Nature (Season 35) – Spy in the Wild, A NATURE Miniseries

Production Biographies

Air date: 02/01/2017

Spy in the Wild, A NATURE Miniseries


John Downer

Executive Producer and Director of John Downer Productions

A passionate zoologist, Downer has been making groundbreaking nature documentaries for the BBC for more than 30 years. He made his name by abandoning the traditional style of nature documentaries and pioneering a highly inventive subjective approach. Using new technology and dramatic story-telling techniques, he continues to find new ways to immerse the audience in the animal world.

His innovative approach to filmmaking has brought him numerous international awards, including an Emmy for genre-changing series such as Supersense, Weird Nature, Earthflight and Penguins: Spy in the Huddle. His productions have won an RTS award five times for the most innovative TV program of the year. Two years ago, he was given a Wildscreen Outstanding Achievement Award for his contribution to wildlife television.

His first music video, for Peter Gabriel, won a Grammy. His “Spy” films are one of the longest-running and most successful wildlife series ever made. They began 16 years ago with a film about lions shot with a “bouldercam.” This changed the way wildlife films were made and gave a perspective on animals that had never been seen before. The latest series, Spy in the Wild incorporating advanced animatronic Spy Creatures, is the biggest and most innovative “Spy” series yet.

Philip Dalton

Series Producer

Dalton’s wildlife filmmaking career spans more than 20 years. He started out at the BBC Natural History Unit before moving onto IMAX productions. He joined John Downer Productions to work on the highly innovative series Supernatural and Weird Nature and never left, going on to produce a number of hugely successful productions, broadcast around the world, including  Pets: Wild at Heart, Penguins: Spy in the Huddle, Polar Bears: Spy on the IceEarthflight, Animal Olympics and Pride. His programs have collected numerous awards from, among others, the Royal Television Society, Green Screen and Wildscreen, and he collected an Emmy for cinematography for Winged Planet as well as the Green Screen Award. Dalton is instrumental in developing and operating the specialist camera devices used on the “Spy” films, shooting main camera for some of JDP’s most memorable sequences. His work takes him to some of the world’s wildest and remotest locations in pursuit of extraordinary behavior in the natural world.

Fred Kaufman

Executive Producer, Nature

For more than 25 years, Fred Kaufman has been a leading executive in the natural history genre. As the executive producer of the acclaimed PBS Nature series, Kaufman has won seven Emmys and two Peabody Awards. He has been with Nature since its beginning in 1982 and has overseen it since 1991. During his tenure, Nature has been honored with hundreds of industry awards. In 2012, Kaufman was named the recipient of the International Wildlife Film Festival’s Lifetime Achievement Award for Media. In 2010, he accepted the Outstanding Achievement Award from the prestigious Wildscreen Film Festival in Bristol, England. It was the first time in the 20-year history of the festival that the award was presented to an American wildlife series. In 2009, Kaufman executive produced The Legend of Pale Male, an award-winning feature documentary that chronicled the legendary hawk that nested on a Fifth Avenue building in New York City and the life-changing events that followed.

Many of Nature’s most memorable presentations have been produced under Kaufman’s stewardship, including Bears of the Last Frontier; Christmas in Yellowstone; Deep Jungle; AFRICA; Hummingbirds: Magic in the Air; Dogs That Changed the World; My Life as a Turkey; Inside the Animal Mind; Echo: An Elephant to Remember; An Original DUCKumentary; and Cloud: Wild Stallion of the Rockies.

In 2006, Kaufman won a George Foster Peabody Award for The Queen of Trees, a high-definition portrait of the relationship between the tiny fig wasp and the giant fig tree. In 2008, Kaufman won a second Peabody Award for Silence of the Bees, which looked at the global crisis of the disappearing honeybees.

In 2007, he wrote and co-produced The Best of Nature: 25 Years, a successful fundraising show for PBS that looked back at the highlights of the series’ first 25 years. In 2002, he created and executive produced an urban wildlife series for kids called Wild TV. Then in 1994, he executive produced In the Wild, a series of wildlife specials featuring celebrities. Memorable shows from that series included Dolphins With Robin Williams, In the Lion’s Den With Anthony Hopkins, Elephants With Goldie Hawn and Orangutans With Julia Roberts, which won a Genesis Award for best PBS documentary.

Kaufman is a member of the Director’s Guild of America and the Writer’s Guild of America. He is the vice chairman of the Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival.  He appears regularly on public television pledge drives as a spokesman for quality natural history television.