Dr Elizabeth White, BBC producer for shows including Frozen Planet and Planet Earth II, spoke to 200 students and parents at The Royal High School on Thursday 9th February. This formed part of the Aspire Programme at the school, an academic extension programme which runs alongside the school curriculum.
Following the huge success of the first Planet Earth series, it was no surprise that the second series was incredibly popular, and became the most watched natural history documentary in more than 15 years. Dr White was the episode producer for ‘Islands’ (episode 1) which has accumulated over 12 million views since its release back in November. The episode was famous for the incredible footage of swimming pygmy sloths, death-defying penguins and of course, who can forget the astounding footage of the racer snakes chasing the young marine iguanas as they attempt to reach the ocean! This scene even saw her awarded ‘The Timeline TV Moment of the Year Award’ at the Broadcast Awards 2017.
Dr White started by talking about her own background, growing up in Bristol and then going on to study Biology at Degree and then PHD level, also in Bristol. Having studied art and photography, she looked for a way to bring creativity and science together, and after working hard on many short term contracts, is now a hugely successful director and producer for the BBC.
She spoke at length about the development and production of Planet Earth, and talked about how more young people watched the Planet Earth series than the X Factor! A secret weapon on this latest series, according to Dr White, was the partnership with mulit-award winning composer Hans Zimmer. Hans Zimmer has famously composed music for huge Hollywood blockbusters such as The Lion King, Pirates of the Caribbean and Gladiator but Dr White told the captivated audience that Hans had described composing music for the wildlife featured in Planet Earth II was ‘making music for the real super heroes’.
After a truly engaging and inspirational talk, Dr White took questions from curious students for a full half an hour, and it is clear that she has inspired the next generation of wildlife film-makers!
Jo Duncan, Head of The Royal High School, said that ‘it was absolutely fascinating to hear from Dr White, and to hear about what goes on in the background and behind the scenes. In particular the link drawn between creativity and science is fantastic. This was a truly inspirational lecture for our girls and I am thrilled that Dr White was able to take the time to visit us’
Head of the RHS Aspire Programme, Mrs Lizzie Cunningham, said ‘it was truly an honour to welcome Dr White as a speaker for the programme. The Aspire programme is designed to stretch and extend all students across all age ranges, enabling them to blossom into independent, inquisitive and intellectually curious young women. At the Royal High School, we know that well-rounded individuals are not just the product of a school curriculum, and we delight in watching every student discover more about the evolving world we are surrounded by’.