Performing authenticity: the making-of documentary in wildlife film's blue-chip renaissance.

Published online
07 Aug 2022
Content type
Journal article
Journal title
People and Nature

Louson, E.
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Making-of documentaries (MODs) for recent blue-chip wildlife films are prominently featured as trailers, bonus features on DVD releases and websites, and televised segments within wildlife broadcasts. Prior research shows how MODs within mainstream cinema promote certain filmmakers as auteurs and as exceptional creative professionals. Earlier wildlife film MODs demonstrated filmmakers' mastery of nature and a licence to offer scientific knowledge, as well as many staging practices employed in wildlife filmmaking; this content moved to MODs as nature grew more pristine in wildlife films' main programming. Recent wildlife film MODs still celebrate filmmakers' professionalism and emphasize the remoteness of film locations, filmmakers' exceptional practical skills and scientific expertise under harsh conditions, and the technologies responsible for spectacular visuals. In the MOD for Chimpanzee (2012), these features work together to portray this wildlife species as challenging to locate and film in nature, accessible only by filmmakers with the right skills and technologies. I argue that current blue-chip wildlife MODs are a performance of authentic, non-interventionist filmmaking. Recent MODs increase viewers' behind-the-scenes access to filming conditions but have not disclosed certain staging practices such as the use of composite animal characters. Despite their prominence as marketing and peripheral material, MODs remain segregated from wildlife films' main programming. They contribute to a blue-chip construction of nature as pristine and not inclusive of human beings, even though their expeditionary narratives show more complex human-nature interactions.

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