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Filming the Pallas Cats

The BBC's BIG CATS crew came to Mongolia with us to film an episode for the series. The crew spent a month, in a secret location, sitting, waiting, and scouring the horizon for the never before filmed Pallas' cat kittens. We have a few insights from the crew who worked on the shoot, What is really like making these programs?

Who are you and what was your role on Big Cats. What did your role involve?

I’m Sara Douglas and I was a director on Big Cats.

I worked on the project for nearly 2 years and my role was very varied. In the early stages on the series, I was heavily involved in organising shoots, making sure we would be in the right place at the right time to get the story that we wanted and be able to film each of the cat species as best as we possibly could. 

Shooting Pallas’s cats for the Big Cats series was one of my highlights! It’s not every day that you get to go to the wild and remote corners of Mongolia and its even more rare that you get the opportunity to see such a rare and amazing cat as well as film it for the very first time.

What was an average day like for you whilst shooting Big Cats in Mongolia?

An average day consisted of getting up REALLY early, often before it got light, and heading out with the team to find a Pallas’s cat. Finding the cats was one of our biggest challenge – it was like finding a boulder in a field of boulders! Once our day was done, we would come back to our gers to charge all our batteries, eat and sleep in the comfort of our Mongolian gers.

What was the highlight of the Mongolia shoot? What was it like to shoot in Mongolia?

Of course, seeing Pallas’s cats was fantastic and being successful in our filming mission. However, what made our timing trip really unique and special was staying and working with Mongolian team – everyone who worked with us was so friendly and getting to learn about the nomadic way of life was also fascinating.


Who are you and what was your role on Big Cats. What did your role involve?

My name is Tudevee and I am 38 years old. I work for PJ as a Fixer and I have been working with BBC, National Geographic, Sky TV, History channel and many more over the years. 

I worked on Big Cats program as a local fixer and my main role was making a bridge between BBC film crew and Mongolian Biologist. Everyday at dinner time we made the plan for the next day's filming and made sure everybody 'were on same boat'. 

What was an average day like for you whilst shooting Big Cats in Mongolia?

Our day starts with coffee and tea at 4 am and then we go straight to our location. When we are filming Manuul (Pallas Cats), I hid behind big rocks and watch the mom while she is hunting. When she gets close to den, I make warning to our camera crew. In this way, we did not scare the family of Manuul. Usually we back to our base after 10 in the morning and we have rest until our lunch time (3 pm). At 4 pm, we go again for our location and do same thing as we do in the morning. Sometimes we need to find our Manuul family, in this case we search them by telescope and binoculars. That was the hardest time for us because we did not used to use binoculars hours and hours to search such a well camouflage cats. When it was get dark, we went back to our base camp and eat our dinner and had a good sleep under thousand of swarovski stars. 

What was the highlight of the Mongolia shoot? What was it like to shoot in Mongolia?

I proudly say when we film in Mongolia we always have beautiful landscape in any season. Shooting in Mongolia, I would say it will be not easy to film any wild animal because they are really shy but once you find your way to film and then it is like discovering this animal. Because I have been seen quite a lot wild animals in the nature but never been following so long hours and days (patiently) and learn about those animals behave and how to surviving and trying to feed their babies and teaching them how to find (hunt) food etc.


Who are you and what was your role on Big Cats. What did your role involve?

I’m Emily Sykes and I work for Panoramic Journeys as a Production Coordinator. I started working the BBC Big Cats in pre-production back in 2016, at that time we were researching the Pallas cats, finding the local experts, finding out as much as we could about the behaviour of the cats, and putting the BBC in contact with the Mongolian experts. As the production progressed I began planning the logistics for the shoot with our team in Ulaanbaatar, there’s so much to think about, such as how much fuel will each vehicle use, where to get spray paint from to camouflage the remote control buggy, whether anyone has any dietary requirements, and of course, will they find the allusive kittens. For this shoot we had to set up a camp in a remote corner of Mongolia, I worked from our office in Ulaanbaatar meeting with the crew, and acting as a bridge between all the different people involved.

What was an average day like for you whilst shooting Big Cats in Mongolia? 

It can be quite hectic when a crew arrives in country, with no real typical day, so I’ll check in with crew out at location, check how everything is going, get hold of any of the things they need. For this paticular shoot we had to take a 6ft telecoms aerial out to location, as there was very poor signal there. So I headed out to meet the team, give them the aerial, and roamed around on hills looking for the best signal location, building cairns as a marker for its location.

What was the highlight of the Mongolia shoot? What was it like to shoot in Mongolia?

The highlight of the shoot was probably meeting with the crew when they returned to UB and watching footage of the kittens on Paul’s phone. They got the footage they’d come for, and at the same time they’d loved being in Mongolia. Mongolia can be the most challenging and also the most rewarding country to film in. It’s so remote, with little infrastructure outside of Ulaanbaatar, but somehow we make all this magic happen, so that film makers can show to the rest of the world what a fascinating and beautiful land Mongolia is.

Karina

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Whether it's to ask a quick question or to start planning the journey of a lifetime, we'd love to hear from you.

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