Humblebee at NHN's Networking Morning

Humblebee at NHN's Networking Morning

30th June 2017

In June we welcomed Stephen Dunleavy, MD of Humblebee Films, to NHN's Networking Morning.

Stephen came to share news of his small but perfectly formed production company. The team have just finished airing their 4th successful series of Natural Curiosities featuring David Attenborough on UKTV's W Channel and have other shows in the pipeline. 

The company's origins were, of course humble, but reading between the lines, Humble Bee are riding high. They are in fact very busy bees!

Natural Curiosities, Stephen told us, originated in 2011 as a series of shorts for UKTV based around animals that fascinated David Attenborough. Adapting the original premise, the idea expanded into a series of half hours looking at two separate curious creatures connected by a common theme. This proved a winning idea and by 2012 the first series of half hours was commissioned and broadcast on Eden.

The team have just completed their fourth series which aired on UKTV's W Channel this month.

UKTV is now one of the biggest broadcasters in the UK. Owning a suite of channels, they are, according to The Telegraph, even bigger than Channel 5.

It was, explained Stephen, not difficult to persuade David Attenborough to work for UKTV.  The multi-channel broadcaster is a joint venture half owned by BBC Worldwide and Stephen and David had previously made a one-hour special on climate change for their Eden channel.

“Producer Hilary Jeffkins is always brilliant at coming up with barmy ideas" enthused Stephen, and in Series 4 she proposed the idea of focusing on Curious Counters - investigating complex mathematics in the animal kingdom. The series, bizarrely, includes connections between horses, ants and even bamboo!  Stephen shared a clip featuring counting horses (recreating the well known Clever Hans story with David) but it was not as easy as it looked to achieve. "It took 3 months to train the horse, but we didn't have time to train David. So Hilary had to step in as a horse stunt double, so that David could practice the required non verbal cues to ensure the horse performed to camera!"  The clip Stephen shared with the audience of Hilary pretending to be a horse with David tapping her shoulder runs the risk of going viral should they ever decide to put it online!

Humble Bee are also busy on other projects, including a Terra Mater Factual Studios/BBC Natural World production on Tasmania, produced by Matt Hamilton who is also making their current film about pigs around the world.  They are also in production on a one-hour special for BBC 1 and Canadian broadcaster CBC.

 

 

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