Carlos Perez is a recognized documentary filmmaker, tackling ambitious projects regarding wildlife and nature, following strict ethics, to provide viewers with compelling stories about our world.
As a new member of the Music Partner family, we would like to shine the spotlight on Carlos and his production company “1080 Wildlife Productions”.
Music Partner: Wildlife is a subject of interest to many generations, when did you get interested in it?
Carlos Perez: I have always been passionate about wildlife. From a very young age my reference has been Félix Rodríguez de la Fuente. He carried out a program on TVE called "The man and the earth" and he was a reference for a whole generation who followed his programs on Spanish Television every week. He was without a doubt the one who influenced me and transmitted to me all the love and respect for nature.
MP: Like every filmmaker regardless of the format, leading a career in filmmaking is always driven by passion. Where is your filmmaking passion coming from?
CP: Since I was little I have always been attracted to the world of cinema. In the 1980s
my father already did small reports and sometimes I would take that camera to make recordings in the field on something I was passionate about.
Later I started working on television as almost everyone does, recording news and programs, and step by step, I found my way to the genre of wildlife and nature documentaries. Today I cannot be more proud of being able to work on something that I am passionate about and above all, I really enjoy expressing that passion in my documentaries.
MP: The stories you are filming are taking place in remote areas of the world. How do you prepare an expedition to the depths of Africa or Asia?
CP: It is a very beautiful part of each production because while you prepare everything in your mind you imagine the trip, the animals, the landscape and the different experiences with the whole team. When we prepare a shoot, especially in Africa and Asia, we dedicate at least a year and a half to pre-production: travel, insurances, vaccinations etc. In addition to all that work, a prior exploration and reconnaissance trip is essential. On that trip we try everything we want to do to their limits, to see how everything works. If something fails, let it be on that first trip so that when the whole team arrives, everything is perfect. Still, every trip is an experience, an adventure with a thousand problems that can arise.
MP: When in the “middle of nowhere”, ready to film and depending on wildlife to show-up, how long on average is the production of a 60-minute documentary?
CP: In wildlife documentaries, the time to spend on recording images is very important.
We are making a film about nature which the actors act in a totally improvised way, that means that we have to act in the same way, in addition to choosing a good location, we must act quickly on the cameras so that we can capture the unique and furtive moment happening in front of you. That takes many hours of filming. For a production about nature and wildlife, we usually need between one and a half to two years of production. A long time, but it is always a small amount of time when it comes to filming wild animals.
MP: A wildlife film is unscripted by nature, but do you have a written plan on the story you want to tell?
CP: Obviously the script is written by the character in front of the camera, although it is always necessary to go with a prior idea of what we want to tell, always agreed by our team of biologists who always come along on location. For example, in our last documentary in Africa “The island of the hippopotamuses” we had a good number of written sequences to try to film, but of course most of them could not be completed because we could not record them; On the other hand, we were able to film very emotional moments that we had not anticipated. You always have to finish the film in the editing room, putting the sequences together and creating the story. That is the big difference with a people story.
MP: The post-production is where the story takes shape. How do you piece together what would become the film?
CP: We always start from a previous idea that we redo and refine according to what was shot. But in all phases of the film's creation, what we always have in mind is to tell a story that interests viewers from all over the world. We spend a minimum of 6 months in post-production of all of our films.
MP: Sir David Attenborough is a reference in wildlife documentaries attracting millions of viewers to discover the wonders of our planet and more recently reporting on our fellow humans’ contempt for its future. Beyond the entertainment value, what do you wish viewers of 1080 productions’ films will take with them?
CP: Those of us who make documentaries, share the idea that our stories interest and at the same time contribute something. In our case, a better knowledge of our natural environment can contribute to understand its value and need for protection. We also think that our documentaries are leaving a legacy that in a few years will make us reconsider where we are going and what we should do. Documentaries about nature should be mandatory in schools and televisions around the world. Personally, each David Attenborough documentary fascinates me and conveys more and more love for the nature that surrounds us, how important it is to understand it and what better way to inform us than documentaries on nature and wild life.
