Sophie Lanfear “jumped at the chance” to direct an episode of “Our Planet” because of its central message. The eight-part Netflix documentary series takes audiences around the world to see the wonders of nature, with David Attenborough as your guide. But at the same time it shows how climate change could destroy those wonders. “I want to make more conservation-heavy films if I can,” Lanfear explains, so this was a perfect job for her. Watch our exclusive video interview with Lanfear above.
As a veteran nature documentarian with directing and producing credits that include “Life Story” and “The Hunt,” Lanfear is always thinking about how to “raise the bar” in the medium. “We’re searching for new stories, fresh angles,” she says. After getting an assignment “you then have to construct your narrative, and through that process work out what is the central story or thesis of the film.”
In this case, Lanfear directed the “Frozen Worlds” episode, which examines how polar bears, penguins, walruses and seals are in danger of losing their habitat. After watching every other documentary possible on the subject, she found that most films “didn’t really differentiate between land ice and sea ice, and sea ice is a fascinating habitat.”
Underneath land ice, there’s this “upside down Serengeti world where you have algae growing on the ice that feeds krill and other zooplankton and crustaceans. Then that feeds all the other animals like penguins, whales, seals, polar bears, fish. So the whole cycle of the poles is all fundamentally part of the sea ice process. I thought, that’s a really interesting narrative.”
So she set out to make a film about how this helps sustain life in the region, and what happens when it’s “being lost, which it is in the Arctic at an alarming rate in recent years.”
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