Interview with producer Paul Williams on The Green Planet

"Telling a story in a single shot draws the viewer deeper and deeper into the narrative, so the audience is going to get sucked in and carried on this journey into the plant world, transitioning people from real time into plant time." — Paul Williams, Producer

Series starts on BBC One: Sunday, 9 January, 2022

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We’re really beginning to understand the importance of plants to our biodiversity, aren’t we?

Yes, absolutely. The Tropical Worlds episode is very much about how plants are at the foundation of everything. They’re interconnected. Every animal completely depends on plants. But we also talk about the fragility of these natural environments, the fragility of the rainforests, and how plants are very much part of that.

What’s the balance in your programmes? How do you tackle that aspect of the storytelling?

Most natural history programmes, when they delve into the problems of the tropical world, will touch on deforestation, which of course is a significant. What I wanted to do is to go a bit deeper and reveal something that people don’t know much about, by focusing on the problem of forest fragmentation.

Over the past 100 years half of the tropical rainforest in the world has disappeared, and half of the remaining tropical rainforest still exists, but only as disconnected fragments. Scientists have discovered that these forest fragments essentially have a half-life, and over several decades the number of species within a forest fragment decreases by half. So if we want to preserve these fragments, all we have to do is stick the fragments back together.

To demonstrate how to do this we took Sir David out to a place in Costa Rica that he visited 30 years ago, which was then a scientific research station on the edge of some grassland. We took him to the exact spot where he stood, which is now a rainforest because the scientists have connected the fragments back together, allowing the forest to regrow.

Have you come across any other stories that stand out for you?

The Rafflesia is an interesting story. Known as the corpse flower, it’s the world’s biggest flower, is bright red and has warty skin, and smells like rotting flesh. It’s a parasite, so it has no leaves and no stem, it’s just one giant, parasitic bud about the size of a basketball, and when open is about a metre across. None had been filmed by anyone for 25 years, since the original The Private Life Of Plants, because not only is it extremely rare, but the only place you can see it is in the rain forest in Borneo.

Your episodes particularly use innovative techniques, don’t they?

In the tropical episode we filmed a shot that I had been wanting to film for years, but that I never thought we would have the technology to do. It was the inspiration for building a robotic piece of kit that we call the Triffid, after the John Wyndham novel Day Of The Triffids. We were able to use it to film a long sequence of leaf-cutter ants in Costa Rica, carrying leaves from the tree all the way down the trunk and along the ground to a fungus underground. To get it, we had to programme the Triffid to capture images from 7,000 different camera positions. The leafcutter ant is the pinnacle of what we were able to achieve with that kind of style. No one else, apart from this series, is doing anything like this, as far as I’m aware.

Telling a story in a single shot draws the viewer deeper and deeper into the narrative, so the audience is going to get sucked in and carried on this journey into the plant world, transitioning people from real time into plant time.

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Series starts on BBC One: Sunday, 9 January, 2022

Source BBC One

January 4, 2022 6:00am ET by BBC One  

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