Alastair Fothergill BBC Grierson Trustees' Award winner

Documentary maker, producer, presenter and all round natural history guru, Alastair Fothergill will be honoured with the prestigious BBC Grierson Trustees' Award at the 2017 British Documentary Awards.

Alastair Fothergill

Photo of Alastair Fothergill

At the forefront of natural history programming for over 30 years, Alastair Fothergill joined the BBC's NHU in 1983. By 1992 he was running the department and responsible for some of the most impactful and innovative natural history programming lauded the world over. He has gone on to work for Disney Nature, create feature films and also establish his own specialist production company Silverback Films.

Announcing the award, Chairman of the Grierson Trust, Lorraine Heggessey says: “Alastair is one of the nation's leading lights in natural history documentary filmmaking. His contribution to the genre has helped to make the UK pre-eminent in this field, particularly through his inspirational partnership with Sir David Attenborough. He’s passionate, innovative and immensely knowledgeable and has produced some of the most extraordinary natural history programmes ever made.

“When I was Controller of BBC One, I used to love the way Alastair would breeze into my office looking as if he had just stepped out of the jungle before tantalising me with a few glimpses of some amazing footage of an aspect of the natural world that had never been filmed before. His love of his subject shines through all his series and delights viewers of all ages.”

From humble beginning on The Really Wild Show to renowned, landmark programming such as Planet Earth, Blue Planet and Frozen Planet, Alastair Fothergill has travelled the world and helped capture its beauty, grandeur and immensity on the both the small and big screen. He was one of the team to pioneer live broadcasting from under the sea in Reefwatch, he has regularly collaborated with the indomitable Sir David Attenborough and stepped in front of the camera himself, amongst the monkeys of the Ivory Coast in Going Ape. His work has garnered awards and acclaim from across the globe. He is fellow of the Royal Geographic Society who awarded him their gold medal in 2012. He also has honorary doctorates from the Universities of Durham, Hull and York St. John.

Alastair follows in the illustrious footsteps of previous Trustees' Award winners including documentary luminaries Louis Theroux, Sir David Attenborough, John Battsek, Molly Dineen, Nick Fraser, Alex Graham, Kim Longinotto, Kevin MacDonald, Norma Percy, John Pilger and Penny Woolcock. Acknowledged as the Oscars of the documentary world, the Trustees’ Award crowns the crème de la crème of the industry, recognising an outstanding contribution to the art or craft of documentary making.

Now in their 45th year, the Griersons celebrate the best in documentary filmmaking carrying prestige and allure for factual filmmakers from across the globe.

The winners of Grierson 2017 will be revealed at a star-studded ceremony hosted by Stephen Mangan at the Mermaid on Monday 6th November, 2016.

Alastair Fothergill: Full Biography

Alastair Fothergill was educated at Harrow School and the Universities of St. Andrew’s and Durham. He joined the BBC Natural History Unit in 1983. He worked on a wide range of the department’s programmes, including the BAFTA award-winning The Really Wild Show, Wildlife on One, The Natural World and the innovative Reefwatch, where he was one of the team that developed the first live broadcasting from beneath the sea. Alastair went on to work on the BBC1 series The Trials of Life with Sir David Attenborough.

In 1993 he produced Life in the Freezer, a six-part series for BBC1 celebrating the wildlife of the Antarctic, presented by Sir David Attenborough. While still working on this series, he was appointed Head of the BBC Natural History Unit in November 1992, aged 32.

In June 1998 , he stood down as Head of the Unit to concentrate on his role as Series Producer of The Blue Planet, a landmark series on the natural history of the world’s oceans. In 2001 Alastair become Director of Development for the Natural History Unit.

In 2002 he co-presented Going Ape, a film that took Alastair to the Ivory Coast in Africa. He has produced Deep Blue, a cinematic movie of the world’s oceans and he was one of the presenters and executive producer of the innovative live broadcast Live from the Abyss.

He was Series Producer for the Natural History Unit’s landmark series, Planet Earth, the ultimate portrait of our planet. He subsequently co-directed the cinematic version Earth to great worldwide acclaim. He was Executive Producer on the Unit’s major landmark series Frozen Planet, a natural history of the polar regions, which aired to record audiences and critical acclaim in autumn 2011.

In addition to his work with the BBC Natural History Unit, Alastair co-directed two cinematic movies for Disney as part of their Disney Nature label. One of these movies featured the big cats of East Africa and was released in the states in April 2011 and worldwide during 2012. The second movie features chimpanzees was released in the states in April 21012 and will be released worldwide in 2013.

In November 2012 Alastair left the BBC to set up his own production company Silverback Films. He is currently co-directing three further cinema films for Disney Nature.

In 2015, Silverbacks Films completed a new landmark series for BBC 1, The Hunt, which looks at the dynamic relationships between predators and their prey. It has also completed an IMAX version of the series entitled Incredible Predators.

The company is now working on another landmark series for BBC1 to be broadcast in 2020. It is also in production with a major landmark natural history series for Netflix, Our Planet, which will be released global in April 2019.

Alastair is fellow of the Royal Geographic Society who awarded him their gold medal in 2102. He has honorary doctorates from the Universities of Durham, Hull and York St. John. Alastair lives in Bristol with his wife Melinda, two sons and two Jack Russells.

Published: 12 October 2017

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