April 19, 2013 8:00am PT by Kimberly Nordyke
Animal Planet Mines New Territory With 'Ice Cold Gold' (Video)
Animal Planet continues to expand its programming with Ice Cold Gold, which follows eight miners hoping to strike it rich in an unexplored area of Greenland under harsh conditions.
The six-part series, which debuts at 10 p.m. ET/PT on Sunday, is part of the network's effort to add original series that showcase the second half of its name in addition to its stable of shows about animals.
"It's certainly more of a concentration on the 'Planet' part of our brand name," says Melinda Toporoff, who executive produces Ice Cold Gold for Animal Planet, which has found success with such animals-aren't-the-focus shows as Finding Bigfoot and Tanked and has Treehouse Masters coming up May 31. "You really see nature, in this case, as an unpredictable beast in and of itself. It's obviously not a literal take on an animal, but they were dealing with the elements and how unpredictable they were."
Quips Josh Feldman, one of the miners featured in the show: "Hey, I'm an animal, and I'm on the planet."
Ice Cold Gold also marks the first TV production of this caliber to be shot in Greenland, which is the world's largest island (with a population of only about 57,000) but has mostly been undisturbed in terms of geographical exploration due to icy conditions. However, global warming is causing the ice sheet to melt, meaning that humans are now able to access more of Greenland -- though the conditions are still dangerous.
"There are no roads in Greenland," says David Casey, executive producer for Moxie Pictures, noting that the 26 cast and crew members comprised the largest TV crew ever to shoot in Greenland. "All of our travel had to be done by boat, helicopter and airplane. It was so remote. We were stranded and had to figure out how to do everything. Nothing is implied in Greenland."
Were there any particular moments in which he was especially worried? "Every moment we were worried about whether we would pull it off or not," he says.
During filming, Casey emphasized to the crew the importance of showing the dangers of what the miners were doing as well as making sure "every single frame spoke to Greenland." He said it was important to show viewers at home "how rare an experience this was" but adds that extra precautions were taken to ensure the safety of the cast and crew. Still, he notes that everyone involved was aware of the risks -- and the potential rewards.
Casey came up with the concept for the show after first visiting Greenland five years ago while a producer on Current TV's Vanguard series. He fell in love with the country -- "it became an addiction of mine" -- and wanted to find a way to get back there. One of the stories he covered for Current was related to the international mining industry, and he thought that would be a topic worth exploring. He took the idea to Animal Planet and "they took a big risk and went right in."
Casey adds that it wasn't hard to get Greenland authorities to approve the shoot, as the production was "welcomed with open arms."
"It was a great opportunity for them to share what they obviously believe is a magical, harsh place with the rest of the world," he says.
For his part, Feldman -- who is from Arizona and had not previously visited Greenland -- says he was drawn to the idea of being one of the first people to explore the area (the series was shot in Nuuk, Greenland's capital, and the remote area known as Storo, within the largest fjord system in the world). He wanted the chance to be first mine owner in the country but wasn't prepared for how difficult it would be.
"You're going to see eight American miners get their asses kicked," he says of the show. "I had seen stuff on TV about Greenland, but nothing is like it is when you're there in person. Everything is dangerous; everything you have to do is a struggle. We worked tirelessly through the entire summer trying to seek our fortune in Greenland. It was one of the toughest things I've ever done."
While he doesn't want to reveal too much about the season -- and whether the miners are successful -- he will say, "We never quit."
Animal Planet sibling network Discovery Channel already has struck gold, so to speak, with its similarly themed shows Gold Rush and Bering Sea Gold. Why are viewers so drawn to these shows?
"It's just the idea of being the first person to unearth riches from the earth," Toporoff says. "There's just something that makes us crave that experience, that exploration and, frankly, striking it rich. That's really the American dream, right?"