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Series about Vancouver Island sea wolves wins four Emmy awards

Netflix commissioned U.K. firm to make documentary; most of the work was subcontracted to Vancouver-based River Road Films due to travel restrictions.

A nature documentary shot on Vancouver Island has picked up four Daytime Emmy Awards, and an Island cinematographer says the win shows how production companies don’t have to fly in a crew from elsewhere but can rely on locals to can get the job done — and pick up awards along the way.

Netflix’s Island of the Sea Wolves won for Outstanding Cinematography for a Daytime Non-Fiction Program, as well as Outstanding Single Camera Editing, Sound Mixing, and Outstanding Writing Team.

Comox Valley cinematographer Maxwel Hohn, who was part of the eight-person B.C. camera team that helped cinch the cinematography award, told the Times Colonist from his hotel room in Los Angeles that everyone is buzzing with excitement. “Mission accomplished for the entire team. We got four Emmys out of the seven that we were nominated for.”

While Netflix commissioned U.K.-based Wild Space Productions to make the documentary, the company subcontracted most of the work to Vancouver-based River Road Films due to COVID-19 travel restrictions.

Those restrictions turned out to be a boon for local cinematographers like Hohn, he said.

“There’s a good chance I probably would have worked on it, but to the extent that I did? Probably not,” he said. “I was able to basically work with almost every species on the show, and it was all within an hour or two from where I live.”

Shot during 2021, Island of the Sea Wolves required filming over nine months.

And it’s not always easy out there as the weather can get challenging with storms, rain, and heatwaves, Hohn said. “And of course, we’re working with wildlife and wildlife does its own thing. We can’t really direct them around.”

“We just have to be patient and hope that they come back to their favourite little rock or their favourite little kelp forest and hopefully get the shot.”

Narrated by Will Arnett, the three-part documentary on Netflix takes an intimate look at the lives of several Vancouver Island wildlife species, including Cedar the wolf, Spiro the eagle, and Sky the sea otter.

The awards show was originally set to air June 16 but was postponed to Dec. 15 due to the Hollywood writers strike.

It’s the first major awards show to return since unionized writers and actors went on strike.

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