Life Below Zero is a unique reality show from Adjacent Productions that has a great documentary quality to it. The series, now in its second season on cable’s NatGeo Channel, follows seven people in Alaska’s frozen wilderness. The show has a mix of interesting lone wolf characters who brave the wild and use their survival skills to make it through a long bitter winter, struggling with snow storms, carnivores, punishing terrain, isolation, limited resources, unrelenting hard work, and always the unexpected.
Executive producer Travis Shakespeare says the appeal of the Emmy-worthy reality series that has been embraced by viewers and critics “is that the people on Life Below Zero have rejected what I call ‘cubical to garage living.’ And it is fascinating to watch them — Sue Aikens, Andy Bassich, Agnes Hailstone, Chip Hailstone, Kate Rorke-Bassich, Erik Salitan, and Glenn Villeneuve — carve out a self-sufficient life on their own terms. They have their own code and a sense of independence. That’s the emotional core of the show viewers identify with and draws them in. That’s to be admired in our modern technically infused world.”
There should also be admiration for the production crew that captures the brutal reality under sub-zero conditions. The survival skills of the technical crew has proven to be equal to the people they are filming.
“There are many challenges for the crew,” reports producer Shakespeare (who has Ice Road Truckers and Deadliest Catch among his credits). “They have to be hardy survivalists and also technical experts in their field. We send out small crews, including one dedicated director of photography per location along with a producer who also shoots second camera. And every crew is accompanied by an armed safety expert, because there are bears, among other hazards.”
The production team doesn’t think about Emmy recognition when they are enduring the harsh conditions, with LCD monitor screens freezing at 25 below zero. “At that point the photographers are shooting on instinct because there’s no little screen to watch,” Shakespeare explains. And yet, against all odds the crew captures the raw beauty and the gritty emotions that come with the isolation. He adds, “It is brutal realism. That’s why we’ve been submitted in the ‘unstructured reality program’ category.”
For consideration for “Outstanding Unstructured Reality Program,” the producers are Travis Shakespeare, Joe Litzinger, Matt Powers, Samuel Henderson, Tim Pastore, Elli Hakami, Jane Tranter, and Kevin Mohs. For “Outstanding Cinematography for Reality Programming” — Director of Photography: Joe “Boots” Parker, John Griber, Jesse Phinney, and Oliver Lynch. For “Outstanding Picture Editing for Reality Programming” — Editors: Tony Diaz, Ian Richardson, and Matt Edwards. For “Outstanding Sound Mixing for Nonfiction Programming” — Michael Jesmer with Sound House: Margarita Mix Hollywood. For “Outstanding Sound Editing for Nonfiction Programming” — Chris Kahwaty with Sound House: Margarita Mix Hollywood. And for “Outstanding Main Title Design” — Graphic Designer: Scott Wenner at Motion 504.
All contribute to an outstanding show that has been picked up for a third season on NatGeo, and will return this fall for more frozen wilderness adventures.