Serengeti director on season 2’s catastrophic event: The animals’ world is turned upside down


  • Serengeti season 2 begins on Sunday 14 November on BBC Earth (DStv 184) at 16:10, with Lupita Nyong’o again because the narrator for 5 new episodes.
  • We meet once more with Bakari, the jilted baboon from the primary season combating household life, whereas Kali – the “exiled single mother” lioness – makes a tough determination.
  • Emmy-winning wildlife filmmaker John Downer, the collection director and government producer of Serengeti, shares behind-the-scenes secrets and techniques.

A dry river mattress is turned right into a raging torrent of water that elephants nonetheless try and cross when an elephant calf out of the blue loses its footing and is swept downriver. Its determined mom goes after him, and simply as she reaches him, he is swept away additional and additional. Can she save him? 

These and different heartstopping scenes are a part of the hanging second season of Serengeti beginning on Sunday 14 November on BBC Earth (DStv 184) at 16:10, with Lupita Nyong’o again because the narrator for 5 new episodes.

DStv subscribers meet once more with Bakari, the jilted baboon from the primary season combating household life, whereas Kali – the “exiled single mother” lioness – makes a tough determination. There are additionally new animal stars getting into the story as a household of leopards arrive with their cubs.

Serengeti’s second season marks the launch of BBC Earth’s “Eco Season” of programming, aiming to supply viewers with a deeper understanding and appreciation of the world we reside in.

Channel24 sat down with the Emmy-winning wildlife filmmaker John Downer, the collection director and government producer of Serengeti, who shares behind-the-scenes insights from the making of the spectacular new season.

Lupita Nyong’o says within the narration of the second season that it is “the following chapter” within the Serengeti journey. How is the second season completely different from the primary, and the way does it propel the story ahead?

John Downer: We proceed lots of the tales that we have began within the earlier season, and we’re following a number of the similar characters. We’re following Bakari, we’re following Kali, however we have lots of new ones as effectively. We’re meshing the 2. We choose up on a number of the previous tales, and so they go in instructions that you’d by no means ever count on. We’re additionally introducing another characters, and you will find out extra about them. There are persevering with surprises.

The wonderful factor about Serengeti is it by no means tells the identical story twice. We’re pushed by what the animals do, and the animals are completely unpredictable. So the story is unpredictable, and it is frequently refreshing.

The scene with the newborn elephant – swept away, and the mom goes after it. As filmmakers, you do not intervene as observers, however I’m questioning because the producer and director how you’re feeling if you witness these scenes?

John Downer: Well, there are heartbreaking issues that you’re moved by, because the viewers is moved by. We, as filmmakers, cannot intervene – that is the golden rule. If you begin doing that, you are messing with the ecosystem, you must let issues play out, and fairly often, there’s nothing you are able to do anyway.

But if you’re filming, you get so connected to those animals. It is a really emotional time as a filmmaker after I witness these items. So it is upsetting. We embrace these scenes into the drama as a result of that is what drama is, and that is the fact of those animals’ lives, however we additionally make certain we have now the enjoyable aspect and the humorous aspect and the opposite issues that make the Serengeti such a particular place.

There’s a bent to suppose that nature is all about aggression and combating and killing, and we have tried to get below the pores and skin of those animals and present that more often than not, they’re simply getting on with life. They’re having a beautiful time, and people surprising occasions are uncommon, however they’re a part of the fact of life on the market. It’s robust. We try to put a steadiness throughout the storylines to just be sure you see either side.

With the Serengeti cinematography, you actually carry the viewer camera-to-eye with the animals, whether or not it is a fowl in flight or a tall giraffe’s head –  it means the digicam is going proper to their eye-level. What did the manufacturing study from the primary season to enhance on filming methods to seize these astounding scenes?

John Downer: When I made Serengeti the primary time, it was the primary time that I had ever felt that I had at my disposal all of the equipment that I wanted to make that – to get into the lives of those animals and to get below their pores and skin and to movie stuff from their perspective, of their world.

