Sunday, July 28, 2013

Stunning wildlife encounters vivify ‘North America’

(Published July 29, PDI-Entertainment)
By Oliver M. Pulumbarit

Traversing the vast continent, the Discovery miniseries “North America” captures rare and stunning footage of wildlife and environmental imagery.

The seven-episode series required the dispatching of several camera crews across North American tundras, forests and deserts, where they discovered unexpected animal behavior and other natural occurrences along the way.

“We wanted a real diversity of habitats,” said Christine “Chris” Weber, Discovery’s VP of development and production for specials, during a teleconference.

“The shows are really divided by habitat, so there’s a show that’s based primarily in the desert, one that’s on the coastline, one that’s on the plains, and one that’s on the mountains. So it was looking for animals that have really adapted to those environments,” she explained.

The “North America” team set out to look for new stories “iconic” to the continent. “We want big animals like bears and bison, but also small animals,” she said. “There are some wonderful stories about spiders, prairie dogs and humming birds!”

Narrated by actor Tom Selleck, “North America” was conceptualized five years ago, Weber revealed. “We do a lot of outstanding coproductions with the BBC, but this one we’re doing on our own, so this is a real big deal for us,” she said.

Weber described the cinematographers as “a hardy bunch of people” because they’re often camping, and have to deal with extreme weather conditions and environments. The size of film crews varies but there are instances when there is just one cameraman.

Weber added: “In natural history, you don’t want to disturb the animals. You’re going to really difficult places. Sometimes it’s just a cameraman or a cameraman and an assistant, or a cameraman and a sound man, but they tend to be very, very small crews.”

It can also get dangerous; the crews were nearly attacked by bears. But another beast was harder to capture on film.

Weber related: “The bison ended up being very difficult because [the crew] wanted to film it ‘in rut,’ and that’s a time when the bison all gather together and the males fight each other … they’re these huge animals that aren’t looking around them when they start fighting. So [that’s] a fun thing … it’s a wonderful little sequence!”

She hopes viewers will also watch unused, valuable footage posted on the Discovery website ( She stressed the importance of the miniseries: “[The most important things are] protecting the habitats of these animals and how remarkable and well-adapted they are to this extreme continent … the land is so spectacular that we want to save it for our children and grandchildren so they can see it, too.”

("North America” airs Tuesday, 8 p.m., on Discovery Channel.)

No comments: