With a small production staff, you perform triage all the time – hold off on taping the Chronicle host segment while we get the studio ready for a live “Perspectives”; or, set aside that wildlife documentary while we rush the Simpson doc through for national PBS.
So when it comes to the long-delayed “Migrations” documentary: that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it. I had other stuff to do. Really.
And if anybody says, “Wait a minute, weren’t you working on that two years ago?”, well, let’s change the name – we’ll call it “Crossroads” this time – and hope they don’t make the connection.
“Migrations” – er, “Crossroads” – is headed into edit. That will take a month or so, because there’s some original music and fun animations that have to blend into the footage we shot. And I can say, after a week of diving back into the footage, that it should turn out to be a pretty cool show. Here are a few reasons why:
- The subject (I suppose you might be wondering): the longest wildlife migration in the country is right here in our backyard – pronghorn that travel from Grand Teton National Park through the Gros Ventre Mountains and all the way down to the I-80 corridor
- The footage: this is easy in Wyoming, where stunning landscapes are everywhere, from the sage-covered plains to the snow-capped peaks. But we took it a notch higher in this one by hiring a helicopter and swooping after the antelope in the mountains between Pinedale and Jackson Hole
- The approach: at some point we realized that we didn’t want to make another solemn wildlife documentary, with biologists talking science and wildlife advocates tearing up – oh, that’s all in there, but we’ve added the humans who migrate as well, from the oil field worker to the wealthy Second-homer, and it enlarges the story, making it quite different from the usual fare
Now begins the hard work. The producer (that’s me) turns a pile of paper (that’s the script) over to the editor (that’s Thompson Coles), and essentially goes fishing for awhile. It’s a brilliant script, of course, and if it doesn’t result in a brilliant documentary, well, that’s someone else’s fault (I was off fishing, after all).
In all seriousness, this next phase is one of the hardest parts of assembling a documentary. We’ll find shots that don’t work, narration that doesn’t flow, an image missing that we need to cover an edited interview. Sometime in the next month or two, a documentary will emerge. And if you ask me how we got there, I’ll repeat the words of Geoffrey Rush, the actor, playing a Elizabethan theater producer explaining with a smiling shrug how a play gets to the stage in the wonderful movie “Shakespeare in Love” – “I don’t know. It’s a mystery.”