Moving the chimps was certainly a massive undertaking, but filming it, capturing the action and showing just how incredible this event was, was also no mean feat. A week out from the actual move of the chimpanzee community, the film crew along with the help of some very dextrous keepers clambered through the dens to mount remote cameras in the chimps old and new night quarters and every vet hospital van was fitted out with tiny GoPro cameras. It was a bit like Big Brother. There were two dedicated cameramen, two field producers, whom often shot on handycam, a number of fixed cameras in all areas and keepers and vets who wore small cameras mounted to their chests. This resulted in over 200 hours of vision that landed in the editors’ suite!
It was all hands on deck as the small production team did their best to trawl through this huge volume of vision and selectively choose shots to help tell the story of
these incredible animals, and their keepers. From the time the crew shot the very first frame through to the hours that passed by viewing disc after disc, the production team fell in love with the group, fascinated in their lives, relationships, social intelligence and political structure; they were determined to present the apes as the real personalities they are.
Those 200 hours of vision eventually had to come down to just 54 minutes and the team spentthe next 12 weeks cutting together two episodes of the chimps’ big move from their temporary quarters to their newly-renovated sanctuary. The production team gave away their weekends as they were buried deep in the edit suite, but it definitely was a labour of love, and no one knows this more than editor, Phoebe Vincent, who was faced with the hurdle of identifying each and every one of Taronga's 18 chimps. She is now an expert, and if you ask her who her favourite chimp is, she'll have no hesitation telling you it's alpha male, Lubutu, whom she's fallen head over heels in love with!! She actually had a care package and plush soft toy of Lubutu sent to her by the Zoo for all her hours’of work. He sat prominently in the edit suite, watching over us as we toiled away.
The making of the episodes wasn’t just about the vision, the sound and music score were also vitally important to set the right mood. In fact the music was specifically written for the episodes and the composer, David Chapman, enjoyed giving the chimps, and the show, the right feel through his compositions. This is enhanced by the Sound Mixer who adds effects and sound balance to make everything ‘come alive’.
One week of filming, 200 hours of vision, 14 weeks of editing, polishing, composing and the result is an amazing tribute to the Taronga Chimpanzee group and their dedicated keepers.