Wednesday, August 15, 2007
ADAM RAVETCH: "Because they were an animal that could hold me against my will, could knock my head off and suck the very flesh off my bones."
Well sort of. Inuits have reported seeing walruses sucking the flesh off seals and that intrigued Ravetch. He wanted to film the animals underwater to find out more about them, and that led him to polar bears.
ADAM RAVETCH: "We found this parallel story for Arctic Tale by seeing that walrus had a maternal devotion and nurturing process of three years which is very unusual in the seal world and polar bears have that same sort of three year investment. So we follow them and when climate change starting hitting, when the ice starting retreating earlier and returning later, we saw them coming together more."
Don't swim with the walruses...Arctic Tale (Paramount Vantage)
Arctic Tale is aimed squarely at kids with its story of Nanu the polar bear cub and Seela the walrus pup facing the hardships of both nature and global warming.
CLIP "For the next four years Nanu and Seela are driven to this rocky outpost as the sea ice melts earlier and earlier, the increasing warmth has made a demanding world more difficult"
Filming was difficult too. Imagine making a film where your stars are only available two days a month. Then add in the fact that Ravetch had to make a special sleeping bag housing with heating pads to keep his camera running, and that he couldn't shoot in the month of December at all because of 24-hours of darkness.
ADAM RAVETCH: "Nanu and Seela first of all are coposite characters. They really represent the very best experiences we've had with walruses and bears over a ten to fifteen year period but we wanted to tell a dramatic narrative story with characters that people could really connect to."
That meant editing down some 800 hour of footage and making sure that audiences accepted the different animals as the two main characters.
ADAM RAVETCH: "We set out to target a family audience, we wanted to make it accessible to young people, and the main reason for that is the kids really are the next generation... I grew up knowing about nuclear bombs and drop drills and bomb shelters and things like that, and I think this generation needs to be aware of climate change and how that might affect their lives."
CLIP "This is not like any winter mother bear has seen before."
Filming in the arctic is always unpredictable. But Ravetch says he got the best footage when he could get in close to the animals.
Nanu and family in Arctic Tale (Paramount Vantage)
ADAM RAVETCH: "Animals have personalities just like humans and you can tell the ones that are approachable and ones that are not. So with bears you'd get in the water if it was sort of a lazy bear a oop-de-dope-de yogi bear but if it was aggressive we used long poles with cameras on the end and remote systems."
Whether by remote or up close, Ravetch serves up a amazing glimpse of arctic life. Take a shot of narwhals, the unicorns of the sea, jutting their single horns high above the water. Or a pod of beluga whales swimming in a narrow channel.
ADAM RAVETCH: "The narwhal is elusive. You get in the water, you put a fin in the water and boom they're gone. The belugas, you put a fin in the water and one comes then ten then fifty.So they are very curious."
Then there was the time when being stranded on a broken boat led to remarkable footage of a walrus and her baby.
ADAM RAVETCH: "Everything in the arctic you have to multiply by fifteen, it's so difficult to operate but then when you do get something, when you get a little nugget, that's what keeps you coming back because the rewards are so great."
Ravetch plans to go back to the arctic again to continue filming and documenting the changes in arctic life.
Arctic Tale is rated G.
More photos of Adam Ravetch with his new friend at the Polar Bear Plunge.