Posts Tagged ‘landmark’

State of Play : a Dialogue

by Brian Leith, Executive Producer

and Dale Templar, Series Producer


Well, 8 months to go now until we deliver the series. For many programmes, and most producers, this might seem like an eternity… But for us it seems like the day after tomorrow…

Correction….It actually feels like tomorrow!
When you start working on what we in TV land call a “landmark series”, a three year production cycle does feel like an eternity.  For the first year it feels as if you are pushing a snowball up to the top of a hill.  Year two and it starts rolling down, gradually building momentum and growing in size and now in year three the snowball is huge and rolling at speed with us all trying to keep it in control as it hurtles towards the finishing post! (I’ve used this metaphor because there are huge flakes of snow falling here in Cardiff and we’ve been working on the first edits of the Arctic episode).  Over to you, Brian..

It feels like the Arctic here in Bristol too… it’s started snowing here as well, and the forecast is for heavy (ie traffic-stopping) snow today and tomorrow all over SW England and South Wales (several of us on the HP team were brought up in North America and we find it mildly pathetic, if amusing, how little snow seems to bring this mighty empire to its knees… in Montreal when I was a boy we’d get 6 inches of snow overnight and the snowploughs would be out clearing the roads before the sun rose. True!)

Gosh - apologies for that diversion!
Back to post-production, please, Dale: when do our edits start?

We go into edit in just a few weeks.  Each hour of television takes ten or eleven weeks to cut.  That includes the 10 minute “Making of”, where you get to see some of what goes on behind the cameras.  After that we have several weeks of final post production or finishing which includes dubbing, mixing and voice-over plus the grade where the HD pictures really come to life.  Many people get involved during this process, don’t they, Brian …..?.

Ahem, cough splutter, yes indeed…
(Gee thanks Dale).  Don’t get me wrong: we do need fresh eyes - to keep us pointing in the right direction, to make sure we’re making the programmes as strong as they can be.  And it is easy to get so close to a programme that you can’t see the wood for the trees - so regular and constructive editorial feedback and guidance from well-informed senior execs is crucial…

But the reality is that it can get difficult.  What if BBC wants a slightly different editorial angle from our other international co-production partners (who may have contributed just as much funding)?  Who should we obey?  What if someone new steps in to run the channel and they’re not as keen on the series as the previous controller?  It has been known for new controllers to ‘kill the babies’ of previous incumbents – like male lions taking over a pride – in order to give their own offspring a better chance.

The truth is that the final approach to landing the finished series can be fraught with delays, disagreements and tension.

Luckily this won’t happen on Human Planet.  We have total faith in all our esteemed editorial leaders from all our co-production partners.  Don’t we, Dale?

Totally!!  Got to go now - I’ve got a literal and metaphorical snowball to push!

Next week we have to present the series - a 20-minute Brian-and-Dale show - to the new Chief Creative Director of BBC Vision, then to BBC Worldwide’s Showcase - a three day jamboree of all the BBC’s potential international co-production partners - to try and rustle up as much interest as we can in the series.

These landmark series can be huge international best-sellers - Planet Earth is still selling like hotcakes as DVDs around the world - so the pressure’s on! It’s a weird time on one of these big series: on the surface we’re trying to exude calm certainty that it’s all going to be wonderful - the best series since sliced bread!  and meanwhile we’re frantically pedalling like mad below the water-line to make sure it all comes together on time and on budget…

Welcome to Human Planet

Dale Templar, Series Producer

Dale Templar, Series Producer

by Dale Templar, Series Producer

So what is Human Planet? Human Planet is a new 8×50 minute landmark documentary series being made by BBC Television. The series celebrates the human species and looks at our relationship with the natural world by showing the remarkable ways we have adapted to life in every environment on earth. It is due to be transmitted in the UK in the New Year 2011 and will be rolled out across the world soon after.

The production team is split across two sites, one in Bristol and one in Cardiff.

In BBC Bristol we are part of the world renowned Natural History Unit. You may have heard of us, but if not, you’ve probably watched some of our programmes. Many have been presented or narrated by Sir David Attenborough, like Planet Earth and Blue Planet. Most recently we’ve just finished Nature’s Great Events which our own executive producer, Brian Leith, worked on.

Timothy Allen, BBC Human Planet : It is forbidden to reproduce this image without written permission : Simien Mountains, Cliff farmers and Gelada Ba

BBC Human Planet : Simien Mountains

BBC Wales, based in Cardiff, are probably best known in the UK right now for producing high end popular dramas like Doctor Who. Torchwood, another sci-fi doc that comes out of Cardiff, is also an HD production and Human Planet will be using the same excellent post-production facilities. The factual department is best known for its ground-breaking anthropology documentary series Tribe.

In total we have a core team of 20 phenomenally talented programme makers, who come with a wide range of skills and experiences. Working with us are some of the best wildlife and documentary camera crews and fixers in the world. For the first time we have a dedicated stills photographer, Timothy Allen, who will be posting his own Human Planet blog every week at

BBC Human Planet : Suri Tribe (Surma)  of South West Ethiopia :

BBC Human Planet : Suri stick fight

The series started in full production in the summer of 2008 and we will be shooting over 70 stories in some of the most remote locations on earth in around 40 different countries.

Each episode will focus on one single environment: desert, jungles, arctic, grasslands, rivers, mountains, oceans and urban. Many of the stories are extremely dramatic and will show how we have successfully adapted and survived in the most challenging places on the planet.

As from next week each member of the team will be blogging their stories from the Human Planet. I will keep you updated on where everyone is and give you general news about the series.

Currently, we have teams that have just come back from the remote southern region of Mongolia, filming for the desert episode. On location are the Jungles and Mountains team who are in the Central African Republic and Nepal. I’ll let you work out which team is where!

BBC Human Planet : Arctic Dawn

BBC Human Planet : Arctic Dawn

That’s it for now …enjoy the photos and the sneak preview from the series. See the link if you’d like to read what Timothy Allen’s been up to and don’t forget to explore the new BBC Earth site too. Look out for the regular Friday posting from the Human Planet team, with fascinating stories and tales from both our many locations and from the office.

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