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Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation

Ben Masters

Filmmaker and Conservationist

Masters on the Pedernales River.

Photographs by Jeff Wilson

Meet Ben Masters

Texas filmmaker Ben Masters’ back story couldn’t be more Texan. Born and raised in Amarillo, with his family’s ranch in McLean and the rugged expanses of the Panhandle as his playground, Texas’ longstanding traditions of hunting, fishing, farming, and ranching weren’t just pastimes, but a way of life for Ben. Here he developed an early appreciation and lifelong curiosity for the natural world around him.

This deep-rooted connection led Ben to study wildlife biology at Texas A&M, where he relied on the lessons of his youth to then lead pack trips on horseback and guide hunts to pay his way through college. Upon graduating in 2012, he had an epiphany.

“I recognized that there was a lot of wildlife research being done, but not a lot being done with the research,” said Ben. “So, instead of choosing a more traditional career path, I went into filmmaking.” But first, Ben signed on for one of Texas’ toughest occupations—roughnecking on the drilling rigs of West Texas—to earn enough money for a camera, tripod, and lenses. He founded Fin & Fur Films that same year, and he embarked on an adventure of a lifetime that also launched his filmmaking career.

Photo courtesy Unbranded The Film

Unbranded follows Ben, three friends, and 16 mustangs on an epic 3,000-mile journey from Mexico to Canada to tell the tale of the more than 50,000 wild horses and burros in government captivity. The film won numerous awards, including the Mountainfilm 2015 Audience Award Winner, and Ben’s path as a filmmaker was cemented. Fin & Fur Films has since produced multiple short films and two feature-length films, and Ben’s work has been featured on Netflix, AppleTV, and PBS Nature, with wide theatrical releases and international television broadcasts.

“I had the good fortune to meet some talented folks along the way who guided my path and taught me everything they knew,” said Ben. “I’ve had the amazing experience of making movies now for ten years.”

Ben’s growing portfolio has brought him face-to-face with mountain lions, ocelots, black bears, bats, and more, and he isn’t afraid to tackle the more controversial topics.

“Shying away from difficult topics is foolish because the longer you shy away from hard topics, typically, the harder they are to solve.”

– Ben Masters

With every film, Ben’s goal is to advocate for wildlife and inspire boots-on-the-ground conservation that directly benefits the wild things and wild places we all hold dear.

His acclaimed feature length films, The River and the Wall  and Deep in the Heart, laid bare some of the conservation dilemmas faced in Texas and beyond. And Ben’s latest project, a film produced in partnership with the North American Non-Lead Partnership, spotlights the impact of lead ammo on wildlife and the landscape. He is actively raising funds to produce Deep in The Heart II – A Texas River Story. He is also involved with Texans for Mountain Lions, a coalition dedicated to the conservation of mountain lions, with a mountain lion film on the horizon.

In 2023, he was tapped by H-E-B to produce the Our Texas, Our Future Film Series, a five-part docuseries that highlights stories of dedicated Texans and organizations conserving wildlife habitat, native species, and parks across the state.

“Working with a Texas giant like H-E-B to tell our state’s wildlife and conservation stories is a Texas wildlife filmmaker’s dream come true,” said Ben. The films are available online and they also aired statewide on PBS. H-E-B worked with PBS Learning Media to create free learning guides for the films, introducing Texas conservation lessons to a rising new generation of Texans.

Through his filmmaking adventures, Ben has gained a renewed appreciation for the role private landowners play in wildlife conservation in a state that is 95% private land.

“The story of private land stewardship is not one that is recognized enough by the general public. We should all appreciate the private landowners in Texas who spend their time and resources to have healthy grasslands, healthy springs, and healthy creeks. That’s where our water comes from and where our wildlife lives.”

As Ben continues down his filmmaking path, he also continues to delight in the natural world around him.

“What I love about filming wildlife are the little discoveries you make along the way. When we storyboard out a sequence in a film, we always have an idea of what we think we’re going to see, but nature is unscripted. You don’t really know until you set out to get the footage and see it with your own eyes. We get to see how the natural world works.”

Learn more about Ben Masters’ latest projects with Fin and Fur Films.

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