Behind The Scenes: Notes From The Filmmaker
Award-winning filmmaker David Conover is the founder of Compass Light Productions, and the executive producer and director of CuriosityStream’s Big Picture Earth. He was born and raised in a New England family with strong ties to the sea and a tradition of active storytelling. Now in its 29th year, Compass Light has a commitment to content revealing the wonder of the outdoors and the ocean, and has produced over 600 award-winning productions that have aired around the world.
November, 2014. Ecstatic that Elizabeth Hendricks North has included us in her worldwide search for filmmakers to produce original content for CuriosityStream. Her EVP of Production & Acquisition Steve Burns was a big supporter of my series Sunrise Earth when he was at Discovery Communications with founder and visionary John Hendricks. Now… what kind of original global series can we make for curious people like us, some of whom have those 4K big picture televisions? Hmm. World class curiosity.
January, 2015. Got it! “A mindful and patient exploration of the big picture of time and the human role on the planet, from the wild to the structured back to the wild.” We’ll visit beautiful wild places, but also ancient structures like Stonehenge, the Acropolis, the Nabataean lost city of Petra in Jordan. These old structures of civilization were built with purpose. Today –suspended between endurance and ruin – they are deep stories in their own right. Could we create a distinctive approach for viewers to engage each story? Let’s call the series “The Big Picture.”
February, 2015. Our creative game plan is not there yet. Elizabeth and Steve love the word “Earth” and wonder how we can include that word – and all it represents. I’m an easy sell on that word. They probably don’t know how many “Earths” already populate my life. So now we have a real and final series title, “Big Picture Earth!”
[photo: earth flag outside the Compass Light Production Barn in Maine]
March, 2015. For our pilot, we head to a sea island in Georgia, home of a wild 17-mile-long beach and an abandoned castle-like structure named Dungeness, built by America’s mighty steel baron Andrew Carnegie.
Our very innovative series’ director of photography (DP) David Wright uses one of his gadgets for executing my key directive for Big Picture Earth…”the camera will NEVER stop moving.” I love imagining I’m a sea crow stepping aside the sea foam that comes in with each wave. Walt Whitman wrote about this in a poem that inspires my work. [photo: shooting opening scene of episode “Cumberland Island”]
June, 2015. Now well into series production, the sun is rising and we’re taking shelter from the heat in a secret canyon. Surprise (not really) there’s a city here. We’ve found Petra, the lost desert city of the Nabataeans.
Aerial maestro Dave Halton fires up his custom unmanned aerial rig, and like an aged swallow who once flew over the camel caravans carrying frankincense to the Roman Empire, we begin to soar – slowly. Note DP David Wright’s latest overhead gyro-stabilizer he borrowed from Ghostbusters. [photo: shooting a scene of episode “Nabataean Lost Kingdom of Petra”]
Last stop in Jordan is Wadi Rum. I think you will recognize this evocative landscape if you were the one who chose to quietly paint hunting scenes on the cliff walls a few thousand years ago… or if you read the Bedouin exploits of T.E. Lawrence… or if you’ve just watched Matt Damon in “The Martian.” [photo shooting a scene of episode “Desert of Wadi Rum”]
Late June, 2015. Closer to home, we reach even further back in time – well before our human role – to roam high on a ridge where a megalosaurus-type dinosaur walked 160 million years ago. Far below and up a nearby canyon, more cliff paintings. These are horses, which are viewable only on foot and reachable only at the speed of a patient walk. I believe that a slow walk can access more of the big picture of our Earth than the fastest jet… (but after this year circling our earth, my crew might say that walking has its limits too!) Back in our Compass Light barn in Maine, four editors begin to create the distinctive “time zone” for each episode. Make yourself a cup of tea and prepare to slow down your hectic life. And one last idea from CuriosityStream’s Steve Burns – give viewers a choice – a rich natural soundtrack on its own, or the natural soundtrack with music. This is one of the exclusive beauties of video on demand!
My team and I are proud to add our contribution to the growing and spectacular lineup of programming on CuriosityStream. There’s much to explore in this world!
[crew photo from location of episode “Colorado Canyons of Time,” with CuriosityStream’s Elizabeth Hendricks North in her other role as local dinosaur track guide.]
Big Picture Earth can be seen exclusively on CuriosityStream. All 20 episodes are available now, in 4K as well as HD and standard definition. Big Picture Earth leads CuriosityStream’s debut of Ultra HD 4K streaming content. 50 titles are available now, with 50 more in production. CuriosityStream is on demand, always ad-free, and available worldwide.