Ahead of the premiere of Animal Planet’s I Was Prey on Sunday (July 16), realscreen presents an exclusive clip from the series.
Produced by New York-based Hit+Run, the six-part docuseries retells survival stories of people who were attacked by dangerous predators and suddenly found themselves in life or death situations.
“Through emotional survivor interviews and cinematic, experiential storytelling using sound and visual design in a unique way, these cautionary tales show how quickly the serenity of the ocean or the quiet of the wilderness can turn into real-life survival situations and how the will to survive can overcome even the deadliest scenarios,” said Rob Shaftel, founder and executive producer of Hit+Run.
Realscreen interviewed Shaftel ahead of the premiere of I Was Prey to find out more about the series.
What was the genesis for this series?
Animal Planet’s SVP development Kurt Tondorf came to us asking for a “personal ordeal” show. By the end of the week, we had submitted five different ideas and he focused in on this one.
Why do you think there is an appetite for a program like I Was Prey?
In I Was Prey we spend time getting to know the survivors of these attacks and really put the storytelling in their hands. These are authentic stories told by the people who survived extraordinary circumstances.
What challenges did you face with production?
Because we don’t use actors, we had to find survivors of not only gruesome animal attacks, but survivors who were great storytellers. Sometimes, we’d have great stories, but not great storytellers, and the other way around. We needed both to knock it out of the park and thankfully our team was able to deliver.
Can you name two or three elements that you think will make the series appeal to audiences?
Audiences want great, authentic storytelling. In I Was Prey, the storytelling is incredibly engaging and relatable. We don’t use actors and animals but unique visuals and sound design to show the more dramatic moments. The visual style is very cinematic and experiential. It’s a compliment to the storytelling, but certainly, doesn’t overshadow it.
What kinds of techniques or technology did you use?
We put a huge emphasis on sound design. We had editors just focused on editing sound and used an effects library that has been used in large scale feature films, so we could give the audience the most dynamic and accurate audio experience possible – for example, using sounds that are unique to specific animal species.
What’s your favorite moment (or scene or episode) from the series?
There are so many great moments that it’s hard to pick just one. There is a powerful moment when a woman is brutally attacked by a polar bear and a total stranger runs out of his house to try to save her. Unfortunately, this stranger also becomes a victim of the polar bear and is attacked as well. Hours later they meet for the first time in the hospital and it’s a pretty emotional reunion.
Vinnie Kralyevich, the original show runner of the series, passed away suddenly in the middle of production. What did Vinnie mean to you and your team?
Vinnie was a great person and he was an incredibly accomplished producer, having won two Primetime Emmys when he owned his own production company, KPI. Vinnie was a mentor to everyone in our office and to this day we still speak of him often and miss him dearly.
What does the series mean for Hit+Run?
It’s our first foray into this type of storytelling and using sound and visual design, and our third series to premiere since launching a little over a year ago. We have been very fortunate in our first year to have developed for and done business with Animal Planet, Red Bull TV, Complex Networks, History, Nat Geo and Oxygen. Recently, we signed an overall co-production deal with former Red Bull Media House executive Brian Lavin and his newly launched production company Bee Media that specializes in science and cultural-focused formats.
I Was Prey is executive produced by Shaftel, Kralyevich and co-executive produced by David Bresenham. For Animal Planet, Lisa Lucas is executive producer and Patrick Keegan is supervising producer.
I Was Prey airs on Animal Planet on July 16 at 10 p.m. ET/PT.