EMMY AWARD 2018
Outstanding Cinematography For A Reality Program
And the winner is:
• Life Below Zero •
• Series Body Of Work •
National Geographic – BBC Studios
Danny Day, Director of Photography
John Griber, Director of Photography
Mike Cheeseman, Director of Photography
Simeon Houtman, Director of Photography
Terry Pratt, Director of Photography
Rob Gowler, Camera Operator
David Lovejoy, Camera Operator
Ben Mullin, Camera Operator
Terry Pratt, a Three Rivers resident for four years, won an Emmy Award earlier this month for his work on the National Geographic television show Life Below Zero. Over the weekend of Saturday, Sept. 8, and Sunday, Sept. 9, the Television Academy presented the 70th Creative Arts Emmy Awards, recognizing technical achievements on TV for the 2017-2018 season.
Terry and his wife, Noelle Charles, were in attendance for the nearly three-hour ceremony at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles, where awards were presented by many celebrities, including Bryan Cranston, the Fuller House cast, James Corden, Jane Lynch, Lisa Kudrow, Molly
Shannon, Padma Lakshmi, RuPaul, and the hosts of Queer Eye. A telecast of the 70th Creative Arts Emmy Awards aired Saturday, Sept. 15, on FXX (the Primetime Emmy Awards aired Monday, Sept. 17).
Terry was nominated for his contributions as a director of photography on the reality series Life Below Zero, which has been in production since 2013 and, as of 2018, is in its 11th season. Terry was also nominated for an Emmy in 2015 and 2017.
This year, he and his team were nominated and won the Emmy for Outstanding Cinematography for a Reality Program. They won for “The 11th Hour,” from Season 9, Episode 3, which aired July 27, 2017.
The show Life Below Zero is described on the National Geographic website as “Alaskans struggle to survive the brief, cold and dark days as winter overtakes the land.” The Emmy Award-winning episode is briefly recounted as “Sue scouts for sheep at the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
Glenn sets beaver snares. Jessie runs the Cantwell Sled Dog Race. Andy goes muskrat trapping.”
The following questions were submitted to Terry by Anthony Ferranti on behalf of The Kaweah Commonwealth:
This was your third nomination for an Emmy Award and first win. What was it like when they announced that your show won the award?
Terry Pratt: It was near the end of the ceremony, we were starting to get restless and then, BAM!, our category was called. It happened very quickly. We (the five DPs and operators that were there) were in shock and excitement. I was just glad that I didn’t have to speak to the audience!
Can you explain what the Emmys are looking at to determine the winner?
Terry: The Emmys are voted by a pool of our peers, not by a committee. We cannot vote for our own show. Many shows have multiple cameramen, ours is one of those.
Can you describe your job?
Terry: Our show follows five people/families around the Arctic Circle. Most of these cast members survive on a “subsistence lifestyle,” meaning they hunt and gather to survive.
Separate four-person crews are sent to each location. Each “visit” lasts about two weeks. A crew consists of a Producer who shoots B Camera [supplemental footage]; a Director of Photography who dictates how to approach shooting a scene, lights if necessary, shoots all interviews, and more; a Camera Assistant/ Digital Imaging Technician who download our cards, fly drone, and rig GoPros, slo-mo, and deal with time lapse; and, finally, we have a Safety Person who also cooks for the team.
What’s it like for you and your crew to work in such extreme conditions such as Alaska’s Arctic Circle?
Terry: Our production company, BBC America, works like a fine-oiled machine. We arrive in Anchorage, where BBC has a production office.
We spend two days in Anchorage before we jump to our various locations. It is here we prep our gear, get outfitted with cold-weather gear (they have everything you would need to deal with -40 weather. If they are missing, say, a parka in your size, they will immediately purchase it for you).
We also have a story meeting before heading into the wilderness. It’s in this meeting that we learn what stories we will be following. These stories are dictated by what the cast member plans to do while we are there, i.e., a hunting trip, gathering firewood, etc.
Usually we will have three main stories we follow. Everything will change if something crazy happens (a bear coming into camp, etc.).
Some locations will take longer to reach then others. Usually we’ll fly in by planes outfitted with skis then snowmobile into our final locations.
Once there, we’ll either move into small cabins or “Arctic Ovens” (double-walled dome tents). We heat by firewood that we must find, cut, and split.
In the winter, we only have about three to six hours of sunlight to be able to shoot outside, depending on the time of year. In summer, that ratio is more like 18 to 22 hours of sun, which brings other problems.
We approach our stories carefully and safely, following the lead of our cast member. We are only there to document, never to direct the cast.
Usually, we’re at the location 14 days, giving ourselves four days to shoot each story. Quite often, we will go long, probably due to a story taking us longer to film.
Since the hour-long episode comprises of four to five cast members, our portion of the episode is about eight minutes. We film in three episode bursts.
Getting in and out of locations in the winter is usually the biggest hurdle.
The following is Terry’s reaction to the Emmy win, which he posted on his Facebook page following the presentation:
Wow, what a day! Truly a “Bucket List” day. Thought I was gonna be a 3 time Emmy loser… Came out a winner along with a bunch of the finest cameramen anywhere!
Thank you to Ben Mullin, David Burton Lovejoy, Michael Cheeseman, and Danny Day for sharing this “Amazing Life Accomplishment” together! This is proof that talent must run DEEP to create a spectacular show!
A HUGE shout out to Joseph Litzinger and Travis Shakespeare for leading us all into uncharted territory and coming out winners!
And a special thanks to my wife Noelle Charles, who has put up with far too many lonely nights and near calamities to count, so I can pursue my dream. This Emmy is for you!