Humboldt - Epic Explorer
Scene from our docu-drama with Timmi Trinks as Humboldt (right)
If you click on the photo, you can watch an English trailer
I spent the summer of 2018 directing an ambitious docu-drama on the German explorer Alexander von Humboldt. We filmed on top of volcanoes, on the majestic Orinoco River, on the Colombian coast and in the jungle. The experience of a lifetime. We were lucky to have writer and historian Andrea Wulf on board and travel in Humboldt's footsteps.
The film has its premiere on ARTE Germany and France on 27 April 2019 at 20:45
Our trip to the Orinoco River nearly ended in this pond. Luckily, we managed to save the camera equipment and our four wheel drive pulled itself out of the murky water with the help of an onboard winch.
The vast Orinoco is unlike any other body of water I ever experienced. It's simply unique. We were there in the midst of the rainy season. Amazing clouds and light. Cameraman Reiner Bauer was like a boy in a sweet shop, capturing breath-taking images.
The film is inspired by the amazing writer Andrea Wulf and her bestselling biography of Humboldt, the man who is also known as the Einstein of the 19th century. We filmed Andrea in the jungle and in the high Andes as she unraveled the Humboldt story. The hugely talented German actor Timmi Trinks brought Humboldt to life beautifully in the drama part of our film. It airs on ZDF, Arte and Smithsonian Networks in 2019.
DoP Andy Haas operates his drone in Berlin, below. A few weeks later, the Orinoco team is shattered at the end of our rain forest expedition.
South Africa - my perfect location
There is nothing like shooting in South Africa in January, when it's freezing cold and dark in Europe. I shot the drama sections for two docu dramas in the last two years in this stunning part of the world. Locations included the Northern Cape and the South-East coast. Organised by Patrick Walton from Shootaway productions.
Warrior Women of Central Asia
In western Mongolia in 2016, we filmed the documentary part of an ambitious drama-doc on ancient warrior women of Central Asia. In the first Millenium BC, Nomadic women fought alongside their men in the tribal battles of the Asian steppes. Known to the Greeks as Amazons, these women fighters helped to keep major powers like Greece, Persia and China in check.
The documentary part of the film focuses on Kazakh Nomads living in Mongolia. Although these modern-day Nomads no longer train women to become fighters, women still play a key role in Nomadic society. They are expert riders and even participate in eagle hunting. And by the way - check out fermented horse milk. It's delicious. Though best tried in small quantities, as it can have a 'cleansing' effect on the digestive system as one team member discovered.
To reach the Kazakh Nomads in the mountains of Mongolia, we had to cross several rivers in a four wheel drive. At one stage, I feared getting stranded on a river island, as heavy rains had made the stream almost impassible. Fortunately, the local driver from the town of Ulgii knew the terrain - and what his 20 year old Land Cruiser was capable of. DoP John Wate used every stop capture stunning footage of the region.
Who Flew First - Whitehead or the Wrights?
Did German born Gustave Whitehead make the world's first motorized flight in 1901 in Bridgeport, Connecticut? What about the Wright's claim to have completed a full flight in 1903? It's a question that divides the aviation world. This powerful docudrama for ABC Australia, ZDF Germany and Arte sheds new light on the story.
Our faboulous DoP Jason Thomas masterfully captured the story, which we shot in Germany, Australia and (above) Connecticut
Legend Hunter with Jeff Rose
Also this year, Legend Hunter with Jeff Rose has been airing on the Travel Channel. Episode 1 looks at the archaeological evidence for Jesus. Episode 2 examines the biblical story of Sodom and Gomorrah.
Legend Hunter follows my collaboration with Jeff Rose in the hugely successful 2-parter Bible Hunters for BBC2 and the Smithsonian Channel in 2012/13. It was praised in the UK press for having the power to change perceptions. Here is what the critics had to say.
"This tale of biblical mysteries, intrepid explorers and Scottish Presbyterian twin sisters was just wonderful”
Death on the Matterhorn
In 2015, the docu-drama Death on the Matterhorn (Tatort Matterhorn) aired in Switzerland, Germany, France and Austria. Directed and written together with the renowned Swiss filmmaker Gieri Venzin, the film tells the dramatic story of the tragic first ascent of one of the world's toughest mountains, back in 1865. Seven climbers reached the top, but only three returned alive. Who was to blame? The film provides new answers. It was one of the most watched documentaries in some parts of the world, gaining a 38 percent audience share in Switzerland.
Inside the Gangster Code
In 2013, I directed one of the episodes in Discovery's hard hitting criminal gang series Inside the Gangster Code presented by Lou Ferrante, who became a finalist in the presenter category of the prestigious 2013 Grierson Awards.