WASHINGTON & LOS ANGELES--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Ahead of World Ranger Day, Sunday, July 31st, National Geographic Channel (NGC) announced today its first production of a virtual reality (VR) documentary short film, The Protectors. The project will expose the dangerous and grueling reality faced by rangers protecting African elephants from ivory poachers. Academy Award-winning director Kathryn Bigelow (“Last Days,” “The Hurt Locker”) and VR creator Imraan Esmail (“The Displaced,” “Valen’s Reef”) will co-create this 12-minute VR film in partnership with Here Be Dragons (formerly Vrse.works), one of the leading innovators in VR spherical filmmaking, and Megan Ellison’s Annapurna Pictures, known for their critically acclaimed films including “Zero Dark Thirty,” “Her,” “Foxcatcher” and “American Hustle,” The Protectors will transport users to a day in the life of African rangers protecting elephants from ivory poachers.
Over 30,000 African elephants die each year at the hands of poachers and despite the global outcry over the killings, trafficking continues. The biggest key to saving these elephants from extinction are the rangers working on the ground within Africa’s national parks. Until the world completely shuns ivory, these rangers are the only source of protection elephants have. The virtual reality film will showcase a day in these rangers’ lives, giving users the chance to experience the dangers that confront them on a daily basis and to be in the presence of the majestic elephants they protect.
National Geographic has been at the forefront of exposing the devastating effects of the global illegal ivory trade and its link to funding terrorist groups. Last year, they dedicated a cover story of National Geographic Magazine to the illegal ivory trade and they released the NGC special Warlords of Ivory.
The Protectors is a natural extension of National Geographic’s commitment to bringing these compelling stories to viewers and highlighting the issues that plague our environment. Users will be able to connect to elephants and the rangers in a profound way that transports them to the center of the issue.
“We want to bring exceptional content that is emblematic of National Geographic to viewers everywhere and are proud to collaborate with the talented Kathryn Bigelow and Imraan Esmail along with Here Be Dragons and Annapurna Pictures on our first foray into the doc short form space using VR technology. This film will take viewers to the front lines alongside Nat Geo storytellers in the hopes that we can change their perception on ivory through this powerful virtual experience”, said Tim Pastore, President of Original Programming and Production, National Geographic Channel.
“I can’t stress enough how we still need to do so much more to fight the devastating effects of the global illegal ivory trade and I made this film to shine a light on the heroic park rangers who are our front line in this battle," said director Kathryn Bigelow. "The VR technology is a perfect way to take you into their day-to-day lives and highlight their passion and commitment to the vitally important work they do."
“The power of virtual reality gives us the chance to take our viewers to the breathtaking yet deadly interior of the Democratic Republic of Congo as we witness and walk in the shoes of these courageous African national parks rangers. To have Kathryn Bigelow taking the helm of this project alongside Imraan Esmail is obviously an exciting and seminal moment for the medium and storytelling in VR,” said Patrick J. Milling-Smith, Producer, Here Be Dragons. “There are no stronger filmmakers to champion these rangers and viscerally show the world their humanity and bravery in the face or such horror.”
The Protectors is produced by Here Be Dragons, Annapurna Pictures and National Geographic Studios for National Geographic Channel. Producers are Patrick J. Milling-Smith, Megan Ellison, and Kathryn Bigelow. For Annapurna Pictures, Matthew Budman, Samantha Scher, and Priya Swaminathan will serve as executive producers. For National Geographic Studios, executive producers are Jeff Hasler and Bengt Anderson. For National Geographic Channel, Matt Renner is vice president of production and Tim Pastore is President of Original Programming and Production.
