Making a top-notch nature spectacular
Above: A short-horned chameleon catching prey with its
National Park, Madagascar.
Below: Copper sharks feeding
on sardine shoals off South
By Steve Fisher
The Television series Planet Earth, produced
by the BBC and the Discovery Channel, showed us
we live on a beautiful and incredible planet. Their
new series, Life, introduces us to some of the amazing and fascinating creatures and plants with which
we share planet earth.
“Animals don’t just exist. These are individuals
who have complicated, meaningful lives,” says Mike
Gunton, executive producer of the series for the
BBC, speaking to The Connection by phone from his
london office. “We wanted to get a sense of being in
36 The Costco Connection June 2010
that animal’s world—an immersion in their world
physically and emotionally.”
To help the viewer achieve that experience, 150
mini-expeditions were sent to all corners of the globe
over three and a half years. sixty-nine cameramen
and one camerawoman shot roughly 3,000 hours of
footage that was edited—which took an additional
year—into 11 hours of mesmerizing television.
Most of the filming was performed by two-per-
son teams—a cameraperson and a director. “That’s
our default crew,” explains Gunton. “But when
they’re quite complicated—like when we filmed the
humpbacks’ mating ritual—we were shooting that
from a boat, underwater and from the air in a heli-
copter. You have to have boat captains, safety divers
And then there’s the pre-shoot preparation.
“With a series like this, where you’re trying to
tell quite specific stories about particular challenges,
the pressure is to show people things they’ve not
seen before,” Gunton continues. “We very much go
out there with a very clear storyboard in our heads.
We have to gather the shots and find ourselves in the
situations. over time, we get to know [the animals’]
habits and how they behave, and, in some cases,
earn their trust, and it allows us to get our cameras
in position. sometimes it’s so instantaneous it’s just
one continuous shot; sometimes you shoot a number of different events with the same animals and
you can combine them to make a story.
“one of our rules is you have to be so careful
not to interfere with the animals,” he explains. “if
you do, they won’t behave. They’ll either sit down, as
if saying, ‘i’m sulking,’ or run away. sometimes you