National Geographic Channel recently called on BiG MACHiNE to create the launch promo for Chasing UFOs. Introducing the show’s motley trio of hosts (the skeptic, the believer and one undecided), the cinematic promo features a fast-paced UFO chase. Directed by Steve Petersen, BiG MACHiNE deployed live-action stunts and VFX to create the promo.
Nothing sets a “UFO sighting” tone quite like real home video footage, which is where the promo begins. The action quickly cuts to a cinematic world where a high-speed UFO pursuit is underway. Traversing a futuristic desert city, our investigators zero in on an elusive alien spaceship. After sprinting through alleys, ATV jumps, a near car crash, and a frantic night-vision sequence, the promo culminates with a close encounter, as the spellbound trio stares upwards at lights emanating from the night sky.
“NatGeo presented us with an exciting filmmaking opportunity, especially in terms of creating a promo for the non-scripted genre,” said Petersen. “We were able to bring some Hollywood-style narrative elements into the fold, and create something completely original to capture the essence of Chasing UFOs. We’ve had a longstanding relationship with NatGeo, and they gave us a lot of creative liberties to work outside the box and do something special for them.”
The main challenge was the two-day shooting schedule. All of the desert day and night exteriors were filmed in one day while the urban scenes, such as the alleys and rooftops, were shot on the second day. The desert day scene was particularly demanding, involving animal actors, driving and parkour stunts, dialogue and a print shoot, as well as technical juggling of cranes, smoke and wind machines and helium light balloons.
Petersen, who recently made waves as creator, director and executive producer of TV shows Real Vice Miami (Investigation Discovery) and Valentine’s Day Massacre for (National Geographic Channel), sought to bring the same level of production value and cinematic quality to the Chasing UFOs promo. This included commissioning a stunt team and enlisting the design and animation team he oversees at BiG MACHiNE.
“The cast were a complete joy to work with and conducted themselves like bona fide action movie stars,” said Petersen. “That’s pretty cool considering I was directing a documentarian, a geoscientist and a tech guru by trade. Factor in our stunt doubles and DP on-hand for the shoot, as well as NatGeo’s immense support, we were able to pull off some ambitious action shoots to make the piece a success.”