As Planet Earth II returned to our screens everybody was fascinated with ‘horror’ footage where baby iguanas were seen fleeing a terrifying army of racer snakes. Thousands of viewers were deeply impressed watching this dramatic footage in great BBC documentary hosted by David Attenborough.
One by one little iguanas chased down and asphyxiated by wily racer snakes as they attempted to make their way to the sea, leaving just one left to poke its eyes above ground and survey the devastation like a shellshocked soldier.
The little iguana eventually made a break for it, darting away from the predators like Matt Damon or possibly notoriously cinematic sprinter Tom Cruise.
When Matthew Meech, who edited episode one, was asked if he took any cues from cinema for the scene, he said he picked up few things from movies directed by Hitchcock, Christopher Nolan, Scorsese Spielberg etc.
“Sutting wildlife films are like cutting silent movies, it’s all about action/reaction. Also timing, be it for comedy or thrills. The narration can provide some of this, but you don’t want to make the pictures just wallpaper for the commentary. The shots need to speak for themselves. I really like to find a genre that fits with a sequence if I can, as it’s a subliminal way to ease people into a new story. On Africa (another Attenborough BBC documentary) I cut a sequence with fighting giraffes in the style of a Western, in The Hunt we did a wild dog hunt like a car chase in a Bourne film.”
This episode has become so viral that was scored as the most dramatic scene in Interstellar and got around 7 million views on the BBC Facebook page. Even though everybody was happy for the poor iguana you could show some sympathy for the snakes as well, as it was the best feeding opportunity they had all year.
Unfortunately you can’t pre-plan scenes with nature like you would normally do with drama, you definitely have a tremendous amount of footage to work with.
“The big difference between dramas and docs are that everything is pre-planned with dramas; when you are filming animals you never know what you’ll get,” Meech added. “So a lot of the story structure happens in the edit working with the director. Elizabeth White”Often the camera crews have been out in a place for weeks and shot maybe 20 hours of footage for a five-minute sequence, so it’s a case of meticulously going through the footage to find the key moments.”
Planet Earth II is already preparing the second episode, but this time it is going to be on mountain-dwelling animals.