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New Book Reveals What Some Nature Documentaries Really Do To Get Their Money Shots

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Pssst. Wanna hear a secret? You know all those wildlife documentaries that you gobble up just like movie theater candy? Think Grizzly Man, Winged Migration, Arctic Tale and yes, even The Cove. Well, there’s a pretty good chance that they’re not as ‘authentic’ as they might seem, at least according to seasoned environmental filmmaker Chris Palmer.

The 64 year old, who acknowledges that nature is in fact rather boring (particularly if you’re waiting for extended periods of time for something film-worthy to happen), has just released a textbook confessional of sorts that spills the beans on the manufactured techniques that he and his industry cohorts have employed throughout the years to create their final, awe-inspiring movies.

Entitled Shooting in the Wild, Palmer shares quite a laundry list of doozies that might make at least some of the die-hard documentary fans out there feel, well, betrayed. Among his surprising revelations, would you have guessed that:

  • when you see a predator noshing on its purported prey (such as a deer or other creature), it’s most likely a tame or semi-domesticated bear/lion/etc. that is actually searching for sweets planted surreptitiously within the body of its ‘victim’?
  • the IMAX film Wolves actually documents captive creatures from Animals of Montana Inc. on a manufactured set rather than legitimate Yukon wolves living out in the wilderness?
  • a scorpion mating ritual was captured on film by David Attenborough when he enlisted the help of Styrofoam clouds and a painted sunset?
  • the sound of water dripping from paws is almost always accomplished back in the studio, well after wildlife footage is shot, by splashing H20 in a bowl with a really sensitive microphone on hand to capture every single precious sound?
  • Arctic Tale, which chronicles the lives of a single polar bear and her cubs, actually follows various bears throughout the years (since it is apparently impossible to follow one family for an extended period of time)?
  • the rodent-like Lemmings leaping into a watery grave off a very tall cliff in the 1958 Disney film White Wilderness were actually murderously pushed by members of the film crew?
  • IMAX’s Whales used an invented tale of the long journey that a humpback mother and her baby took from Hawaii to Alaska, splicing various segments of whale footage into one final cohesive albeit inauthentic story? They also lured whales into a bay by playing prerecorded whale calls!

Does this time-honored strategy of pulling the wool over documentary fans’ eyes make you feel the slightest bit hoodwinked, or are you just there for the overall entertainment factor?

Via Washington Post

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