Norway’s Hidden Secrets

Broadcast production company: Parthenon Entertainment for National Geographic + NDR (Norddeutscher Rundfunk), Hamburg

Synopsis: An exploration of the surprising, sometimes incredible, marine life to be found in the fjords of Norway, in the context of the country’s unique geography and cultural history.

My role: Writer, director, camera, sound

Comments: Marine biologist turned underwater cameraman Florian Graner had spent many years studying harbour porpoises from his little house on Sognefjord, amassing a large archive of original video footage.  He approached Hamburg-based NDR, the German broadcaster best known for their wildlife output, about making a documentary on the fjords.  NDR in turn involved National Geographic through their UK production partners Parthenon, and a co-production was born.  Parthenon wanted the programme to be more Florian’s personal story, rather than another underwater documentary, and they asked me to co-direct it with Florian with the brief to turn the camera on him, so to speak.

Once on location (in the Lofoten islands up inside the Arctic Circle) it became obvious that the two days budgeted for a cameraman just wasn’t going to be nearly enough, so I took on the role of camera/sound man too.  Fortunately, though I don’t dive myself,  I do have pretty good sea legs, so I wasn’t too phased by the task of squatting on the foredeck of a motorboat in choppy seas, hanging on to the grab rail with one hand while filming the driver with a camera balanced on the other shoulder!

After the Lofoten shoot my role expanded, as the requirements of the two co-production partners diverged somewhat.  We did a further, (warmer!) two-week shoot in the summer on and around Sognefjord, and I became involved in writing the English script for National Geographic.  Finally I worked with Florian on co-directing the edit in Hamburg.

The resulting documentary has won a bunch of awards at international film festivals.  The most prestigious is probably the PRIX DE LA Commission Océanographique Intergouvernementale de l’UNESCO, at the 2003 Antibes Festival Mondial de L’Image Sous-Marine.

The clip is one short sequence from the programme, shot in the Lofoten Islands.