Behind the scenes: Wild Alaska Live
For the first time ever, the BBC and PBS have partnered on a live wildlife documentary — right here in Alaska.
Wild Alaska Live follows animals in the Katmai National Park and the Tongass National Forrest in Juneau.
On Friday, KTVA went behind the scenes to see how the series is made.
The public broadcasters had to barge several satellite trucks, trailers, tents, cameras and other equipment into Juneau, where crews set-up camp across from the Mendenhall Glacier. The program itself is two years in the making, as directors had to research the landscape and the behavior of animals in the area.
But when it comes to a live broadcast, there’s only so much the team can predict.
“You never know exactly what you’re going to find, right?” Said Chris Kratt, who co-hosts the show. “You never know what animal behaviors you’re going to capture, or what’s going to happen.”
The Kratt brothers, Martin and Chris, are known for their role in wildlife programming for children on PBS, including the animated series Wild Kratts.
“We’ve been on live shows before, but this is the first time we’re hosting a live one and hosting a live show with animal guests. So, it’s been kind of crazy,” Martin Kratt told KTVA.
So, how do the Kratt brothers make sure those animals are doing something when it’s time to go live? For that, there’s an entire team tracking animals around the Mendenhall Glacier 24 hours a day — with 20 cameras set up around the area and a helicopter team checking the sights from the air.
“We’re in the right spots here in Alaska. We’re in great wildlife hot spots, but we don’t know exactly what we’re going to capture every night, and it’s thrilling,” said Chris Kratt. “And it kind of shares with the audience what it’s like to make a wildlife film. You know, you don’t know when the animals are going to show up and do some cool behavior, and so, that with the 20 cameras that we’ve got set up all over the place, we’re trying to, you know, share that,” added Martin Kratt.
PBS and the BBC have a keen in interest in Alaska. Bill Gardner, Vice President of Programming Development at PBS says Alaska’s capital is the perfect place for a wildlife project.
“Juneau is great because it has such proximity to the wildlife and the Ranger services, and the glacier is right here, which is a fantastic backdrop,” Gardner told KTVA. “It just allowed us to tell a lot of the different stories that we wanted to tell in this real great feeling of wildness that’s all around us.”
Gardner says it was important that the show showcase animals in a way that’s both entertaining and educational.
“There’s this idea when I think folks can see some wildlife footage, that it’s all kind of put together, and the stories are assembled — and there are those types of things, that’s fine, but this is happening in real time. And I think people can really get the sense of how the environment actually works, as it is” Gardner said.
Now, viewers around the world can experience Alaska wildlife in a new way, just like visitors here do — with cameras ready, watching and waiting to see what nature brings out next.
The season finale of Wild Alaska Live airs July 30 at 4 p.m.
For more information on the show or to watch previous episodes, click here.