St Albans director Dan Smith talks about directing Sir David Attenborough

St Albans director Dan Smith talks about directing Sir David Attenborough

St Albans director Dan Smith talks about directing Sir David Attenborough

First published in News by , Features Writer

For 14 years St Albans’ Dan Smith lived in the sheltered world of film editing but last year out of the undergrowth burst his big break, the chance to direct Sir David Attenborough in a spectacular documentary Natural History Museum Alive 3D.

It sees wildlife legend Sir David ‘hide’ in the venue at night as the animals come to life through CGI technology.

Dan says of working with broadcaster Sir David: “That very first moment when I shouted ‘action’ for the first time and he started speaking I got a massive tingle down my spine. I have watched him throughout my life and to see it all in person was a massive thrill.”

Dan, who has no previous directing experience, has since been nominated for a Bafta Television Craft Award for Breakthrough Talent and the doumentary has been nominated for three further Baftas, testament to the hundreds of hours he put into it.

This included reasearching all the animals featured such as the dodo, diplodocus and archaeopteryx and storyboarding all 65 minutes of David’s ‘acting to thin air’.

The 36-year-old says: “David is an unstoppable force and it was unbeliveable to be working with him. But he's 87 so he’s old and needs to rest. We were very careful to let him relax and only bring him in for the moment he was needed to perform.”

Filming took place over 15 “hellish” nights in August’s heatwave, as bosses did not want to shut the museum to the public. 

Dan says: “We would arrive at 7pm and leave at 7am after making sure everything was pristine.

The lift broke on the first night and then something went wrong with the camera and it was just really stressful and I was pacing around wringing my hands as I wanted the whole thing to be as good as I could possibly make it."

Once the filming was in the can he spent months editing the footage and working with CGI companies and expert scientists to perfect the animals. The spectacular result has garnered Dan important industry attention 

The father-of-two says: “I got my first video camera when I was 16 and I filmed this around my 36th birthday so it has taken me 20 years to break through.”

He will be showing excerpts from the documentary and hosting a Q&A on Saturday, May 3 from 1.30pm at Verulamium Museum.     

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