The Canadian Screen Awards celebrate TV, film and digital productions in Canada. Considered similar to the Golden Globe Awards in the United States, they are the result of a consolidation of Canada’s Genie and Gemini awards. The untelevised portion of the Canadian Screen Awards took place this past Wednesday and Thursday, and the final gala event in the celebration will be broadcast by CBC on Sunday, March 3 at 8 p.m. and hosted by Canadian comedian Martin Short.
Polar Bears: A Summer Odyssey won awards for Best Science or Nature Documentary Program or Series and Best Photography in a Documentary Program or Series. Directed by Adam Ravetch and Sarah Robertson of Arctic Bear Productions, the film was produced by Arcadia Entertainment in association with CBC’s Science and Natural History Documentary Unit.
“It is a great honour to receive both of these prestigious awards,” said Ravetch, who is also the Cinematographer of the documentary. “I know Arcadia TV, Sarah Robertson, Tim O’Brien and our production and post-production team are all grateful for the collaboration with CBC’s Caroline Underwood, David Suzuki, and The Nature of Things.”
Polar Bears: A Summer Odyssey, which was also produced in 2D for National Geographic, 3D for Sky TV, and released on 3D/2D Blue Ray by Universal Pictures, tells the story of a teenage polar bear’s adventures in and around the icy waters of Hudson Bay, where he spends his first ice-free season during the summer without his mother to guide him as he struggles to survive on his own. Set against a background theme of climate change, The Nature of Things perhaps described the film best when they wrote:
“Watch the desperate acts of a bear pushed to the brink. Witness the wisdom and commitment of a protective mother bear. Observe the seemingly ferocious social rituals of massive male bears. Polar Bears: A Summer Odyssey features breath-taking cinematography capturing rarely seen bear behavior including the young bear climbing a 250 meter cliff in search of a meal and a bold male who has learnt the art of hunting walrus.”
Images for the film were captured using a myriad of cameras including a remote-control truck cam, a heli-cam, a polar bear collar cam and numerous underwater cameras. In our original blog post about the filming, 3D Polar Bear Movie filmed at Seal River Lodge, guide Andrew MacPherson described a day on the set.
“There wasn’t a day during the filming when we didn’t find some kind of interesting bear activity, interaction or social behavior. Adam’s movie unfolded in front of us daily, but we won’t see the final result of his efforts for a while. We were excited to be a part of the creative process and can only imagine what Adam will weave together with all the incredible footage he recorded.”
Ravetch admits he became addicted to close-up wildlife photography when he filmed polar bears underwater for the film To the Arctic.
“Water is 800 times denser than air,” he said. “So you had to get really close to the animals to actually see them. Not only was that experience a high-energy adrenaline rush, but when you get that close to a wild animal it becomes a very intimate personal experience. You really get to know the animals. I wanted the audience to have that same experience.”
“I wanted them to really connect with the polar bear’s struggle for life,” continued Ravetch. “And the only way to do that was to get up-close imagery and wrap it into an intimate story. At the same time we had to get the bears to relax and let them go about their business. We were able to stay with a mother and two cubs, for week in the fall. That enabled us to get a lot of natural behavior.”
Ravetch went on to say that making a film like this requires a team of very talented creative people, both during and post production.
“Every film is a collaboration,” he said. “This isn’t just you and your camera. It requires a lot of talented people to tell a good story. Mike and Jeanne Reimer, their family and their guides at Churchill Wild are invaluable. They have specialized knowledge of the territory, the wilderness and life-long experience with the polar bears. Their family-run operation at Churchill Wild is very unique in that you can get very close to the polar bears in a safe manner. It’s very remote yet you have all the comforts of home. You’re not camping out. They have beautiful lodges and a one of a kind experience you can’t find anywhere else. Great food, cocktails, cozy and comfortable accommodations, smack right in the middle of the tundra on Hudson Bay in the center of polar bear country.”
“It’s a huge challenge to film in 3D in the arctic,” said Ravetch in an earlier blog post, Churchill Wild polar bears to appear on CBC’s The Nature of Things in Polar Bears: A Summer Odyssey.
“Churchill Wild’s Mike Reimer and polar bear guides Terry Elliot and Andy MacPherson were essential in getting very specific polar bear shots, especially of a young male polar bear, so that we could have the type of imagery to tell a strong character driven story. The guides have to have experience specifically with polar bears. They concentrate on safety so we can focus on camera angles and getting the shots we need. Being up close with the bears is quite spectacular for a filmmaker, but safety is paramount. The last thing we want is for a person or a bear to get hurt. You’re not in a cage or a vehicle; you’re at ground level with the polar bears. I’ve always worked at ground level, but there are very few places where you can photograph polar bears like this. Seal River and Nanuk are among the best places on the planet for this type of wildlife photography.”
“Filming in 3D was much more work. But we wanted immersive images so the audience could experience what it’s really like to be up close at ground level with polar bears. It required multiple cameras operating at the same time to produce the special 3D effects and three of us including Stereographer Indy Saini and Camera Engineering Specialist Stewart Meyer to get the distances between the objects and between the lenses just right. Stewart also developed a smaller mobile camera system that could produce some very rare images.”
In Sun sets on a polar bear at Nanuk, guide Andrew MacPherson described some of the filming that took place at Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge.
“A beautiful four or 5-year-old female polar bear moved towards us in the glow of late afternoon light. She hopped numerous small streams and slid effortlessly through the grass, providing us with some amazing footage. She stopped to the sound of my voice when she was about 30 meters away, then casually moved around us to the seaward side, giving us the over the shoulder looks as she passed by. We quickly packed and played leap frog with the bear all the way back to the Misatkoken River, where she sniffed out our poor unfortunate friend. That was where we left her at twilight, outlined in golden light, standing on the crest of the beach ridge.”
Ravetch went on to explain how polar bears have their own their own society. How each bear has their own personality and different character attributes. And that when you get to know the bears, you start to understand how and why they interact with each other the way they do; how they teach their offspring to survive in the wilderness; and how much they worry about their young. In other words, polar bears are a lot like us.
“This is a film about one of the biggest stories of our time,” said Tim O’Brien of Arcadia Entertainment. “Climate change and its impact on our natural world. Specifically the polar bear population. Somehow we managed to tell a very dramatic and personal story about the journey of one bear. And, that’s really a credit to Adam Ravetch and all the many people and organizations like Churchill Wild, who made it happen.”
A movie you don’t want to miss, Polar Bears: A Summer Odyssey will soon be available in major online retail outlets.