Nutopia Ltd, with Protozoa Pictures
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National Geographic, Darren Aronofsky and Nutopia join forces on an epic, cinematic series that re-defines science and natural history. Hosted by Will Smith, ONE STRANGE ROCK is a thrilling journey through the wonders of our planet, possibly the strangest place in the universe. It’s the extraordinary story of why life as we know it exists on Earth, brought into perspective by the only people to have left it behind: astronauts. This 10-part series takes cameras to 45 countries on six continents and into outer space, revealing the twists of fate that have allowed life to emerge and thrive on Earth.
● What inspired this story?
When astronauts see the Earth from space, all geographical, political and cultural boundaries fall away. Our planet is revealed to them as one single, shared place. Or as Commander Chris Hadfield puts it: “We’re all crewmates on the same ship”. We wanted to give viewers that same revelatory experience; allowing them to feel the rarity, interconnected complexity and preciousness of our planet for themselves.
● Describe some of the challenges faced while making this film.
Science, Natural History, Anthropology and History are all separate genres in the world of television. But really these subjects all exist together, intertwined and intermingled. That’s what we wanted One Strange Rock to portray.
So, our biggest challenge was trying to blend those disparate TV ingredients in an entertaining and illuminating way – without the benefit of a voiceover or a Presenter (in the traditional sense) to help guide the viewer through some fairly complicated concepts.
Oh, and getting a cameraman and camera onto the International Space Station!
● How do you approach storytelling?
I try to give audiences an entry point into science that is anchored in authenticity, narrative and above all, emotion. More than anything it needs to be approachable and to convey the wonder of science – so I want the production values, technical innovation and editing, and the narrative intelligence of my films to reflect this. I like science storytelling that is an incredible visual treat – so that the audience is entertained and stimulated as well as informed.
● What impact do you hope this film will have?
I’d like anybody who watches One Strange Rock to realize that every habitat, every country, every human, every creature and every plant is part of the same finely-tuned system; a system that allows life on Earth to exist. We must treat each as equally important, we destroy any piece of it at our peril.
● Were there any surprising or meaningful moments/experiences you want to share?
Every filming trip had a surprising and meaningful moment. And we visited over 40 countries!
We filmed everywhere from 1,604 feet below the Earth’s surface to 1.34 million feet above it, at temperatures from -45°F to +122°F. And we captured everything from tiny cyanobacteria to massive blue whales; from a baby’s first breath to a mummified corpse. The Earth never ceases to amaze you.
● What next?
The aim of the series was to inspire viewers to marvel at the complexity and beauty of the planet and everything on it. We are all connected at every level – to each other, to the planet itself and every other living thing on it.
We purposefully avoided a heavy handed environmental message – but caring for our planet was a constant thread.
Will Smith’s undeniable charisma and astronaut’s unique experience of seeing the planet from space combined, I think, to add unexpected emotional weight to the programmes.
Involving Will and the astronauts lowered the barrier of entry, satisfying both the hard-core science audience and those who wouldn’t ordinarily switch on a show with science so front and centre.
The astronauts in our series brought an authenticity through their powerful testimony and experience. They speak form the heart yet own the narrative and the science.
I believe that the combination of supremely talented factual programme makers, Nat Geo’s rigor and ambition, the Hollywood sheen and craft of Darren Aronofsky, the charm of Will Smith, combined together with the emotion and authenticity of the astronaut’s perspective to create something genuinely new and accessible in a familiar factual space. We’re all super proud of it!
● What next?
Building on what we have learned to make One Strange Rock 2 even better!