Q&A with Elizabeth White, Series Producer
PHOTO: A Polar bear rests on the ice in the high Arctic (BBC Studios)
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Frozen Planet II is on BBC One and iPlayer from Sunday, 11 September at 8pm.
What is the overarching narrative of Frozen Planet II?
I was an Assistant Producer and a director on the original Frozen Planet.
That series was very much about life in the polar regions and it was a seasonal story. Frozen Planet II is a broader remit. We are looking at anywhere that is significantly cold for multiple months of the year. This is what scientists call the cryosphere – any region of the planet where water is locked up as ice and snow.
The premise of this series is to showcase a variety of these beautiful, cold worlds, and show the challenges that animals face, or overcome, in order to live in what can seem to us quite remote and hostile worlds. In each episode there are also stories where the animals’ challenge is the fact that their world is melting away. In that sense we've done a more contemporary take than the original series.
What’s the structure of Frozen Planet II?
The first episode sets up these worlds and the fact that they're perhaps more varied than you might imagine. It also explains why these regions are cold.
The following four episodes are all very different. Frozen Ocean focuses on the Arctic Ocean, the shape-shifting world of ice and water and all life that either lives on or under that sea ice. Frozen Peaks is about mountains and cold regions created by altitude rather than latitude. Frozen South is effectively the story of Antarctica as a continent starting on the sub-Antarctic islands, and then down all around the fringes of the continent and then finally to reveal life hiding under the ice. Frozen Lands is about the northern lands - the tundra and the seasonal forests. And the last episode - Our Frozen Planet – is effectively a science film. In this episode all the stories are told through scientists or indigenous people who live or work in these cold regions.
So is there room for hope?
The last film is a very powerful watch. I think that anybody who knows anything about these regions will probably say the situation is bleak in many ways. But what we've tried to set up from the beginning is that these people are striving to turn things around before it's too late. And in the final messages of this series we are trying to inject a sense of hope. We've got scientists talking about the fact that at our fingertips we do have the technology to be using renewables, to be transforming society, and that there is the will. The will is greater now than ever. What's so powerful is that it comes from the scientists themselves. These are people who literally, day by day, see the ice disappearing but they still have hope that we can do something about this.
What is Sir David Attenborough’s role in that final film?
We open the series with David on camera facing an enormous image of the planet on screen talking about satellite imagery from space, and how some of these regions are so remote that this is the only way to really see them. Then in the last episode we feature him in the studio watching the film. It's a little bit like you’re sitting next to David watching the film with him or almost like an intimate view of the series through his eyes.
What is the scale of Frozen Planet II?
By the time the series airs we will have been in production for at least four and a half years. We’d been in production for nearly two years when the pandemic struck, which was in one way quite lucky, because we'd done a lot of our filming beforehand. After the pandemic hit, a lot of the Canadian Arctic and Antarctic bases basically shut down.
It's a lot of filming but we have tried to be incredibly strategic because one of the things which was really important for us was to try and work as sustainably as we could. We’ve actually tried to reduce the number of shoots we've done, tried to work with local teams wherever we could, or effectively piggyback so we could film one story in one place and immediately film something nearby.
Elizabeth White – Series Producer, Frozen Planet II
Elizabeth White is the Series Producer of Frozen Planet II. A Bafta and Emmy award-winning producer and director with 18 years’ experience with the BBC Natural History Unit. She has a passion for cold places, having started life as a research biologist working in polar and marine environments. She has a strong creative vision and proven track record of producing cinematic content with intimate storytelling. Her film, Islands, for the series Planet Earth II, drew the highest audience figures for a Natural History show for 15 years. Its sequence, Snakes v Iguanas, became an internet sensation and won the publicly voted ‘TV moment of the year’. Elizabeth has worked across a range of BBC output: from presenter-led shows for the strand Wild, to landmark blue-chip productions such as The Great British Year, and the original Frozen Planet.
Source BBC One
September 7, 2022 5:00am ET by BBC One