Saturday, January 10, 2009

Zombies at the Gate, Wild Animal Productions

Without a doubt the last breakout television show that changed an an entire industry was Survivor created 1997. It's brilliant methodology and reality production model made waves through every television genre including wild animal productions.

1997 was a long time ago. For the most part the Survivor model has been "beaten to death" and today limp, myopic versions of reality wildlife television infest our programming like rotting carbon copy zombies.

Is it too much to ask for fresh new programming?

The trick is to look not into next year's choices but the next 5 years. Wild animal productions are at the mercy of a few titanic distribution channels like Discovery Networks. These networks enjoy an almost complete domination of the playing field since the major networks, hobbled by loss of advertising revenue and eyeballs ceded the entire genre to them years ago.

I had a conversation with a production guy a while ago who told me "If I pitched a show called Bite Me, it would get sold". Not surprisingly a few weeks later a similar show concept aired on Shark Week.

We can do better. The breakout of Survivor back in 1997 was, in hindsight, visionary. Where will we be 5 years from now? What will distribution look like? Who will control content? What are the tools of the trade that will "enable" inexpensive, quality, break out animal programming?

These are the questions for the few production visionaries of our time. Whoever gets the answers to these questions right will dominate the next decade of wild animal productions.

The hope for an entire industry is that change comes soon.

Patric Douglas CEO

Birch Aquarium: Island of the Great White Shark full house rave reviews

From filmmaker Richard Theiss:

On Tuesday, January 6th, the Birch Aquarium at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in beautiful La Jolla, CA hosted a screening of Island of the Great White Shark. At the conclusion of the film I had the opportunity to discuss the film with the standing room only audience. The pressing issue of conservation and the value eco-tourism was discussed along with the importance of understanding the shark's role in maintaining a balanced marine ecology.

My sincere thanks to the Birch Aquarium and its staff for promoting and managing what turned out to be a very successful evening (a special thanks to Lydia Cobb, Marketing Manager and Jessica Crawford, Communications Specialist). After a series of media interviews arranged by the Aquarium, the day of the event arrived and I was treated to a behind-the-scenes tour of the Aquarium and had a chance to sit down and discuss shark research with several of Scripps top shark research grad students. It was very encouraging to hear about their efforts to learn more about these amazing animals so that we can take the proper steps to ensure their survival.

The Birch Aquarium plays a unique and vital role as a conduit through which the Scripps Institution of Oceanography can enlighten the public to many of the important marine issues being studied by this world renowned research organization - from climate change to marine wildlife conservation. The institution was established in 1903 and became a part of the University of California, San Diego a few years later. With a fleet of research vessels and state-of-the-art research facilities, the institution is one of the leaders in its field and has produced generations of accomplished research scientists and educators across a wide range of oceanographic disciplines.

Again, my thanks to the Birch Aquarium. If you are traveling in the San Diego area, carve out a few hours and stop by for a visit. It will be time well spent.