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Behind-The-Scenes With Barack Obama And Producers Of Netflix’s Amazing New ‘Our Great National Parks’

Go wild! Viewer pleasure is rising for the April thirteenth premiere of Our Great National Parks — lately reviewed in Forbes: Barack Obama Narrates A Gorgeous New Netflix Series. So well-edited is the ambitiously conceived, five-part sequence about our planet’s most protected pure locations that this follow-up article was put into movement to additional unearth much more illuminating behind-the-scenes particulars. After the trailer, beneath, are highlights of my interview with govt producer James Honeyborne (of the Emmy Award-winning Blue Planet II) and sequence producer Sophie Todd.

Making Mojo with Barack Obama

James Honeyborne: “I really looked forward to the commentary recording sessions. The President was great fun to work with and had done a very thorough preparation for each film. He clearly has a natural mastery of his voice, but I could see that he also put a lot into his delivery, so good that he quickly became a bit of a one-take wonder.”

Sophie Todd: “I first met the President when I was directing the shoot in Hawaii. While we were filming, he told me that part of the reason this place was so very special to him was that around the outcroppings, there is a lookout a mile down and that’s where his mother’s and grandmother’s ashes are scattered. Whenever he comes home to Hawaii, he goes there to pay them a visit and that when the waves wash up over the rocks he knows that they are greeting him. I didn’t expect him to share such a personal anecdote and the crew were moved by him sharing that with us.”

Savoring Favorite Obama Quotes

Honeyborne: “I like the thought at the end of the first episode, when he said: ‘…each of us is part of this precious natural world. Each breath we take. Each glass of water we drink. So many of the medical and scientific discoveries we make. The fabric of wild space connects our lives in so many ways. It’s up to us to protect it, to care for it, and to pass on these wild spaces to the next generation.’ ”

Todd: “It was in the beginning of the first episode, when we were filming in Hawaii and he spoke about his personal connection to Hanauma Bay. It was wonderful to see how relaxed he was there, how profound his connection to nature is and to gain an insight into who he is. He said: ‘My mom used to tell me that when she was pregnant, she’d come and sit and listen to the ocean and look at the waves lapping over the coral reefs. She used to joke that that was the reason I was so calm: I had spent a lot of time here even before I arrived in the world.’ ”

Appreciating Humor

Honeyborne: “Yep, we laughed a lot in the commentary recordings. The President was in Washington, D.C., and we were in Bristol [England], but we could see he was enjoying himself, especially in the lighter, more humorous sequences, like when the hippos ‘Hang Ten’.”

Todd: “He’s got a great sense of humor. When we were filming in Yellowstone, he spoke to a group of children on a school trip to the park. He had them in hysterics as he told them about his first visit there as a child, when he ran up to a bison! Never a good idea — it nearly gave his mom a heart attack!”

Celebrating Meaningful Takeaways

Honeyborne: “We were thrilled to work with the President because this subject area means so much to him. His attachment to the series feels so authentic, given his track-record in conservation. I also feel that he’s the right person to recognize the importance of wilderness to us all. Ultimately, this is a series that’s about our relationship with nature. It explores the state of our relationship with the natural world — and that’s why he’s the perfect choice of narrator.”

Todd: “President Obama protected more natural habitat than any other U.S. president in history, so it seemed a very natural fit for us to work together in celebrating wilderness and wildlife by framing a series around national parks.”

Making Emotional Connections

Honeyborne: “The parks we have chosen are iconic, stunning, breathtaking even. They spark our curiosity and wonder and hopefully inspire us. But in terms of that emotional connection, Gunung Leuser National Park in Indonesia is truly memorable. It’s the last forest in Asia to be home to elephants, rhinos, tigers and orangutans — utterly unique in a world that has lost so much nature. To me, it’s a poignant reminder of the impact we’ve had on the natural world, but also a symbol for hope, and a reminder of how much we still have to learn about the world’s remaining wilderness. In fact, our crew even discovered what’s believed to be a new species of hammerhead worm, which makes an entertaining character appearance in this film.”

Todd: “Every park we feature is wonderful. But if I had to pick one it would be Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda, which is home to the endangered mountain gorillas we see in episode one. Following the civil war and genocide that tore the country apart, as it healed Rwanda prioritized conservation. The park is a shining example of recovery and what can be achieved. The local community had a huge part in this success.”

Meeting Challenges Galore

Honeyborne: “Filming black rhinos fighting at their night-time watering hole, as well as a guanaco evading a predatory puma — they both presented great challenges for our film crews. But I’m particularly thrilled that we eventually managed to capture scenes of hippos body surfing in the Atlantic Ocean. As a filming challenge, that’s a tough one. I should know, we’ve tried before. And to finally reveal how the hippos use the waves to travel up and down the beaches in search of the best grazing was a blast. Surely one of the surprising sights in all the ocean, especially as hippos aren’t great swimmers. They usually tip-toe around underwater, so catching the waves makes sense and is a wonderful sight to behold.”

Todd: “One of the toughest was how to capture the Decken’s Sifaka (lemurs) epic journey across the rocky interior of Tsingy de Bemaraha National Park in Madagascar. The pinnacles are razor sharp with huge gaping chasms. The lemurs can leap across them, but we certainly can’t! It was a huge challenge for the film crew, who had to hike every day carrying a drone that allowed us to capture the incredible family as they search for food.”

Dealing with COVID-19 Concerns

Honeyborne: “We had already planned to work with local crews wherever possible and that meant when the world stopped traveling we were able to keep filming. And over time, what had first felt disastrous became a win-win for us and our teams. Our local crews responded magnificently, keeping us filming across all our parks despite the pandemic. The series benefited from their authentic, local perspective. Plus, we were able to keep our air miles down, so it was a win for the environment, too.”

Todd: “Covid meant we had to be creative in finding filming solutions. We’d only been filming for a few months when it hit. In Patagonia, our assistant producer, René Araneda, who is Chilean, took the lead with our Chilean film crew, and our UK-based producer/director Emma Brennand switched to directing remotely from home, sharing storyboards to guide the team on the ground, reviewing the footage and running the edit.”

Mastering Key Film Moments

Honeyborne: “Local knowledge is so important and the series was well supported by scientists, rangers, guides and NGOs across our locations. New technology helps. Low light cameras that allow you to film rhinos at night (in color). Camera traps that can be left on remote mountain tops in search of an elusive Sumatran tiger or underwater cameras that allow you to stake-out the hippo/fish spa for weeks on end. But if you want to film monkeys that ride deer or witness the amazing, tool-making abilities of orangutans, you can’t beat good old-fashioned field craft and patience.”

Todd: “It’s a combination of time, patience and new technology. We can’t capture such wonderful scenes if we disturb the wildlife, so for every sequence we plan out the best possible way to work around that species. We are helped by guidance from scientists studying the animals; park rangers and NGOs working in those areas.”

A Netflix Documentary Series, Our Great National Parks is a creation of Wild Space Productions in affiliation with Higher Ground Productions (based by Barack and Michelle Obama) and Freeborne Media. To study extra about how safeguarding nature advantages people, animals and local weather well being, go to WildForAll.org. To share data and pictures of your favourite wild areas, use the social hashtag #WildForAll.

In line with Netflix’s science-based local weather dedication, Our Great National Parks, like many different Netflix-branded tasks, limits air journey as a lot as potential by hiring native crews and goals for carbon impartial standing by way of the acquisition of high-quality carbon credit. For extra background: sustainability.netflix.com.

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