April 20, 2012 in Features

‘Arctic’ crew’s dedication paid off

Susan King Los Angeles Times
 

LOS ANGELES – Polar bears tend to be camera shy, which caused problems for the filmmakers of “To the Arctic,” opening today.

The 40-minute 3-D documentary examines extreme temperature changes in the Arctic, which has led to the permanent ice pack melting quickly and endangering the existence of animals such as polar bears, caribou, seals, walruses and birds.

Narrated by Meryl Streep, “To the Arctic” is the latest movie from two-time Oscar-nominated filmmaker Greg MacGillivray (“The Living Sea,” “Dolphins”) and his producer son, Shaun MacGillivray (“Grand Canyon Adventure: River at Risk”).

The production lasted four years, including eight months on location in the Arctic – but for the first six trips, the filmmakers were unable to get any usable footage of polar bear mothers and cubs, the animals most closely associated with the Arctic.

“When it comes to wildlife filmmaking, you can have the best script in the world but you don’t know what you are going to get until you are there,” said Shaun MacGillivray. “We got incredible footage of caribou herds, good stories with other animals like the walrus and great aerial photography.”

Then, on their last trip in 2010, the crew spent a month on a 130-foot ice breaker, the MS Havsel, in and around the seas of Svalbard, Norway. That is where they found their stars.

“We were with them for five days straight,” Shaun MacGillivray said. “We got that incredible sense of both being emotionally connected to them, but also what it was like for a single mom polar bear to be raising two cubs in an environment that gets harder every day.”


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