I'm writing you right now from my hotel room at the International Airport of Christchurch in New Zealand.
In a few hours, weather permitting, along with other researchers and scientists of the "Programma Nazionale di Ricerche in Antarctica" (PNRA - Italian Antarctic program) we'll take off to reach the South Pole and face a new Antarctic campaign in "Mario Zucchelli Station" (MZS), the first Italian polar base Italian.
During this time I will be working on a research project on the ecology and population genetics of Weddell seals, living for a while in close contact with them by means of a remote field-camp set up right on the pack-ice.
This is not the first time that I will live this experience but, in any case, is always a thrill and a renewed challenge.
Although in this expedition my role is that of scientist and not documentary filmmaker, I have with me - it could not be otherwis !!! - my faithful cinecamera, which will have a not insignificant role in my research. Thanks to her, in fact, I will try to provide an estimate as realistic as possible of the Weddell seal population in the Terra Nova Bay, today almost unknown.
Flying by helicopter along linear transects at constant speed and altitude, I will take up the scattered groups of seals on the ice to be able to then make an accurate count and a large-scale estimate.
So, until next January, I do not think I will be able to properly update the blog, but I will try to let you all get some news.
By the way I apologize for the slowdown already experienced in recent weeks, but the organization of the expedition and the many television commitments did not leave me much time to devote to internet.
From this year, in fact, to the established commitments "Geo & Geo" (RAI Tre) and "The Noah's Ark" (Canale 5 - MEDIASET), also the one with the new edition of "On the slopes of Kilimanjaro", broadcast every Sunday afternoon on RAI Tre, has been added. Some of the many geographical reportages from all over the world that you will see, have been made by me on behalf of EREBUS Productions.
So I'm saying goodbye and it is perhaps the case that I bring forward with wishes for Christmas and a Happy New Year. It is possible that the last 10 days of December I will be sailing on board a Korean research vessel in the Antarctic Ocean...
Summer! Time for vacation and white, sandy beaches !!!
But beware the strong reflective power of the white sand that, as the snow does, will tend to make all other subjects in the frame underexposed. In particular the dark ones.
To obtain a minimum of details even in areas of "low lights", remember to overexpose a little bit the scene, thus offsetting the negative phenomenon produced by the stunning, tropical beach.
Yesterday afternoon, after coming home I turned the television in my kitchen on and I discovered, quite by accident, that "Geo Magazine" (RAI Tre – Italian National Television) was broadcasting a documentary I made a few years ago, entitled "75° Latitude South".
Indeed, what was going on the air was my first documentary produced in Antarctica for EREBUS Productions and with my first underwater images shot under the polar ice cap.
A documentary I have always been proud of and to which my career as fillmmaker owes a lot.
I looked at him a bit surprised and quite interested because it was a long time I did not see it and while the scenes followed one other on the screen, I was always more to think about that this shot was not right, the text in that situation was too descriptive, that cut was little fluid, this transition was inappropriate, my prsence in video was a bit too amateur etc. etc.
In other words, nowadays, with the experience gained in recent years and with a technical background on my shoulders certainly much greater, I would do it in a completely different way...
But then I stopped to ponder a bit and I thought: "If a RAI's major program as "Geo & Geo" , which has an archive of thousands of Italian and international documentaries, decides to air "75° Latitude South!" one more time after almost 5 years after its first airing, probably it is not so bad".
And things are just like that!
This documentary, in fact, albeit sometimes "candid" and a little "naive" from a technical point of view (both in terms of direction, shooting and authorial part), however was able to convey all the emotion and the excitement of a boy who, having always daydreamed to explore the South Pole, finally arrives in Antarctica and has the opportunity to experience a whole range of unique adventures with Weddell seals, emperor penguins, Adelie penguins and even with fish and marine invertebrates that inhabit the ocean depths beneath 3 meters of pack-ice.
This is its real strength. And maybe, adding too many "technical filters" (which today probably I would use...), all this excitement, even if a little childlike, would not be able to jump off the screen.
