Extreme Weather Film Connects Nature’s Fury to Climate Change
Hear the rumble of ice blocks shearing off the edge of a glacier. See the destructive power of a tornado’s swirling winds. Watch flames devour a forest as if it were so many matchsticks.
More than two years in the making, the film takes viewers from Alaska to California to witness the awesome power of the Earth. It offers a front-row seat on a fast-changing and dangerous world.
We spoke with the film’s director, Sean Casey, a veteran storm chaser and filmmaker who’s also known for his IMAX works Tornado Alley (2011), Forces of Nature (2004), and Alaska: Spirit of the Wild (1997).
What was the idea behind this film?
Our weather is changing because of climate change. We have a warming atmosphere and ocean, and that affects the weather. But rather than just talk about that, we wanted to show powerful imagery that really does justice to what’s happening.
A lot of the events we chose to film are fast, fleeting, and dangerous. They are weather-dependent, and so on that timeframe it was almost like a suicide run, but we got through it.
Initially, we had built an armored boat to film storm surges of hurricanes, but then we didn’t have any hurricanes in our time frame, so we looked for another use. We decided to do a glacier sequence, using the boat to film glaciers calving in a way that hadn’t been done before.
We took the camera and our crew right into what we called the “kill zone,” where glaciers were calving directly over you. They shot out ice hundreds of yards. I hope viewers will be able to really feel that power, to share in the visual intensity of ice blasting all around you.
But that shoot also had a psychological effect on us. We put ourselves right on the edge. We worked under the shadow of a 300-foot face of ice that at any moment could topple on top of us, for 14 hours a day, in a little armored boat. You don’t know if the next piece of ice will be the size of a baseball or a car. For months afterward I would wake up in a sweat, look out the window, and see the face of the glacier.
Were there other dangerous or poignant moments that stick out from the filming?
I’ve been chasing tornadoes for 16 years, so I understand what tornadoes can do and what I shouldn’t do. But when we immersed ourselves in filming calving glaciers and wildfires it was a steep learning curve.
We got run over twice by a wildfire, into a zone that is called the ember wash. You just have to sit tight as a massive fire rages all around you. You’re being sandblasted by a storm of burning embers and smoke. The radiant heat is unbelievable. I hadn’t been in that situation before, and I felt some panic.
Read the complete interview at NationalGeographic.com.