Niobe Thompson: Director and Host
Niobe Thompson on location in Namibia Khoichab Dunes

Director and Host Niobe Thompson is a Cambridge-educated anthropologist, co-founder of Clearwater Documentary, and winner of multiple Gemini Awards for his science and nature films. Niobe is obsessed with our human story, and delights in taking his camera to the far ends of
the earth to entertain, inform, and sometimes shock his audiences. Raised by canoebuilders on a Canadian Indian reserve, Niobe has been a forest-fire fighter in Alberta, a human rights researcher in Africa, and an anthropologist in the Russian Arctic. But nothing really prepared him to answer his 7-year old daughter when she asked “Where are we from?” With The Great Human Odyssey, he’s going to try to bring her an answer.

Niobe’s films have won major awards at Jackson Hole, Banff, Yorkton, and the Canadian Screen Awards. Under Niobe’s direction, Clearwater Documentary emerged in 2012 as a Global 100 production company, recognized by Realscreen as one of the world’s 100 most influential production companies. 

Read his director's statement.

Daron Donahue: Cinematographer
Cinematographer Daron Donahue, after hiking in to Yamok, Sepik River Province, Papua New Guinea

Director of Cinematography Daron Donahue has carried a camera to the jungles of northern Burma, Afghanistan’s Khandahar District, Ethiopia’s Danakil Depression, and the Russian side of the Bering Strait.  A veteran from the era of film cameras, Daron now works with cutting edge technology, from 3D IMAX, to ultra-high resolution digital and high-speed cameras.  His cinematography for Clearwater’s Code Breakers won a Gemini Award and he earned a Canadian Screen Award nomination for his work on Clearwater’s The Perfect Runner. His secret could be the ability to wear jeans in 40-degree heat and live on a diet of black coffee and pistachios. 

aAron Munson: Experimental Filmmaker
Cinematographer aAron Munson, on location in Chobe National Park, Botswana

Experimental filmmaker aAron Munson is travelling on his own, parallel, odyssey: a one-man Second Unit.  He travelled four times to the highest valleys of the Canadian Rockies, to Botswana’s Savute region, and to the Reichtersveld of South Africa’s Northern Cape, before uniting with the main film crew in Cape Town. aAron is specialist in visual effects for film, using time-lapse, elapsed time, and frame compositing techniques to capture – and transform – the natural world of our ancestors. His six-foot frame barely disguises the heaviest carry-on bag in the world of air travel, but aAron won’t leave home without at least 20 lenses. 

Gabrielle Nadeau and Charles Taylor: Skymotion Video
Chuck Taylor and Gabrielle Nadeau prepping their aerials system in the Namibian Kalahari

Gabrielle Nadeau and Charles Taylor are the two halves of Skymotion Video, an extraordinary mobile aerials system based on a remote-control helicopter and four steady hands.  They moved their lives from Quebec City to Edmonton to work on The Great Human Odyssey.  Over the next year, they brought their flying cameras to the deserts of Namibia, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates, operated from an ice floe in the Arctic Ocean, and travelled hundreds of kilometres by dug-out canoe and foot to reach a remote village on New Guinea’s Sepik River. Extremely dedicated to the craft, their “honeymoon” was a location scout in search of sea nomads on the Thai-Burmese border. 

Craig Foster: Filmmaker
Craig Foster (Right) with Niobe Thompson on location in Table Mountain Nature Reserve, Cape Coast, South Africa

Filmmaker Craig Foster is one half of the acclaimed South African documentary team, the Foster Brothers, responsible for some of the most powerful ethnographic and natural history films to emerge from Africa in recent years.  Craig was Location Producer, Casting Agent, Costume Designer, Stills Photographer and Underwater Cinematographer for the dramatic recreations filmed on South Africa’s Cape Coast.  By his own admission, he ignored everything else in his life for four months to absorb himself in the fascinating world of the earliest “modern” humans, and to bring it to life with astonishingly visual power. 

