Simon King on BBC1 'Wild Isles' Documentary
Over the past five years of my life, I have been working on the natural history television series ‘Wild Isles’ currently airing on BBC1 and iPlayer. I’ve been involved with the production from the very seed of its development as both the series consultant and also as one of the principal camera operators on the project. It’s been a wonderful experience. For many, many years I had hoped to be able to cover the natural events that occur in Britain and Ireland with the same level of time and resource normally reserved for the big international blue-chip series I have worked on in the past such as Blue Planet and Planet Earth. Thanks to the inexhaustible passion and dogged perseverance of the series’ producer, Alastair Fothergill, who managed to raise the initial budget with the BBC and then break new ground by having the RSPB and WWF together with the Open University come on board as co-producers, the budget was raised that would facilitate the commitment required for such an ambitious project. I conducted my first shoot for the project back in the autumn of 2018 and have been effectively working on it ever since alongside a team of very talented camera operators and production team.
I know that Alastair thought it would be a simpler task than any of the large scale international productions he had been responsible for to date (and those included Blue Planet, Planet Earth, The Hunt and many more). He couldn’t have been more wrong. The number of days filming for the series of five programmes commissioned by the BBC ended up being almost double that of many of the comparable international series. We were having to navigate the unpredictable weather of course, which we expected, but also a global pandemic, which no one expected!
Officially the project was produced over 3 years but for those of us who were involved at the get go it’s taken considerably longer. All in all, it has not been an easy series to produce but it has been a truly wonderful project to be involved in.
Having the incomparable Sir David Attenborough agree to both narrate and present the series was a wonderful boost to the production and I know that he felt very personally it was a subject close to his heart, having never presented a landmark series on British Wildlife before.
From our earliest discussions about the series, the entire production team were very keen to ensure that as well as celebrating the wonders of the wild world across Britain and Ireland, we also conveyed the clear message that the natural world in these Isles is beleaguered and that we all need to act now to prevent further catastrophe. The messages conveyed by David in each of the programmes clearly emphasise this but we were delighted when the RSPB and WWF together with the National Trust announced that they would run a campaign to inform the public of the actions we can and must all make in order to preserve what little wilderness we have left in Britain and Ireland and to restore the landscape to ensure a healthy natural world into the future.
We were also thrilled that the above organisations and the Open University supported the production of a series of topic led films that would clearly illustrate the problems faced by the natural world and the solutions we have at our disposal to address these problems. The BBC too stepped up in giving as least one of these productions the opportunity to stream on iPlayer.
To find out more about these projects and how you can help Save Our Wild Isles, go to https://www.saveourwildisles.org.uk/