More than six years in the making, It’s a Wild Life is a cinematically gorgeous nature film showcasing the world class beauty of the Big Sur wilderness and all the beasts, big and small, that call it home. From the husband and wife filmmaking team of Kennan and Karen Ward, the film strives to present an unfiltered glimpse into life in the wild along California’s most raw stretch of coastline.
What is your connection to Big Sur and how did this film come about?
We were the early adapters of a new camera technology in 2007 with 4K and Red Cinema Cameras. We were one of the first to take these things out into nature and we decided on a backyard subject, Big Sur! We have been around the world, to all seven continents, and not just for visits but months and years at a time. What we found in Big Sur is world class, not just landscape but wildlife.
For those who don’t know, briefly describe the allure of Big Sur and what makes it such a perfect place for a film like this.
Big Sur has some of the steepest and roughest terrain in California. Cone Peak is 5,155’ tall and is only three miles from the ocean. The jagged topography creates varied micro climates. Fog influences the plant life and here you find redwood trees along the drainages while just up the steep slopes, yucca plants grow. In spring, the hilltops support wildflower filled meadows and the hilly to steep slopes are covered with bay laurel, oak trees, and pine forests. Dry exposed slopes host chaparral, grasslands, and sage. There are rocky and sandy beaches used by people, wildlife, birds and marine mammals. This region is one of the most biologically diverse we ever have filmed.
The footage is stunning in both its subject matter and clarity. Talk a little bit about the filming process and the equipment used.
To make a film like this we used every conceivable tool invented by the first release of products. This is a legacy project and the list of cameras is so long it would fill several pages. For example, the 6K Red Dragon, which finished this film, is as close as you can get to Imax and yet ten times the dynamic range. This is a totally new film delivery. We provide a DCP (dcp data port) digital cinema package on a hard drive cassette to the theaters instead of a film reel. Tomorrow is here with the 4K DCP delivery we provided. There is only a handful of films delivered this way today.
What are you hoping viewers take home after watching the film?
We have watched people review the initial screeners and have been surprised. I would like to make a podcast of the expressions. The film first appears to be “slow” because the audience doesn’t know yet that they are going on a roller coaster! Nature is calming and people slow down and then out of nowhere they are on the edge of their seats in full surprise as the action unfolds. Some are so emotional they are crying with hope, joy, and awe while others are simply trying to figure out how we filmed some of the more impressive bits and pieces. This film is organic and as true to life as any film has ever wanted to become. It took 6.5 years to be an honest film. It was not easy!
Any particularly crazy stories from the production that you want to share?
The black bear was only thought to be in the Santa Lucia /Big Sur mountains region to the north of our filming area. This was the first recorded documentation in many years.