On December 1st 2015, the ground-breaking documentary TERRA first aired on French television. Created by the partnership between OMEGA and GoodPlanet, the film gave viewers a moving insight into the critical and fragile relationship between humans and animals. Behind the scenes of this momentous project were the people who brought it to life, including the renowned cinematographers Yann Arthus‑Bertrand and Michaël Pitiot, and their assistant director Lolita Chamaillard.
“I actually first wanted to be a journalist. But considering how the media industry had evolved over the last 10 years, I felt cinema was more powerful and more creative sometimes to express a message for emotions and ideas. When you’re going to see a film, it’s crazy what you can feel in two hours.”
Since making the move into film-making, Lolita Chamaillard has made great strides in her career, having worked on several major productions that focus on the planet around us. Both her father and step-mother were journalists and Lolita says she grew up in Paris with a good understanding of what was happening in the world and also the issues that we face as humans.However, one of her greatest inspirations has come from working with Yann Arthus‑Bertrand . This, she says, is “something very special”. Having never seen anyone “so passionate and committed to their cause”, Lolita attributes much of her learning and development to the skilled director.
“Imagine you are on the ocean with the sun shining from one direction and a storm coming from the other. At that moment, you don’t know which one is going to hit you first. Working with Yann is kind of similar. He is led by his intuition. So you never know how your day will be or where you are heading.”
Lolita’s role on Terra involved scouting for many of the documentary’s captivating locations and then ensuring that everything was in place to successfully film the required scenes. With so many different countries and cultures involved, she has become well adept at handling almost every challenge.
“In some countries, they are often surprised to see a woman having responsibilities like mine. But if you find someone not prepared to cooperate, it's my job to use a different strategy to overcome the issue.”
“The message of Terra is to be aware of the little things."
Of course, as Lolita points out, some situations are beyond anyone’s control. Something she experienced first-hand while working on TERRA.
“We were filming in Venezuela for the opening scene of the film. The idea was to capture just the top of a mountain with a sea of clouds all around it. The location was enormously difficult to get to as well as very expensive. Everything relied on the weather being perfect. It caused me weeks of stress. In the days before, I asked for weather updates so often it became an obsession.”
When the weather finally decided to co-operate, the crew managed to get the shot they wanted and Lolita remembers “almost crying” with emotion. This dedication clearly shows that, more than a job, Lolita has found a true passion and purpose in the world of wildlife film-making. And it has also helped her appreciate what truly matters in life.
“The message of Terra is to be aware of the little things. Sometimes we stop seeing them but they're still important. When we were in Botswana, we were in the middle of nowhere. All we had to do was watch the sunset and listen to the hippos snoring. That is such a beautiful human experience.”
And when asked what each of us can do to find those unique moments, Lolita comes back with a very simple reply.
“A friend once told me that the opposite of love is not hate. It's fear. Fear kills all experiences of love and life. I think if there was less fear in people, we could have a very different world.”