Tigers, Chimps & Wildscreen nominations

I’m finally back at home after a very busy start to the year – alternating shoots on the two BBC1 Dynasties films I’m working on has meant that I haven’t had much time to fully decompress. I now have a few weeks at home – the first time in a while – and actually get to spend most of the summer holidays with my family which is unusual, I’m hoping they can cope.

The last tiger shoot was pretty spectacular. In the past it’s often been the case that, for the first few days – or weeks – of a shoot we wouldn’t have any meaningful time with the tiger family, and the opportunities to film the kind of behavioural events you need to tell a story have been few and far between. On the last shoot we found the tigers (mother and her four, year-old, cubs) within 20 minutes on the first day, and for the next five weeks we saw them almost every day.

With four big cubs to feed the tigress was hunting regularly and we saw, and filmed, some fantastic behaviour – the tigress continues to surprise us, often doing things that aren’t in the tiger rule book proving that there are as many way to ‘be a tiger’ as their are tigers. After a year I feel like I’ve learned her patterns and idiosyncrasies as well as any individual animal I’ve filmed.

The three male cubs - now a year old, and a handful

The three male cubs – now a year old, and a handful

The cubs are large, gorgeous and very boisterous, the three male cubs are particularly big whereas the single female is smaller but significantly more independant – she’ll leave her mother first, and may well prove to be a real challenge to her mother in the future.

Second breakfast time, with the full tiger filming entourage

Second breakfast time, with the full tiger filming entourage


My most recent shoot – for the Dynasties Chimpanzee film was also very productive. There have been major twists and turns in the fortunes of the key characters within the group over the last six months which is going to make for a fantastic story. The struggle for power within the group has diminished for the moment, and things seem fairly stable, but we filmed some incredible behaviour on the last shoot that will really show just how unique and fascinating this group of chimps is.

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As always the chimp shoots are tough, and this was no exception. The temperature had dropped to the high 30’sC rather than the mid 40’sC, but as the rains are now starting the humidity was incredibly oppressive. Thickening vegetation and biblical swarms of sweat bees made life fairly unpleasant at times. I also took a couple of bee stings to the face one morning (the chimps raid them for honey and then run, I’m carrying 50lbs of kit and am slightly less light on my feet) which left me with one eye swollen shut and looking like the Elephant Man for a few days.

As always with film shoots it’s the people as much as the wildlife that make them special, in addition to the wonderful Michelle I had my dear friend Matt Drake with me on this shoot – the first time we’ve managed to hang out together for a very long time

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The BBC’s Life Story series – for which I spent the best part of two years filming – has just been nominated for ‘Best Cinematography’ and ‘Best Series’ at the 2016 Windscreen Festival, the natural history equivalent of the Oscars, we’re up against very stiff competition but lovely to get a nomination and a real testament to everyone involved in working so hard to make the films.