Miami Filmmaker Marilu O'lyaryz on Miami Love and Adorable, Endangered Cheetahs

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Goddamn the early 20th century and its irresponsible demand for luxurious fur. Thanks to the old-timey 1%, the cheetah population across Asia and Africa has dwindled down to remarkably low levels.

Among those working to restore those numbers is the Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre in South Africa, a leading research and breeding organization. And working to shine a light on Hoedspruit's efforts is Miami filmmaker Marilu O'lyaryz and her husband, award-winning videographer Brian O'lyaryz.

Together, the cinematic team is hoping to raise $8,000 via a Kickstarter campaign to help fund a cheetah conservation documentary, a film they'll release at no cost to zoos, educators, and conservation groups.

"I've been a filmmaker since I was 15-years-old -- I'm 28 now -- and I've worked for a ton of people," says Marilu. "But it's been my dream since I was a kid to make nature films."

Marilu's work in film industry began in 1999 when she was hired as a production assistant on Any Given Sunday. She dabbled in motion picture science technology, art history, ecology, and biology at Miami-Dade Community College, all the while quenching her thirst for knowledge.

"I took maybe three semesters and became undeclared," she says. "I floated around -- took whatever I thought was interesting -- but never got an official degree. I just wanted knowledge."

In late 2006, an opportunity to join the crew of Ridley Scott's American Gangster sent Marilu to Hollywood. When production wrapped, the 20-something-year-old filmmaker stayed in California working as script-reader for a few studios. By 2010, however, Marilu was ready to come back home.

"I grew up in Miami, went to Kensington Park Elementary School, and always had love for nature. I went to Miami Seaquarium Marine Biology Camp every single year, later worked there... I'm a Floridian."

Unsurprisingly, the inspiration for the cheetah doc struck at Zoo Miami while Marilu and her family fed the giraffes.

"I don't know what happened, but it totally impacted me -- being so close to an animal. I felt that rush, that sense of urgency that this is the year I make [the documentary] happen."

When we spoke with Marilu, $636 had already been raised with 46-days remaining. She seemed confident they'd reach their $8,000 goal.

"Everybody that we've reached out to has been so supportive and helpful," she says. "We even have a couple of celebrities that might be interested, or have expressed interest, at least, in wanting to be involved somehow."

As to why Marilu's so passionate about the project, the 28-year-old documentarian says it's her responsibility.

"Obviously we have situations like what happened with the dinosaurs -- extinction happened because of natural effects. But I think that we still have a social responsibility to fix it when we are the cause."

To donate to the Cheetah Conservation Documentary, visit kickstarter.com. Marilu will also host a fundraiser at Wood Tavern (2531 NW 2nd Ave, Wynwood) on Friday, February 17 at 6 p.m.

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