Luc Jacquet

The director of March of the Penguins.

If the Woodland Park Zoo sees increased crowds at the penguin house, it ought to thank French director Luc Jacquet, who was in town recently for SIFF with March of the Penguins (see review). Speaking through an interpreter, though his English is better than passable, he explained how he wasn't unfamiliar with the extremes of Antarctica. "I spent 14 months as a biologist there in 1992, and I went back there quite often after that to do documentaries for TV. The shooting [of March] was 13 months. The two other members of the crew had already had other experiences in harsh environments, so they were ready to follow this same adventure. "The coldest [temperature] we had was minus 37 degrees, which is actually not that low. Because when you go to the interior of Antarctica, it can go to minus 80 or 90 degrees. But when we were shooting close the ocean, it was not that cold. We had all the logistical support from the French Polar Institute [where they stayed] . . . and the colony was only 20 minutes from the base. We didn't actually walk the 100 kilometers the penguins walk." One of the risks Jacquet and his crew faced was shooting Super-16 film stock (except for brief underwater video sequences) that remained with them in Antarctica without being processed for those 13 months. "Indeed, we couldn't process the film when we were there. We had to wait until we go back home to process the film. Not surprisingly, we didn't lose much, and that's probably due to the high quality work done by [the cameramen], but that's something we had on our minds." Think of it: Just like the Emperor penguins tending their precious solitary eggs, Jacquet's entire project might've been ruined with one technical glitch. Back home in France, he spent six months editing. "We had a script from the very beginning, and we had a cut that was precisely planned, so there was no big surprise from that point of view. If you have really great and beautiful footage, then you have to be ready to change the script a little bit so you can include that footage." And here's a secret penguin editing tip about the central mating couple March follows: They're a composite pair made up of many different birds! "It's completely impossible to differentiate [between them], so all the penguins were potential heroes. It's just a matter of editing." Finally, what about the original French-language soundtrack that had the penguins (voiced by actors) narrating their story? Of the future DVD, says Jacquet, "It includes a translation in English of the exact [original] narration. It's the version that was shown at the Sundance Film Festival." bmiller@seattleweekly.com

 
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