What you see – however do not take into consideration hopefully – is the methods that go into it. We usually have three crews, generally altogether – they’re filming from completely different angles – however they’ve all bought the fundamental kits, however they’ve additionally bought an entire array of different filming methods. Very typically an occasion is being lined on a number of cameras with a number of function – whether or not it is the distant cam viewpoints or whether or not it is drones or whether or not it is monitoring automobiles with stabilising cameras.

All of that comes collectively to create that Serengeti expertise. You should not see it if you view it as a result of all you have to be feeling is that you just’re proper in there, and that is what the intention is. What’s so fantastic about Serengeti as a collection is the methods develop — they simply get higher.

I had what I needed and a number of the stuff I did not know if I used to be ever going to get. And then you definitely begin saying, “Wow, we might do that, and we might try this”. Suddenly it turns into even – I would not say simpler – however the ambition turns into larger to be in there with them as a result of we have now the methods to try this. And additionally, the expertise is rising among the many crews, and so they’re considering “oh, let’s do that” as they’re filming. It’s an evolving factor.

It’s so hanging to me that you just movie whereas it rains closely, and also you talked about the drone pictures. I’m questioning: There’s not a drop of rain on the digicam lens. You do not discover it as a viewer till you cease to consider what you are seeing. Can you give away the key to those darkish arts in your magical filmmaking, or is it a commerce secret?

John Downer: Well, there is no actual secret. We do get water on the lens and all that we do. But we’re fairly good at defending it, and we additionally set out, saying – usually individuals do not movie within the wet season, for that very cause.

So we went there figuring out that we have been going to must. The wet season might be wonderful as a result of animals must do various things. What we did not know is  it will be the most important wet season ever – it went on and on and on. Huge floods and every little thing. 

We have been ready for it, and we had the digicam methods to do it. That does not imply we by no means get splashes on lenses; , we do. [laughs]. But we have now methods to wash them in a short time. It’s all geared in direction of capturing occasions in any climate circumstances. 

The animals are anthropomorphised, so viewers get to narrate to the varied animals, and I’m questioning who offers them their names and the way are the names chosen?

John Downer: Well, they’re anthropomorphised, however that is the entire level. The factor is, we’re not that separate from them, and I’ve all the time hated that phrase as a result of it sort of takes people out of the animal world. We are animals. We’re all a part of this unimaginable ecosystem.

We’re attempting to offer an equality between “us” and “them”. One of the methods to empathise and to get near them is to offer them names. The names are based mostly on Swahili phrases as a result of that is the language of that geographical space – spoken by people. But it offers a sure authenticity to that place. They’re based mostly both on the names of the animals themselves, like Duma is a cheetah, Tembo is an elephant – and generally it is about their character.

There’s all the time a cause behind the title. You get nearer to a topic you probably have one thing to name it. Bakari turns into character as a result of he is Bakari. If he is only a baboon, it is not the identical. 

Serengeti exhibits the altering of the seasons, however as I watched this new season, it additionally alludes to, if you happen to pay attention intently, the animals’ setting that is altering. I’m questioning whether or not this denotes mankind encroaching; I’m considering local weather change, poaching. What’s possibly the subliminal message of Serengeti?

John Downer: What we got down to do is to make individuals empathise and take care of these animals. We take viewers into this world and relate to them that you’d to people, and also you then have an equality with these animals, and you’ve got an funding in them.

When you hear about local weather change, it is sort of a giant summary factor. What we have now in Serengeti’s second season is an occasion that was completely attributable to local weather change, which is essentially the most rain that I’ve ever seen in that place, and it turned flooded. The animals have to deal with local weather change writ giant, as they’re attempting to deal with their world being turned upside down by this catastrophic occasion that is being attributable to people that they don’t have any consciousness of.

That was fairly a giant turning level. It was so actual, and it actually added to the understanding of these movies are which is to make individuals care about these animals and see the larger image and the place we slot in with them. That was then writ giant by way of what occurred. 

It’s very highly effective, and I’m happy that you just picked up on that underlying factor – we’re not banging a drum and saying, “this is conservation, and this is a human catastrophe”, but it surely’s there. It is actuality what you are seeing in these occasions. 

Season 2 of Serengeti is on BBC Earth (DStv 184) on Sundays at 16:10, beginning on 14 November.