“Everything you see is real, but it is constructed in a very dramatic way. It takes a serialised approach”


Distributor BBC Worldwide
Producers XIX Entertainment; John Downer Productions
Length 6 x 60 minutes
Broadcast BBC1 (UK)

The BBC is bringing drama to natural history in its latest factual offering, which ventures into the heart of Africa’s Serengeti with a groundbreaking approach.

The six-parter marks the first natural history foray for Simon Fuller’s indie XIX Entertainment, which partnered with Spy In The Wild’s John Downer Productions after Fuller returned from safari with the idea of structuring a natural history programme in the style of a human drama.

“Simon felt this was a story that needed to be told, and the approach mirrored where my film-making was taking me after 30 years of natural history,” says John Downer.

“Everything you see is real, but it is constructed in a very dramatic way,” he adds, noting that Serengeti takes a “serialised approach” in which some storylines carry over to subsequent episodes.

The team filmed with cutting-edge cameras in a private reserve in the heart of the Serengeti for two years to get the animals used to the team.

“Our cameras became invisible and we began to capture behaviour that was beyond my wildest dreams,” says Downer. “The show is cinematographic in scale, but it is also incredibly intimate. You see the connections among the animals and you get a very different feeling of what the Serengeti is.”

With five storylines per episode, audiences will see one event told from the perspectives of many different animals – partly achieved by hiring drama writers.

The producer, whose credits include BBC1’s Snow Bears and Snow Chick: A Penguin’s Tale, says Serengeti is the type of natural history programme that can reach new audiences – thanks in part to Fuller’s participation in the show.

“Simon has a real instinct for the zeitgeist,” he says. “It’s that bigger vision for event television that can really move people XIX Entertainment is also producing an English-language version of Skins-style Norwegian format Skam for Facebook.

BBC Worldwide’s other natural history titles in Cannes include five-part BBC, BBC America and France Télévisions co-pro Dynasty, which is fronted by David Attenborough and features day-by-day coverage of individual animals, including lions, chimpanzees, tigers and emperor penguins.

Also on the slate is three-part BBC and PBS series Big Cats, which puts larger felines in the spotlight .