CRAIG BROWN: Wild about sex scenes on TV? No we're livid!
CRAIG BROWN: Wild about sex scenes on TV? No we’re livid!
Over the past few years, demand has soared for intimacy safeguards within the world of the wildlife documentary.
‘It all started 20, 25 years ago,’ says Geraldine Gibbon, an ape veteran of over 15 documentaries, including the controversial Mating In The Jungle (1992) in which she was seen cavorting on camera with only a modicum of leaves to protect her decency.
‘Back in those days, if you were auditioning for an ambitious wildlife documentary-maker, he’d get you to swing naked from high branches, show your hind-quarters to camera, that sort of thing. And when shooting got going, he’d want you to simulate sex with a male gibbon you’d barely met, let alone had a chance to get to know.’
Harriet, a leading humpback whale from Antarctica, faced similar problems. ‘Though I’ve made frequent appearances in wildlife films, and turned up on the red carpet at all the festivals, I’m an intensely private whale,’ she confesses. ‘I never felt easy with them filming me ‘all over’, as it were, but you just had to go along with it if you wanted to be seen up there on the screen.’
Over the past few years, demand has soared for intimacy safeguards within the world of the wildlife documentary [File photo]
Smaller members of the animal community also report experiencing discomfort. ‘I felt particularly vulnerable when I was auditioning for The Sex Lives Of Insects, a no-holds-barred Danish documentary made in the late 1980s,’ recalls Daphne Dragonfly, who later won an Emmy for her portrayal of an embittered moth in Pedro Almodovar’s The Birds And The Bees (1994).
‘The director of Sex Lives demanded a lengthy close-up of myself and a male dragonfly mating in the air. I was young and inexperienced. I don’t intend to dignify that male dragonfly with a name but let’s just say he got carried away and behaved wholly inappropriately.
‘When the film was released, my dragonfly friends told me they thought it one of the most romantic scenes they’d ever witnessed. But, believe me, the truth was a whole lot darker.’
It was a member of the warthog community who first led the campaign for stricter supervision.
‘At the time, I was living on a big reserve in South Africa,’ says Wanda Warthog. ‘It wasn’t much of a life — just drinking from waterholes, grazing, oinking and so on.
‘By and large, film-makers weren’t interested. They wanted what I call the flashier, attention-seeking animals, like giraffes and elephants, who are completely overrated, in my opinion. I mean, when was the last time you saw a giraffe doing anything interesting? No, all they do all day is flaunt their necks for the cameras.
‘So just imagine my excitement when I heard I had been called up for an audition with the BBC’s wildlife unit. I literally couldn’t believe it! I thought at last someone was interested in my poetry and short stories.
‘But when I arrived on site, all they wanted to know was whether I had ‘sexual chemistry’ with this other warthog. They wanted me to flutter my eyelashes and wiggle my hips. They were only interested in my body, thank you very much!
‘After that experience, I decided to set myself up as an intimacy coach, not only for warthogs but for all members of the wider NHQ (Neglected Hairy Quadruped) community. So nowadays when there’s a documentary camera crew around, you’ll find me in the thick of it, choreographing every nuzzle and embrace with the same professionalism we’d bring to a fight or chase.’
‘Back in those days, if you were auditioning for an ambitious wildlife documentary-maker, he’d get you to swing naked from high branches, show your hind-quarters to camera, that sort of thing. And when shooting got going, he’d want you to simulate sex with a male gibbon you’d barely met, let alone had a chance to get to know,’ said Geraldine Gibbon [File photo]
Many viewers will remember the days when animal participants in wildlife filming would get carried away — and not just in the sex scenes.
‘In a big fight, one thing often led to another,’ recalls veteran actor Cliff Crocodile. ‘So, for instance, a crocodile employed to grab an antelope by the leg might go one step too far and gobble him up. Well, for the antelope this could be a very upsetting experience. That’s why we’ve had to put strict procedures in place. We now train all our fellow crocodiles to simulate grabbing an antelope without getting too emotionally involved.
‘Our aim is that when the director shouts, ‘Cut!’ the crocodile and the antelope will bring their tussle to a halt, shake paws, have a laugh and go out for a drink. We’ve had enough of sex and violence. We’re determined to create a gold standard for the industry.’
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