WATCH: 'Seven Worlds, One Planet' a movie-like new BBC Earth wildlife series.
Boring and unrelatable wildlife shows is a thing of the past.
Today, wildlife filmmakers are getting up close and personal with nature. And they are shooting with high-definition cameras to give it a movie feel.
Dr Johnny Keeling is most 'au fait' with the changes. He’s been doing this for many years, wearing different hats as a director, producer and cinematographer, along the way.
On the genesis of this series, which has an unintentional "Game of Thrones"-esque title, he shared: “I worked on 'Planet Earth' (season 1 and 2), which was a habitat-based series. We wanted to do something different for this one so we broke it down into continents.
"Because the continents are real places. If you are looking at 'Planet Earth' one, episode one was on jungles and another episode on desserts and things, which are obviously real places, but they are less relatable to the audiences.
"It’s just something happening some distance away. But I wanted to have one episode in Africa. One episode in South America. They are relatable. They are real places and real people. And we all come from a continent, we all belong to a continent. So I felt it was something that would resonate with the audience. Also, you could include great variety within each episode.”
And that’s exactly what they did in the series.
“In the South America episode, for example, we have stories about the Andes, the snowy peaks, we have stories about the Amazon jungle. We have stories about some of the freshwater areas, so you have got a real visual and tonal variety in each episode,” he added.
“But also, there are always brilliant new stories to tell for these series for the new species of wildlife, the new behaviours. I wanted to make sure we were telling a story that had relevance for today. One that has conservation in it, too. So we do have one or two stories about climate change. We have stories about deforestation. We have stories about animals making a comeback.”
He said: “The timing of it feels right because in the last 12 months people have become very, very aware of the challenges faced by the natural world. We’ve really moved on with our storytelling. I was just talking to someone actually and they said, it doesn’t feel like a wildlife film. It feels like a soap or a drama or a movie. It is absolutely right.”
“One is, we are definitely filming the animal characters much closer. You can see their face. You can see expressions in some of their eyes sometimes and you really feel like you are with that character and you can really fall in love with that character. And that feels more like a drama rather than an arms-length documentary.”
The seven episodes are divided into: Antarctica, South America, Asia, Australia, Europe, North America and Africa. In total, they filmed in 41 countries, did 92 shoots with 1794 days spent filming.
Keeling added: “The sequence is longer now. We have a sequence in South America of a puma hunting A guanaco, which is like this llama/camel type of animal in the Andes. That is a 10 minute sequence and you really feel for the puma mother. She’s got to bring up three youngsters in this harsh landscape and she has to somehow find an animal that is maybe three times her size.”
Aside from heroic stories such as that, there are other fascinating ones, too.
He shared: “We also tell a story about whales. Whales were hunted 200 years ago this year and killed at that time. We had no idea. So we killed one and a half million whales in Antarctica and then we stopped that in 1986.
And now in the last 30 to 40 years, they are making an extraordinary comeback. All of those are embedded into the sequences.”
There's nothing preachy about how the facts and information is presented in this show. If anything, it takes the viewer on a compelling journey, especially with a doyen like Sir David Attenborough as the narrator.
"Seven Worlds, One Planet" airs on BBC Earth (DStv channel 184) on Sunday, 29 March at 4pm.