TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – A University of South Florida student is bringing her award-winning documentary on Florida state parks to the Gasparilla International Film Festival this weekend.

Alexis Yahre created “Nature’s Secrets: Florida State Parks” to show the world the untapped potential the parks have for eco-tourism and education in the community.

Yahre has been passionate about making films for a long time, starting back to when she was around 12 years old in middle school. She knew she wanted to take her ideas to the next level, but also knew there would be few opportunities to do so, due to the pandemic.

She took the camera into her own hands and headed out to the state parks where she grew up.

“During the pandemic I wanted to focus on something that made people happy. You know? We’ve heard so many negative stories in the news recently and I didn’t want to add to that,” Yahre said. “And on top of it, this is an issue with conservation, with eco-tourism, things that effect everyone. So it made a lot of sense to me to pick this topic.” 

(Courtesy: Alexis Yahre)

With little budget and admittedly little experience, Yahre captured places like Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park and Hillsborough River State Park, filming their beauty and speaking with experts about their importance.

“I think what makes this important for the world and for Florida is the fact that internationally, we need attention on these issues. Because if tourists come to Florida, we want them to respect our wildlife,” Yahre said. “At a national level, there’s funding, there’s policy changes we could be making that people don’t realize, so we need to spread the word and share this film around. Even though it takes a positive stance, there’s a lot more deeper issues we can take with it.” 

Yahre said she enjoyed going to Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park especially, because there were so many animals there that she didn’t expect. She also enjoyed Nature’s Classroom, having a teaching background of her own and the fact she is currently working on a PhD in education.

(Courtesy: Alexis Yahre)

“I actually have some footage of me petting a deer and those deer were rehab animals, so they were more friendly, they were used to people. I don’t think anywhere else you can get that kind of up-close experience with an animal like that and it made me appreciate how beautiful they are and how gentle they are as well,” she said.

“Nature’s Secrets: Florida State Parks” won “Best Young Director” at the Cannes World Film Festival and was nominated for “Best Student Film.”

The Gasparilla International Film Festival this weekend is the first theatrical release of Yahre’s film, with more screenings to be held across the country this year.

“I submitted to Tampa because to me that made the most sense for my premiere because it’s born here. That’s where I’m from and I just love Tampa and I love sharing all my unique experiences with everyone,” she explained. “And that’s really why I chose Gasparilla.”

Her film is not just for tourists and out-of-towners. Yahre said she’s aiming for Floridians to see the documentary.

“My film was created with people from Florida in mind and so when you go to watch it, I wanted to give people a fresh perspective that have been here for years. So when you go, you can see places you’ve never been before highlighted and all these secrets you would’ve never expected,” she said.

Yahre’s premiere will be March 13 at 3:45 p.m. at the University of Tampa theater.

Tickets for the film festival can be purchased online. More about Yahre, her work and projects in the future can be found on her own website.