Making nature documentaries isn't as straight-forward as standard feature filmmaking. While the director behind your average studio blockbuster can simply spend money to get the exact shot they want at any point in time, documentarians have to wait until the environment they're shooting provides them with the material they need. It's for this reason that the people behind the new movie Born In China wound up with more than 400 hours of footage. Speaking recently with producer Roy Conli, he told me,
There's over 400 hours of footage. For a 75 minute film! To get that footage you need the best cinematographers in the world; they're building this specifically for the big screen. These are the best cinematographers in natural history, anywhere. And for instance, the snow leopard, they were out 256 days. They didn't get their first shot until the 90th day.
In promotion of Born In China's theatrical release, I had the opportunity to sit down with Roy Conli during a Los Angeles press day last month, and he shocked me with the amount of footage that was captured by filmmakers in China. It turns out that patience was an absolute must in the making of the movie, as it took three whole months to start getting any usable footage for the snow leopard portion of the film.
Directed by Chuan Lu and produced by Disneynature, Born in China is a nature film divided into multiple sections, each one showcasing a different animal native to the wilds of the titular Asian country. This includes a mother snow leopard trying to keep her young alive; a mother panda raising her young cub; and a golden monkey who breaks from his family following the arrival of a new baby sister. John Krasinski follows in the footsteps of James Earl Jones, Liev Schreiber, Pierce Brosnan, Meryl Streep, Samuel L. Jackson, and John C. Reilly serving as narrator.
You can watch Roy Conli discuss the incredible patience and the talented cinematographers who worked on Born In China in the video below.