A nature programme worked on during lockdown by former UWE Bristol student Lindsey Parietti has become the most watched documentary on Apple TV+. Narrated by Sir David Attenborough, The Year Earth Changed looks at nature’s response to the global lockdown. Lindsey, who graduated with a master's degree in wildlife filmmaking in 2017, worked as assistant producer on the programme as part of BBC Studios Natural History Unit (NHU).
Work began in March 2020 when they came up with the original idea, inspired by evidence that members of the public were paying closer attention to birdsong last spring and filming unusual sightings of wild animals.
The team then carried out research for the programme. “Our role was to reach out to about 160 scientific researchers and 100 camera operators to find out what was happening with wildlife populations in their backyards and what kind of animal behaviour they were noticing.”
Given the pandemic, it was assumed initially some of the filming would be coordinated remotely but that by the second half of 2020, members of the team would go on location to direct and organise the film shoots.
“But that’s not how it played out,” said Lindsey, “as we did all 20 shoots remotely. I am proud that we didn’t take any international flights, which shows it’s possible to make our films with less of a carbon footprint.
“However setting up and directing film shoots, with daily check-in calls to the camera operators was a very challenging way to work,” she added.
Since it has begun streaming on Apple+ from 16 April, the film – which lasts just under 50 minutes – has reached the top spot for most watched documentary.
“I think people really responded so much to nature during a difficult year, and maybe this programme gave them hope. Also having David Attenborough narrating added so much,” said Lindsey.
The Year Earth Changed includes striking footage of penguins crossing a deserted city road, documents the success of turtle hatchlings able to start their lives unhindered by beachgoers, and a leopard at a South African tourist lodge.
“The leopard walked right in front of the camera and that was crazy that he was so close, as these are elusive animals that usually you spend weeks trying to film on location,” said Lindsey.
In 2018, Lindsey won a student BAFTA for her film Blood Island.
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