Filmmaker Brian Golden Davis showcases his documentary The Million Dollar Duck as a directorial debut. His narrative follows six wildlife artists who seek to win the "Olympics of wildlife art" commonly known as The Federal Duck Stamp.
The Federal Duck Stamp award is given to the artist who paints the best visual image of the duck species/breed chosen for the annual contest. The winner's artwork is then the year's Federal Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp. The duck painting is reproduced as the official stamp similar in appearance (but not in size) to a postage stamp. It is used for hunting licenses and for entrance to any national Wildlife Refuge.
The competition has been around since 1934 with the soul purpose to raise money for wildlife conservation. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife department runs the competition and is the only juried art competition supported by the U.S. Government. Since the contest's conception, the stamp has generated more than $200 billion. Revenues from the stamp have been able to purchase and maintain over 5.3 million acres of waterfowl and wetland habitat in the United States.
The federal government does not provide any prize money for the artwork of the Duck Stamp award but the artists are able to generate lucrative deals from the re-licensing of the stamp image on a variety of items for collectors. Publishing the image alone generates millions for the winning artist. This is how the stamp earned its name--The Million Dollar Duck.
Roughly three-hundred artists enter the contest each year. The final judging of the contest is approximately two very intense days. The panel of five judges use a difficult process to judge and re-judge during the competition. Davis' filming and editing of the process shows the complex job of each judge. Once the judges submit their final selection and a winner is chosen, the victory for the artist lasts a full year of notoriety and financial promise.
Davis had heard about the contest several years ago. It was not until he read Martin J. Smith’s 2013 book “Wild Duck Chase: Inside the Strange and Wonderful World of the Federal Duck Stamp Contest" and felt this was a story that needed to be told. Davis collaborates with author/screenwriter, Martin J. Smith, to visually document on the silver screen a strange philanthropic cause that is making a difference in U.S wildlife conservation.
Davis' documentary follows six artists as they design and paint their entry for the 2013 contest sharing with the film audience the enormous amount of time it takes to find the species of duck in the wild, capture it via photography or film, design, paint and submit the artwork.
Lionsgate President of Worldwide Television & Digital Distribution Jim Packer says, "Poignant, quirky, hilarious and tremendously engaging, 'Million Dollar Duck' is the perfect property to kick off our alliance with documentary films."
Rich Ross, Group President of Discovery Channel, Animal Planer and Science Channel, says, "Showcasing this film brings to light this special program that supports wetlands conservation and aligns with our network's goal to activate people on animal welfare concerned."