EVENT | IMIS Bernard Happé Lecture and Awards

IMIS and Natural History Unit LectureLumina was delighted to be invited along to the International Moving Image Society’s annual awards and Bernard Happé Lecture. Hosted in the grand surroundings of the Regent Street Cinema, the evening saw several high profile guests attending the evening. National treasure David Attenborough joined colleagues from the BBC’s Natural History Unit, and former British Film Commissioner Sydney Samuelson.

Lumina attended the Bernard Happé lecture back in 2015, but this evening began with an insightful lecture from Julian Hector, Head of Natural History Unit and Colin Jackson – not the hurdles runner as he joked, but Senior Innovation Producer at the Natural History Unit. The lecture was a truly fascinating insight into the production of some of the nation’s most loved wildlife programmes. From small beginnings over 50 years ago, the Natural History Unit has become a staple for wildlife documentaries. It’s content has become a major aspect of BBC scheduling, with Big Cats and Animals with Cameras currently airing.

Of course, wildlife cinematography is a difficult medium within moving image. There is no control over the subjects, yet as Jackson described, NHU brings extraordinary images into the homes. The Natural History Unit was first to broadcast live images of blue whales in Big Blue Live. The whole process had been planned to the finer detail, from organising satellite airtime, to positioning presenters and crew in the US West Coast, but the goal of broadcasting blue whales live, in a specific hour-long slot on a Sunday evening for UK audiences was the challenge. With the mammals only surfacing briefly for breath, the team still managed achieved their goal, cutting away from interviews immediately. The Natural History Unit has also helped the BBC dominate the most-watched programmes from in both 2016 and 2017, when it occupied the top 4 positions, with Blue Planet II.

Following the insight into the awe-inspiring programmes the Natural History Unit produces, the IMIS awards celebrated the best of the industry. Another wildlife connection with the John Tompkins Natural Wildlife award making its debut, introduced by Sir David Attenborough, CBE. The first recipient was Gavin Thurston, who has captured footage for large wildlife series over the years, including Blue Planet II. Attenborough recalled a moment when Thurston was filming eels near a brine lake, hundreds of metres underwater. While filming, water began flooding the foot-wells, yet instead of panicking and rushing to the surface, Thurston dedicated himself to filming and it was that dedication that was rewarded on the evening.

Another highlight was Sydney Samuelson introducing the award to Christine Physick of the Plaza Community Cinema, one of the first community cinemas in the UK. It was saved from the brink of closure and was refurbished, with the intention of reopening to show the first Jurassic Park movie. Except, it could not show the movie and reached out to the then British Film Commissioner, Sydney Samuelson. He set the wheels in motion for the stars and producers to inspire distributors to grant exhibition rights. Opening with their film of choice, the community cinema has grown into a strong community centre in the Liverpool region. It is wonderful to see the continued efforts from the film industry supporting smaller cinemas.

Our thanks to the International Moving Image Society for inviting the Lumina team to the award ceremony and lecture.

Feature image credit: IMIS