Brenda Terning: Editor

Editor Brenda Terning has collaborated with Director Niobe Thompson on a series of recent films, each one garnering special recognition for her excellence as an editor. Her 2012 documentary The Perfect Runner won three Canadian Screen Award nominations, as well at “Best Social Science Documentary” at Jackson Hole. The year before, Brenda’s feature documentary Tipping Point: The End of Oil was shown at festivals and by broadcasters around the world, and went on to earn double Gemini Nominations for “Best Social/Political Documentary” and “Best Direction”. In 2012, Terning was recognized as Alberta’s best documentary editor for the third time with a Rosie for The Perfect Runner

Emma Radford: Production Coordinator
Emma Radford

Emma Radford is a Production Coordinator with over 15 years of experience in documentary production. A graduate of the University of Alberta, Radford was mentored at Alliance Atlantis, working with Producers in every aspect of the production process. She continued on as a project manager and Assistant Producer with the Alberta Foundation for the Arts, the CBC special project Alberta Bound, at Legacy Magazine, and most recently with Edmonton-based Clearwater Documentary. Among the recent Clearwater documentaries Emma has coordinated are Common Ground (2013), The Perfect Runner (2012), Code Breakers (2011), Tipping Point: The Age of the Oil Sands (2011) and Inuit Odyssey (2009).

Sandra Tober: Production Manager

Sandra Tober is Production Manager and Director of Business Affairs for Clearwater Documentary, with over 20 years of experience in the film industry. A graduate of the University of Alberta, Sandra worked with the renowned natural history filmmaker Albert Karvonen until joining Clearwater in 2009. In addition to managing the operations of Clearwater Documentary, Sandra has served as Production Manager on the company’s recent films, including Common Ground (2013), The Perfect Runner (2012), Code Breakers (2011), Tipping Point: The Age of the Oil Sands (2011) and Inuit Odyssey (2009). Sandra sits on the Board of the Documentary Association of Alberta.

Darren Fung: Music Composer
Darren Fung

Music Composer & Conductor, Darren Fung: At one point in his life, Darren Fung used to be a really good piano player. Then he decided to compose: at the age of fifteen he wrote his first orchestral piece for the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra, and it all went downhill from there. He is an alum of McGill University, the ASCAP Film and TV Scoring Workshop, the Aspen Music Festival and School, and Tapestry New Opera Works’ Composer-Librettist Laboratory.

Amongst his many credits in film and television, he recreated Canada’s beloved Hockey Theme, often referred to as its second national anthem, for CTV and TSN with members of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. His music for Bell Canada’s Orchestra spot was voted Canada’s top commercial in 2010 by readers of The Globe and Mail. His music has won awards at numerous film festivals, including the Atlantic, the Los Angeles Reel Film and the Park City Film Music Festivals. He is currently serving his second term as Second Vice President of the Screen Composers Guild of Canada. Now based in Los Angeles, Darren is represented by Maria Machado of the Gorfaine/Schwartz Agency.

Natasha Lazarovich: Art Director
Natasha Lazarovich applying a face tattoo to an actor, on location in Chukotka, Arctic Russia

Art Director Natasha Lazarovich joined our crew for the filming of dramatic recreations in Chukotka (Russia) and the Rocky Mountains, taking responsibility for the costumes and general “look” of our cast of early modern humans and Neanderthals.  Natasha is a model, textile artist and fashion designer, and the creative force behind Temna FialkaThe great Human Odyssey is her debut as a custom designer for film.

Adam Ravetch: Underwater Cinematographer
Underwater cinematographer Adam Ravetch

Underwater cinematographer Adam Ravetch’s  last visual tour de force Ice Bear won a Canadian Screen Award for Best Photography in a Documentary.  A specialist cold-water shooter, with extensive experience working on, and under, Arctic ice, Adam joined The Great Human Odyssey to film the underwater hunter-gatherer Badjao culture in the southern Philippines.

Daniel Zatz: Aerials Cinematographer
Aerials cinematographer Daniel Zatz (Left) with Niobe Thompson, planning the next shot in Alaska’s Tordrillo Range

"After working with double-Gemini-winner from our Codebreakers program, Daniel Zatz joins another Clearwater production to provide unparalleled helicopter aerials of the natural world.  For The Great Human Odyssey, Daniel modified his Cineflex system so it could switch between Sony and Arriflex Alexa cameras in the field, as far as we know a first-ever use of a switchable camera system that allows for a single-sensor camera in this extraordinary aerials stabilizing system.  Because Daniel owns his own specially modified helicopter, and cares deeply about every project he takes on, working with him is a special experience for any filmmaker.  Without doubt, his talent and professionalism make the trip to Homer, Alaska worthwhile."

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