Today Nick’s feature films have multi-million pound budgets backed by some of the biggest names in Hollywood but his first characters were made of a product called Fuzzy Felt and inhabited a world based in his parents’ backgarden. He began making films aged 13, mostly short sketches involving comedy duos such as Walter the Rat and a friendly worm, or Murphy and Bongo, a caveman and a dinosaur. Many filmmakers have had their first experiments in film at a young age but with Nick’s work there is a noticeable continuity between some of the thinking behind the films he made in his teens and what became Wallace & Gromit. His father was the first to note the trademark humour in his short films and encouraged him to go to film school. A real lightbulb moment happened at a film festival where Nick had the idea of combining the kind of humour found in Looney Tunes, Tom & Jerry and Disney cartoons with plasticine animation.
When Amanda took up the Chief Executive role at BAFTA in 2000, the Academy was suffering from lack of interest and lack of funds. Although it was still hosting the annual awards ceremonies that it is best known for, the organisation had gradually lost touch with both the public and much of its own membership. Amanda is widely recognised as having turned BAFTA around. Since the start of her tenure, the prospects for the Academy have increased dramatically. Moving the Film Awards ceremony from March to before the Oscars required a huge amount of work but it now means that the awards are seen as part of the New Year awards season. The charitable functions of the organisation have also increased, going from around four events a month excluding the awards ceremonies to around 250 events a year, most of which are accessible to the public.
Whether it’s a camera suspended from a bicycle wheel, suspended from a wire, scaling a mound of bat droppings or hut in a rainforest set up months in advance to capture the illusive birds of paradise, the efforts involved in producing natural history content are staggering. Given that the reaction of so many viewers to the BBC’s natural history output is “how did they do it?”, Alastair Fothergill is a very appropriate interviewee in this series. The programmes he is best known for, including Frozen Planet and Life in the Freezer, feature both spectacular images of the natural world and feats of filmmaking innovation. Each of Alastair’s major series took several years to complete with teams working across many different parts of the world recording often filming in single locations for many months. In this interview, Alastair discusses both his own career path, which took him from producing student films at Durham to becoming Head of the BBC Natural History Unit, and how his own films are put together.