BBC's Seven Worlds, One Planet's producer Scott Alexander on wildlife storytelling and climate change
Force of nature
Watching a nature documentary can sometimes be an emotional rollercoaster; it's serene and soothing when it follows a pod of humpback whales gliding through the Atlantic Ocean, but anxiety kicks in as soon as herds of wildebeest begin crossing Africa's treacherous Serengeti plains.
Narrated by Sir David Attenborough, BBC's all-new series Seven Worlds, One Planet does just that and so much more. Besides taking audiences on thrilling new journeys to each continent, the series showcases the shocking effects of climate change on a variety of ecosystems. The episode on Antartica, for instance, movingly documents the impact of increased storms on albatross chicks. It's not all doom and gloom, though. Other species such as polar bears are shown adapting to decreased sea ice in Canada with new hunting tactics.
Series producer Scott Alexander shares more about modern wildlife storytelling below.
BBC is renowned for its wildlife programmes, but with that reputation comes a certain level of expectation. How do you continue to push forward wildlife storytelling in a way that's modern and engaging?
We've found new stories, locations, behaviours, and species that's key to the audience. They don't want to see the same things again, so we work really hard to make sure that we get enough new things. We've documented a new behaviour with Dingoes hunting kangaroos that has never been filmed before as well as a new species of spider in Australia that has the most amazing courtship dance.
How would you characterise the scale and challenges involved in this series?
We have been filming and making the show for about four years. We spend a year looking for these new stories before we even filmed anything. We spent two years out and about filming. We've been to over 40 countries and over 90 shoots. We've worked with over a thousand people around the world with cameramen, fixers, and scientists so it's been a big team effort. We've filmed over 2000 hours of footage too.
Wildlife documentation can be unpredictable. Would it be possible to share some interesting anecdotes about the filming experience?
Animals don't read the script. They don't always do what you think they're going to do. That's a real challenge. You obviously go out there with a band idea of what you think is going to happen. The weather quite often can stop you, even just getting to locations. To get to Antarctica, it can take over a week to get to the location and we had to sail some of the roughest seas. When we were there, Antarctica was probably one of the most hostile continents on the planet with storms and ice-cold weather.
Climate change is a pressing issue at the moment. Throughout the production phase, did the crew notice any changes in migration paths or animal behaviour?
We've got several stories that look at the effects of climate change. In Antartica, increased intensity of storms have affect the albatross population. The chicks are getting blown out of their nest. When they get back on their nest, their parents don't recognize them. Another story we filmed was with polar bears in Canada. Global warming means that sea ices are coming later each year and a lot of polar bears rely on the sea ice to hunt. We found a population of polar bears that found a unique hunting tactic that helps them survive these challenging times.
What are some key takeaways from this series?
The key takeaway is, to discover the incredible planet that we live on. The diversity of life that we see is remarkable. From the spectacles of mayflies to the polar bears, we've got such a rich variety of life on this planet. We also need to look after this rich variety of life. We're at a point now where we really need to be aware of how we live and how we use plastic. We've got to take care of this planet.
Have there been any areas around the world where BBC has yet to explore?
There's always somewhere that we haven't been yet. Stories that we haven't yet filmed. There's always something for us to do.
Catch a sneak peek of BBC Earth's latest wildlife series Seven Worlds, One Planet at an outdoor screening on 2 November from 7.30pm at the Supertree Grove in Gardens by the Bay.
Seven Worlds, One Planet premieres on Monday, 4 November 2019, 9.00pm on BBC Earth (StarHub channel 407). Download and watch the series on BBC Player, available as an app on both Apple and Google Play stores, and at www.bbcplayer.com.
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