Are staged wildlife series fake or sensible?

Netflix Tiny Creatures

A discussion has arisen about a new Netflix wildlife series made for television called Tiny Creatures. In one episode, a barn owl preys on a mouse in a desert area in southern America.

Netflix Tiny Creatures

Netflix Tiny Creatures. Photo: Netflix.

What you see in this episode is not real in the sense that it did not happen in the desert in southern America but it is real in that such events occur. It took place in a UK studio in Norfolk following a storyboard. The whole thing was planned and the owl and the rodent were filmed separately. They were combined I guess through CGI to create a dramatic encounter between predator and prey.

The maker of the series, Jonathan Jones, made it clear in interviews that the series is scripted, planned and arranged. However Netflix fudges the issue and does not do the same for viewers.

They present the series as a “nature documentary series”. It is described as presenting “epic stories of survival unfold in hidden worlds across the United States”.

They have changed their description to “nature series” but it is still listed under “science and nature documentaries”. This implies that it is a genuine documentary shot live in situ. Apparently 90 percent of the 8 part series was filmed in the UK. A few days were shot on location in America.

It appears that most viewers expect a genuine wildlife documentary series when they are in fact watching a movie which has been planned using CGI. The Netflix approach to wildlife show is in contrast to that of the BBC who try harder to do it more “genuinely”. The BBC series Planet Earth II took 4 years to film employing 1,000 production staff. Netflix’s Tiny Creatures was made in 27 days.

Comment: does it matter? I suppose it matters in that Netflix should make it clear that the series is created with the help of a storyboard just like a standard movie but the outcome I think is perfectly valid. If you can create a dramatic piece of footage which illustrates wildlife and how animals interact with each other it doesn’t matter how you do it. It is educational. And education is enhanced if the images are more dramatic. And it is real in so far as it represents reality in nature.

It’s also about cost. The BBC has £3.5 billion given to them by the taxpayer annually under a ridiculously outdated system called the TV license. They don’t care about cost. They don’t have to. Netflix is an entirely commercial operation which has to focus on profits and expenses. You can’t blame them for making the creation of such a series economically viable. This is a lot of brouhaha about nothing.