Hotel Heliconia

Back in the late 70’s I first started stomping around rainforests as a tropical biologist. Captivated, I fell in love with the Heliconia plant and the fascinating creatures that call it home. Getting this film commissioned was as tough as shooting it – truth be told TV Execs tell you to get lost when you pitch an hour of TV on a plant. This one was always going to be a personal project, and it took me 14 years to sell. In the end I’m sure they gave me the money just to shut me up.

Trying to bring a plant to life as the focus of a film dictates camera movement of every possible sort. I contacted Garret Brown the inventor of Steadicam and explained I wanted to charge through the jungle with a hummingbirds POV, a bit like his famous Starwars chase scene through the redwoods. I also mentioned, being a wildlife filmmaker, I had very little money to do so. He was, none the less, very gracious and helpful offering detailed advise. The opening combines Steadicam, sliding the camera down aircraft cable and bluescreen work. Because of the rapid wipes and or layers of some shots this clip has digital artifacts as a result of compression onto the Flash format. Sorry about that :o(

Some cable shots like the track over the jungle river took us four of us four days just to rig. When I think back some days we were shooting and looking after five cameras: three time lapse, a Photosonics 360fps Hi Speed, and the trusty Arri SR 2 – all in a tropical rainforest. The project would never of been possible without the tireless work of my field production team, I am forever grateful to them. Two years in production with huge amounts of sweat and heart this film is still one of the works I’m most proud of.

After transmission BBC Worldwide bumped it up to HD and it’s still making the rounds on the Science Museum circuit. The project won Awards in France, the US, Belgum and Japan. And my Mum loved it!

Filming the Steadicam passes for the opening sequence with assistant Mike Dilger.


Producer Writer Director Cameraman: Phil Savoie
AC: Ted Giffords, Nick Turner
Field Assistants: Jimmy Trejos Camacho, Canudo “Noodles” Mudoz Briones, Gerado Vega Chavarria, Michael Dilger
Editor: Martin Elsbury
Music: Ben Salisbury
Narrator: Robert Lindsay
Super 16: Kodak 7245 7246 7279 Fuji 8622
Location: Costa Rica


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Category: Film Clips