Over the 11-season run of “Life Below Zero,” the NatGeo series has won a trio of Emmys. If, in addition to Cinematography and Picture Editing, there was a category for “pulling a snowmobile from a freezing lake in the immediate aftermath of a dangerous windstorm,” the show might be up for a few more.
The new short form series “Life Behind Life Below Zero” (itself competing for an Emmy this year) charts the behind-the-scenes efforts it takes to document life in extreme freezing conditions. It illustrates how phrases like “we had to abandon our camp” and inescapable facts like an already untenable temperature dropping another 40 degrees are part of the realities of this show’s production. (As someone who goes out of their way to avoid puddles for fear that the slightest bit of moisture will dampen my socks, this strikes me as a daunting work environment.)
This episode features interview snippets with the show’s crew, from those running cameras to the series’ Safety Manager. For a show ostensibly set in a place where extreme conditions are the norm, it’s jarring to see how much water plays into the logistical nightmare of filming anywhere near the Arctic. From threatening to freeze the crew’s transportation to turning their tents into the world’s coldest waterbeds, much of the efforts in this episode have to deal with the wet stuff in all its forms.
To balance things out, “Life Behind Life Below Zero” also shows the crew in some happier moments as well. The late-night card games and tasty-looking rice dishes show that, despite the dangers that the show presents, the people who make it happen still take time for some relaxation (or at least as much as frostbite-inducing outside temperatures will allow). Capturing the various challenges of making “Life Below Zero,” this glimpse caps it all off with another one of its biggest rewards: a time-lapse shot of one of the Arctic’s greatest wonders.
The first episode of “Life Behind Life Below Zero” will be widely available on YouTube beginning on Wednesday, but to see the whole behind-the-scenes snapshot, watch all the team’s physical trials below: