Nonfiction series contenders tackle 'Life'



It might take a trip to the end of the Earth to win this year's nonfiction series Emmy. Or at least Antarctica.

Producers of "Life," the 11-part Discovery/BBC co-production exploring the planet's most exotic plants and animals, required more than 3,000 days of filming over four years, including 14 weeks spent at the bottom of the world.

"At one point in February 2008 we had 14 different crews filming around the world simultaneously," says executive producer Michael Gunton of the massive production, which should give perennial nominees -- including "Deadliest Catch" (Discovery), "Biography" (A&E), "The American Experience" (PBS) and "American Masters" (PBS), honored seven times since 1998 -- a run for their money.

The "Life" team, which also made 2007 Emmy nominee "Planet Earth," spent more than a year just planning the ambitious shoot. That was before crews consorted with a pack of komodo dragons while they stalked water buffaloes in Indonesia and swam with humpback whales battling for mating privileges.

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"Life" figures to contend with ESPN's "30 for 30" sports series and another new survival tale, the Peabody-winning "Brick City" (Sundance Channel), which explores the struggle for urban renewal in Newark, N.J., led by mayor Cory Booker. The project has already had an impact on the city it chronicles.

"Once people are heard, they feel empowered, and when they feel empowered they are able to take some action," says "Brick" executive producer and Oscar winner Forest Whitaker.