‘When we first thought about producing a series on extreme military work, we wanted to enter a military unit and explore its many risks,’ says Robert Lihani, co-owner of Los Angeles-based production house Digital Ranch. ‘The History Channel was very excited about the proposed series, but it wanted to expand into the civilian arena.’
The result is Digital Ranch’s Suicide Missions, a weekly one-hour series about various dangerous and sometimes life-threatening professions. The first installment of the series debuted on The History Channel last year, and its success led to a commission from the network for another 13 episodes, which are currently in production. Digital Ranch plans to begin work on six additional episodes – likely to form part of the series’ third season – upon delivery of the second series this quarter.
Budgeted at US$100,000 to $175,000 per episode, the new Suicide Missions explore such topics as ice truckers – truckers who drive through arctic storms and the frozen Northwest Territories of Canada. Says Lihani , ‘The tundra is rough and remote – so getting from A to B in the shortest distance requires them to drive across ice in these multi ton big rigs.’ Other topics include lifeguards, rescue swimmers and World War II navy combat demolition teams.
The first season of Suicide Missions ventured into the lives of ironworkers who tread narrow steel beams, placed hundreds of feet in the air, to raise skyscrapers and bridges. Also explored were oil well fighters; and Hazmat, members of the hazardous materials response squad responsible for combating industrial disaster, terrorism and environmental destruction.
Digital Ranch was formed in 1993 by Lihane and Robert Kirk to produce documentaries for cable and network broadcasters. Lihane previously produced A&E’s D-Day: The Total Story, and episodes of The History Channel’s History Undercover, In Search of History. Kirk’s credits include The Berlin Airlift: First Battle of the Cold War, Sink The Bismarck and Great Escapes of World WarII, as well as A&E’s Weapons of War and The Real West.