About National Geographic Channels
The National Geographic Channels (The Channels) form the television and production arm of National Geographic Partners, a joint venture between 21st Century Fox and the National Geographic Society. As a global leader in premium science, adventure and exploration programming, the Channels include: National Geographic Channel (NGC), Nat Geo WILD, Nat Geo People and Nat Geo MUNDO. Additionally, the Channels also run the in-house television production unit, National Geographic Studios. The Channels contribute to the National Geographic Society’s commitment to exploration, conservation and education with entertaining, innovative programming from A-level talent around the world, and with profits that help support the society’s mission. Globally, NGC is available in more than 440 million homes in 171 countries and 45 languages, and Nat Geo WILD is available in 131 countries and 38 languages. National Geographic Partners is also a leader in social media, with a fan base of 250 million people across all of its social pages. NGC contributes over 55 million social media fans globally on Facebook alone. For more information, visit www.natgeotv.com and www.natgeowild.com.
About Here Be Dragons:
Here Be Dragons is a creative services/production studio that supports the world’s leading creative innovators and story tellers in virtual reality spherical filmmaking co-founded in 2014 by Chris Milk and Patrick Milling-Smith. The Here Be Dragons collective of artists, writers, creatives, technicians, producers, and innovators strive to create the world’s best experiential media and utilize custom built tools and technology to craft and curate original immersive experiences. The Here Be Dragons creative team and production talent are industry leaders in short-form commercials, music videos, feature film, theatre, design, photography and fine arts with a proven track record in creating stories that inspire and truly resonate, collectively earning them numerous Emmys©, Cannes Lions, Grand Prixes, Palm d’Ors, AICP, D&AD, One Show, ADC, Tony, Webby Awards and a Grammy.
Notable work produced and created by Vrse.works (now Here Be Dragons) are the multi-award-winning THE DISPLACED, SMILE MORE, WALKING NEW YORK, CLOUDS OVER SIDRA, WAVES OF GRACE, MY MOTHERS WING, EVOLUTION OF VERSE, MUSE, SONGS FOR SOMEONE U2, CATATONIC, NEW WAVE, TOMS, HISTORY OF CUBAN DANCE, and THE CLICK EFFECT, working in collaboration with the UN, USA NETWORK, AT&T, NIKE, MASTERCARD, THE NEW YORK TIMES, APPLE MUSIC, SAMSUNG, FACEBOOK, VICE to name a few. Learn more at www.dragons.org
About Annapurna Pictures:
Annapurna Pictures is a film production and finance company founded by Megan Ellison that focuses on creating sophisticated, high-quality content which sets itself apart. Ellison successfully upholds the company’s vision to produce critically and commercially conscious projects which appeal to a diverse audience, allowing filmmakers and artists to create story content of all genres and mediums while preserving their authenticity. Annapurna’s most recent projects include, Todd Solondz’s WIENER-DOG, which was just released by Amazon Studios to great reviews after premiering at this year’s Sundance Film Festival and Richard Linklater’s EVERYBODY WANTS SOME, was released in April through Paramount Pictures to rave reviews after premiering at SXSW in Austin. Additionally, Annapurna is currently in post-production on Ana Lily Amirpour’s THE BAD BATCH, set to premiere at the upcoming Venice Film Festival; 20th CENTURY WOMEN, starring Annette Bening, Greta Gerwig, and Billy Crudup which will premiere at the New York Film Festival and be released later this year by A24; Greg Tiernan and Conrad Vernon’s animated SAUSAGE PARTY written by Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg, Kyle Hunter and Ariel Shaffir. Annapurna is also currently in pre-production on Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal’s UNTITLED DETROIT PROJECT, starring John Boyega and is developing the film adaptation of Maria Semple’s WHERE’D YOU GO, BERNADETTE, to be directed by Richard Linklater. Annapurna’s projects since 2012 have earned thirty-one Academy Award nominations, and Ellison is one of only four honorees ever to receive two Best Picture nominations in the same year. Those projects include Kathryn Bigelow’s ZERO DARK THIRTY, David O. Russell’s JOY, Bennett Miller’s FOXCATCHER, David O. Russell’s AMERICAN HUSTLE, Spike Jonze’s HER, Wong Kar Wai’s THE GRANDMASTER, and Paul Thomas Anderson’s THE MASTER. Additionally, Annapurna is partners with Mark Boal on the company Page One, where they produce season two of the hit podcast SERIAL. Bigelow also directed and partnered with Annapurna on the animated short LAST DAYS, about illegal elephant poaching and the ivory trade.