With today’s competitive schedules, wildlife films have been reinvented in order to attract younger audiences. One name cited by producers as a leading light in this respect is Animal Planet International commissioning editor Mark Wild.
Films recently commissioned by Wild tackle familiar-sounding themes, but they do so with style and ambition. One example on view at mip this year was Great Savannah Race (which Wild also exec produced with partners Tele Images), a film about the great African wildebeest migration. Shot entirely in HD, it was produced over a period of 18 months, with satellite technology used to capture the migration’s full majesty. The drama of the event was enhanced by the decision to focus on the daily struggles of 15 animals earmarked by zoologists as most likely to survive.
Another recent commission – Meerkat Manor – saw Animal Planet International, Wild and producer Oxford Scientific Films fuse natural history with docusoap techniques. First seen in September 2005, Manor follows the everyday life, from squabbles to love affairs, of a family of meerkats in the Kalahari Desert.
Wild has also backed projects that promote the challenges of global conservation. In partnership with the WWF, API produced Planet Action, an eco-reality series that takes on environmental crises by getting an international team of amateurs to tackle six different conservation projects. Credit is also due to Peach Gibson, acting GM and VP, creative and development, and exec producer on all of the above.
One producer familiar with Wild says the CE has worked out how to be creative on limited budgets. ‘His great strength is that he understands and trusts producers – and because of that he wins their loyalty. He’s cooperative and enjoys collaborating on ideas, which gives his output a more innovative and creative feel than most.’