MP: Your films are often selected in festivals around the world, winning many awards. How important is this recognition for 1080 Wildlife Productions?
CP: The awards undoubtedly help us give more visibility to our documentaries and above all help the distribution process. The arrival of new awards is received with great joy by the entire team, and every year we participate in more than 40 festivals around the world. 2020 has been an excellent year as we have received several awards and recognitions. They are undoubtedly an incentive that helps us continue producing.
MP: Your films have been broadcast on many channels the world over. Do TV channels and platforms commission projects from you?
CP: Unfortunately we have not yet managed to get to that point. In Spain, TVE, our public television, has for the moment declined to participate in our productions despite having a channel that broadcasts several hours of wildlife documentaries. The platforms almost exclusively bet on the big BBC productions, this means we base everything on self-production and find an international market with films that exceed our budget substantially. This however, does not discourage us at any time. Each rejection of our projects forces us to improve them in production and realization to hopefully one day get some channels interested in co-production. Regarding distribution, our distributor 3boxmedia in Germany manages to sell the rights to our documentaries to the most important television channels in the world. It is, thanks to them, how we can continue producing, although the medium-term objective is to try a co-production with channels and platforms.
MP: You lean on a team of people allowing you to work on multiple projects at once. Can you introduce the members of your team?
CP: We currently produce about 5 documentaries a year, it means that, although the nucleus of the production company is made up of three or four permanent people there are members of the team who assume the direction of films. It has been the case in which the same year, several of our productions had 3 different directors. This makes us bigger because it is very important to produce a minimum of 3 documentaries a year. In the direction of documentary films I am accompanied by Javier Ortega, who also does script work, and Raúl Bueno. As professional camera operators specialized in wildlife, we have Manuel Gracia and Fernando Ballesteros, who also act as scientific advisor, as well as biologists Cesar del Arco and Raúl León “Raulophis”. Joaquín Gordillo is in charge of production and sound issues and we also have a large team of collaborators who are just as important
MP: Music is an important part of any project. How do you choose your music and what impact do you hope music will have on your film?
CP: Music plays a very important role. Many times depending on the sequence, it serves as an accompaniment, but at certain times, the support of music is very necessary to tell dramatic and romantic moments. Music always has to play an important role because it is a mainstay of the film. If we make a simile, it would be like the technical team, everyone has to contribute their bit. The wrong soundtrack can destroy an impeccably filmed story.
MP: Among the many films you have produced or directed or both, is there one you are particularly proud of and why?
CP: Perhaps in 2020 we have made the best films yet. the experience acquired, the team and the technical means have an important role: "Queens de Orango", "The Island of Hippos" or "La Jayona, a new buried world" are documentaries we feel particularly proud. The best thing is that there are 3 documentaries with 3 different directors. We keep good memories of our beginnings with: "Spring, The return of life", which was the documentary that opened the international path for us, "Dehesa" with which we were known throughout the world or "Iceland, the newborn island", our first experience outside of Spain. In the end, they are all films to which we have a lot of affection, for the experiences we had.
MP: Any anecdotes or a funny story you can share with us?
CP: We have thousands of anecdotes, but more than anecdotes are special moments we are lucky enough to have lived like sleeping just 5 meters from the hippos in a high-altitude tent and feeling their breathing, rescuing giant tortoises from certain death, filming the birth of impressive species, or literally going to the end of the world in northwest Iceland to record the arctic fox following him to his lair. All of them and many more are moments that nature offers you anywhere in the world
MP: Carlos, what is 1080 Wildlife Production currently working on?
CP: 2021 has started with a lot of uncertainty, but thanks to the efforts of the whole team we are immersed in several projects: our first feature film for cinemas “Extremadura the natural paradise of Europe”, the filming of two series that we are going to make in Spain and the preparation of our next productions in Africa with a view to filming it in 2022, but this is a constant race in which we cannot stop and surely more projects will come out.