. He next did university-level studies in cinema at Université de Montréal and surrounded himself with numerous collaborators that would help him in completing his project. He even succeeded in persuading Pierre Verville to do the narration of his film.

Finally, in November 2016, more than seven years after his first shots, Étienne unveiled “Un monde inaperçu” at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. Seven years spent traveling the different regions of Québec in order to immortalize on film the secret lives of our most discreet inhabitants.

This spring the Montréal Biodôme will be showing a shortened version of Un monde inaperçu during the Springtime Awakening event. Étienne Plasse will be on hand for some of the screenings to answer your questions and account for his love of the wood turtle. Think you can make it?

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