Executive Producer Michael Rauch shares the logistics of creating this show
Michael Rauch is the Executive Producer of Life is Wild on The CW. He recently took time to talk about the show and the logistics of filming in South Africa.
What is it like filming there?
Michael Rauch: We are shooting the entire show - our main location is a 1500-acre farm, and on the farm are lions and elephant and hippo and giraffe, impala, wildebeest, zebra. So it's this amazing -- you walk from the set to lunch, and you pass zebra or wildebeest. It's just an incredible experience. And we basically put the animal in the script that we want. Find out if that animal would work in a scene. And if it's scheduled to be the giraffe, you know, in the yard at 4 o'clock on Thursday, at about 3:55, the giraffe's walked up, waits for the scene to be ready. We call action. The giraffe walks in the background, and we do it again. It's really amazing.
Where exactly are you?
Michael Rauch: We're in the North West Province, hich is about 45 minutes outside of Johannesburg, and we're in the middle of the bush right now. And it's pretty spectacular.
And that's the location for the series?
Michael Rauch: This is our -- here, our location, yeah, it's a big farm where we have all of our central sets. And then, we have some other locations we go to. In this episode, we went to a township called Brazzaville. In the next episode, we're going to Soweto. There's a place called the cradle of human kind, which is the place where apparently mankind took its first step. We're going to go there in a future episode as well. We really try to incorporate this country as much as we can into the flavor and texture of the show.
What about the animals you use?
Michael Rauch: They're not domestic animals. They're wild animals who have been raised, but they're not domesticated in the fact that, you know, the lions are in pens. And when we shoot with the lions, we are usually behind -- you know, it's a cleared set and we're behind a cage, so there's a lot of precaution that's taken to ensure our safety as well as the care and concern for the animals themselves.
And you're working on a European work schedule?
Michael Rauch: It's a eight-day -- eight- to-nine-day episode, and we're going to be doing mostly five-day weeks. However, one of the things that is different here is we're doing more of a European work hour, so it's between 10- and 11-hour days. It's much shorter days. There's really rarely ever any overtime, so the challenges, in terms of squeezing in the 43 minutes of television into a much shorter workweek, is something that we're dealing with.
One of the strengths of the show was how you portrayed the Africans as warm and positive. Will you be incorporating things like AIDS and apartheid and poverty and how you do that while still making a show that people aren't overwhelmed by?
Michael Rauch: I think very carefully. You know, it -- it would be -- I think it's incumbent upon us in this production of this show and the network it's airing on to be truthful about the country the show is set in. And otherwise, why do it in South Africa? We could do it, you know, in Southern California. And so the issues of apartheid, of truth and reconciliation, of what this country's gone through and how recently, and the AIDS epidemic are all things that we want to touch on in the storylines. I think we'll do it gradually. And I think we'll try to do it in a way that's not too heavy in terms of storytelling, but we actually want to work as much of the reality and the authenticity of where we are which is going to help inform our storytelling.
How hard do you work the animals?
Michael Rauch: Whenever we shoot with animals, the animal wranglers are right there, and they are on top of it. And if they feel like we're working an animal too hard, the animal's getting tired, they'll tell us no more, or one more take, and we'll do it and we'll stop, and always protect the animal, keep it in the shade. And just protect the actors from the animals and the animals from the work.
Life is Wild airs Sunday Nights at 8PM on The CW.