Dynasties, a new series narrated by David Attenborough, reveals the power struggles within animal groups. Episode producer NICK LYON tells HELEN GLENNY how 18 months of sleepless nights, undocumented behaviours and Shakespearean drama became an unforgettable 60 minutes of TV.
What’s the painted wolves episode about?
We were looking at a big family that would go through a change of leadership during filming. Tait is our central character. She’s the old matriarch and mother to two neighbouring alphas, Black-Tip and Janet. Black-Tip’s pack had grown very big, and there wasn’t really enough space, so her only option was to turn on her mother and take her throne. It’s a Shakespearian tale of a mother defending herself against her daughter. We were pretty certain that Tait would not survive the film, but we did not know how things were going to pan out, and what happened was unexpected.
How did you capture all of that? We did 11 trips out to Zimbabwe, filming for 585 days in total in Mana Pools National Park. Usually on these filming shoots you have quite a steep learning curve, so you find your rate of acquisition of useful shots peaks towards the end, and then you go to a different location and a new story and you have to start that learning curve again. The brilliant thing about this is that we could build on that learning curve every time we came back, so we weren’t always starting from square one.
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