Wildlife filmmaking is arguably one of the most exciting fields of television, as explorer Dan O'Neill recently found out when filming for Curiosity’s new series GIANTS. In it, he heads into the wild to find the biggest beasts alive today and compare them to behemoths of the past: from sharks, to elephants, lions, saltwater crocodiles and – if our conversation is anything to go by – perhaps most memorably a 6-meter (20-foot) anaconda.
We caught up with O’Neill to find out how he came to be an explorer, presenter, and wildlife filmmaker, as well as what it means to become the kind of LGBTQ representative he wishes he’d grown up watching on TV.
How did you get here?
I have always been a nature fanatic! We moved a lot when I was a kid, and spending a lot of time abroad from such an early age have me a passion for discovery - especially the new animals and adventures with every new place. That grew through education into studying zoology at university followed by a master’s in wildlife filmmaking through the BBC Natural History Unit. Ever since then, I’ve been making films on expeditions around the world in search of rare wildlife!
How did you get involved with GIANTS?
Through a chance meeting with Andrew Zikking from Off The Fence, the production company behind the series, we got to talking and soon after that I joined the team. As a kid, I was obsessed with dinosaurs and other prehistoric creatures, and now working as a conservationist and filmmaker it really is a dream project to be a part of.
Can you share a highlight from the series?
Ha! So many it’s hard to choose, but maybe getting in the water with a 20-foot anaconda?
What makes it unmissable?
It’s a really epic and exciting show, but also really scientific and educational. The hair-raising encounters in each episode though are all super unique and some you won’t even believe!
What does it mean to you to be fulfilling this dream as a member of the gay community?
This is huge for me. It’s hard to be what you can’t see, and there are a lot of people out there - myself included - who want to see more LGBT people following this path, chasing adventure, studying and filming wildlife on TV and in the media. The natural world is for everyone and I’m so proud that someone somewhere just like me will be inspired to go for the same dreams I have and feel it’s truly possible for them too.
What advice would you give to wildlife filmmaking enthusiasts who want to get involved in this kind of work?
Never give up, start telling stories about nature, dive headfirst into learning about wildlife, and find other people with similar dreams to collaborate with. There are a lot of us out there too that are excited to share our journeys and passions with people so reach out on social media to the people you are inspired by, you never know where it might lead. Also, consider studying either film or biology!