Clearly this is not to say that we do not have to treat every aspect of the production with the utmost care: in "75° Latitude South" there are very good shots, some – I dare say - amazing and no obvious technical error. Because errors can never be justified.
Instead, I mean to encourage anyone who feels sure of his technical knowledge to fully let himself being involved by the story he is telling with his video camera, without being harnessed by too many conceptual formalisms.
New episodes of my TV feature "The Explorer" are coming of "Noah's Ark", every Sunday at 01:35 PM on Canale 5 (Mediaset, Italian national television) within "The Noah's Ark"..
Yet throughout the 2014 I will have the pleasure and honor to accompany you around the world to discover the most beautiful animals that inhabit the Earth.
Next Sunday - May 18 - I will fly to Australia with my trusty camera and tell a huge colony of silver gulls.
I have just returned from Lapland. That is why I have not been very present on the blog in the last two weeks.
And even though I went there to shoot the images of a documentary that will be aired only next December, I wanted to give you a preview of this experience that has really been beautiful, both in terms of professional and personal enrichment.
First of all, I begin by telling you one thing I am particularly proud of: this documentary (which I am producing for the RAI Tre program "Geo & Geo") tells the "true" story of Santa Claus, one of my biggest myths!
Something I have always wanted to do!
But beyond the affection I have for the paunchy, dressed in red man, the aspect that most I want to highlight in this article is the difficulty that this television challenge presents: in fact, while telling a story which starts from the purest fantasy, this production has the "duty" to keep the slant of a nature documentary and a geographical reportage. Because this is expressly requested by the Production of the program, to match its editorial line.
That is to say my film has to be able to contextually fascinate both for its Christmas suggestions (tied to the magical world of Santa Claus and his elves) and also and above all for his ability to tell the magic and magnificence of the snow-covered taiga, of those wild animals that live in it and of the deep relationship that puts them at the base of the Sami people's culture.
In short, not just a small challenge... Which - I confess – during the writing of the script kept me awake.
Because, of course, due to a whole series of more or less obvious reasons, I absolutely could not use professional actors; but, likewise obviously, there was also a part of "almost-fiction" that I still had to take home.
And so: how to gently mix the talented figurants, dressed as Santa Claus and Elves and their fantastic story in a nature documentary on Lapland?
I have found (or at least I think...) the solution to this complicated production dilemma in a question that I always have asked to myself, since I was a child, every December 25 morning: who was Santa Claus before he started to grow its white beard and wear a red dress? Which kind of life has Santa Claus ever lived?
For me this has been a really fundamental guideline, the decisive one.
By focusing on the purpose of giving the most convincing answer to this question during the process of writing, I put myself in the best conditions to outline a profile of the "young" Santa Claus that, while maintaining some features of uniqueness and exceptionality (he always is Santa Claus, even if still a child!), also corresponded to the paradigmatic one of a small Lapp belonging to an unspecified historical age, but certainly antecedent to the modern days.
A small Lapp who, along with his parents, faces the harshness of the Arctic thanks to the inseparable reindeers and what the forest can offer.
Of course I still had to solve the problem of the origin of the tradition of the gifts delivered to all children in the world on Christmas Eve.
This is why I have introducted into the story two girls, Santa Claus' best friends and playmates in the forest since childhood, the firsts ever to find the mysterious presents out of the house door on the December 25 morning: two small statues carved in wood from Santa Claus himself, when he was just 9 years old.
But the function of these two toys is not limited only to this and even they get to play a much more important narrative function because, ideally, those small, wodden statues take on a role as a fundamental link among all the parts of the story:
In practice, these small statues allow me to make of the winter taiga and of the world of the Lapps the true protagonists of this sweet, Christmas documentary.
The most fascinating part of the shooting has certainly been the one with the beautiful Finnish children, sons of farmers, who have contributed with joy and energy to the film making.
They had never been in front of a camera before, nor I had the chance to know them in advance and "catechize" them. For this reason I think I can say their footage is really nice and tender. And also thanks to this I have had the chance to tell the "true" story of Santa Claus!
Production aspects related to the shooting in the field will be the subject of the next post in the Production section.