The article you just read was brought to you by a few thousand dedicated readers. Will you join them?

Thanks for coming by The Tyee and reading one of many original articles we’ll post today. Our team works hard to publish in-depth stories on topics that matter on a daily basis. Our motto is: No junk. Just good journalism.

Just as we care about the quality of our reporting, we care about making our stories accessible to all who want to read them and provide a pleasant reading experience. No intrusive ads to distract you. No paywall locking you out of an article you want to read. No clickbait to trick you into reading a sensational article.

There’s a reason why our site is unique and why we don’t have to rely on those tactics — our Tyee Builders program. Tyee Builders are readers who chip in a bit of money each month (or one-time) to our editorial budget. This amazing program allows us to pay our writers fairly, keep our focus on quality over quantity of articles, and provide a pleasant reading experience for those who visit our site.

In the past year, we’ve been able to double our staff team and boost our reporting. We invest all of the revenue we receive into producing more and better journalism. We want to keep growing, but we need your support to do it.

Fewer than 1 in 100 of our average monthly readers are signed up to Tyee Builders. If we reach 1% of our readers signing up to be Tyee Builders, we could continue to grow and do even more.

If you appreciate what The Tyee publishes and want to help us do more, please sign up to be a Tyee Builder today. You pick the amount, and you can cancel any time.

Support our growing independent newsroom and join Tyee Builders today.
Before you click away, we have something to ask you…

Do you value independent journalism that focuses on the issues that matter? Do you think Canada needs more in-depth, fact-based reporting? So do we. If you’d like to be part of the solution, we’d love it if you joined us in working on it.

The Tyee is an independent, paywall-free, reader-funded publication. While many other newsrooms are getting smaller or shutting down altogether, we’re bucking the trend and growing, while still keeping our articles free and open for everyone to read.

The reason why we’re able to grow and do more, and focus on quality reporting, is because our readers support us in doing that. Over 5,000 Tyee readers chip in to fund our newsroom on a monthly basis, and that supports our rockstar team of dedicated journalists.

Join a community of people who are helping to build a better journalism ecosystem. You pick the amount you’d like to contribute on a monthly basis, and you can cancel any time.

Help us make Canadian media better by joining Tyee Builders today.
We value: Our readers.
Our independence. Our region.
The power of real journalism.
We're reader supported.
Get our newsletter free.
Help pay for our reporting.
Arts and Culture

The Ant

Americanface will be right back after this important message...

By Andrew Struthers 6 Jan 2010 | TheTyee.ca

Andrew Struthers is a writer and filmmaker based in Victoria.

While she was helping me shoot The Bear, my friend Sarah suggested ants. Perfect! They're even smaller than spiders.

So we looked around my house for ants. Not a one. We tried Beacon Hill Park. Nada. We hiked all over town. Bupkiss. Finally the writer Sid Tafler phoned to say he'd found a million of them out at Thetis Lake.

Sure enough, there were two huge anthills made from pine needles in the forest behind the lake. We took a bushel of ants and needles back to my place and built a major ant farm between two sheets of glass so I could backlight their tiny tunnels.

I knew little of ants. When I was a kid in Uganda the anthills were made of red mud and were the size of Buicks. One day a year, called the "wedding day", they grew long white wings and blotted out the sky in a massive mating ritual, and the Ugandans packed them into patties and fried them. They tasted sweet, like cheap acidic candy that rained from the sky. I suppose they were packed with protein too. This was the extent of my ant experience.

But Sarah knew all about them from her nerdish tweens. Ant husbandry is quite simple: we fed them fruit and water, and they built an underground metropolis between the sheets of glass.

Three times I had to destroy their city for technical reason; they immediately got to work rebuilding. They even had what looked like a tiny mausoleum where they stacked the corpses of the fallen, although they are so tiny it was hard to tell.

In fact, size was a problem. Ants are one-third the size of spiders. Filming them pushed my Super8mm gear to its technical limits. But they were easy to wrangle, and as with spiders, crows and bears, I soon became enchanted by their tiny tunnel world.

When an ant finds a chunk of food it gets excited and runs around exuding formic acid (that's why they taste sweet). When other ants smell its trail they follow suit, and soon the area swarms with workers. We exploited this by creating a tiny cardboard "run" with a morsel at one end.

First, we placed a worker ant in the run and let it do its thing. Then the run was removed, the actor ant was brought in, and it ran right along the worker ant's trail. This is how we got them to run up to the desk, flee down the hall, etc.

We used a fallen ant for all the seated shots. But after about a month there were suddenly many corpses. Winter was a-comin'. The mausoleum filled up with the dead, and soon only a few stragglers survived. I consoled myself thinking that they would live forever in our footage.

Dave, my producer at MTV, particularly liked the Taxi Driver ending, and sent the clip to the Webby Awards. You're supposed to forward yourself for these awards (which I could never do) and pay $500 just to participate (another thing I could never do), so this was a unique situation.

To my surprise the clip was nominated for Best Experimental Film. I was thrilled to see The Ant on the Webby website alongside Michel Gondry, Al Gore, David Byrne and David Bowie. The awards were held at a swank hotel in New York. But I lost to Isabella Rossellini. Like she needs another award.

Meanwhile, my Sword In The Stone situation called for another critter. I had an idea, but it involved one of the largest mammals on the planet - the manatee.

How was I going to wrangle those?  [Tyee]

Read more: Video

Share this article

The Tyee is supported by readers like you

Join us and grow independent media in Canada

Facts matter. Get The Tyee's in-depth journalism delivered to your inbox for free

LATEST STORIES

The Barometer

Tyee Poll: Are You Preparing for the Next Climate Disaster?

Take this week's poll