Nov 13, 2013 No Comments by


I just returned from my first assignment for NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC! A solo mission, in the wilds of Northern Sumatra and Indonesian Borneo; Filming Orang-utans, and the hero’s working to save them and their habitat.

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JUSTIN HALL RUNNINGMAN NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC DIRECTORLike most  adventurers/film maker types, its always been a dream  to someday be a National Geographic kind-a-guy. Of all brands, its one of very few I’d proudly sign up to… I’d wear the badge, I’ve bought the t-shirt (actually ‘National Pornographic’ but hey!).  The legacy that NAT GEO’s  yellow square conveys is synonymous with adventure, daring do and far of places… to me its inextricably linked with wild things, natural wonders and those who would seek them out. Sure it was a tough trip, perhaps the toughest ever…  seriously testing on every level. but i loved ever minute.

The Brief: Orang-utan Rehab (Series Taster Tape)

Get out there Jus, take a camera or two, find some Orangs… get the story… find some characters and make it look adventurous… last thing, it’s Indonesian Borneo ya know, don’t get killed!!!  Naaaa, just kidding…

The team at Bearkatt  (Denise Castelli El Producer) where brilliant. A million miles away from my recent experience with  when filming Mercenaries. Denise and the team really geared things up, super professional in setting the stage with contacts and access. Having said this solo film making, at this level of expectation is daunting. I spent the first few days in shock, spinning as fast as I could, meeting and making friends with characters, shooting from the hip. With my body clock in a different timezone and no time for food, it was all I could do to stay upright.  I lost 9 kilos in 16 days!   It was an incredible journey … a great honor to be thought of as the ‘man that can‘  for such an important task…  again an amazing challenge, but most of all a dream come true.

The results are below:  There are a few versions: The first slightly harder on the issue side and the team.  The second, on response form NAT GEO, presents a softer focus more on the Orangs and less issue and team.

FIRST EDIT: ORANG-UTAN REHAB (Producer Denise Castelli Bearkatt Productions: Director / Camera: Justin Hall

HERES ANOTHER brief section i put together for the editor to review. Its a sequence on the SOCP teams in Sumatra (the first group I visited that sadly don’t feature in the final edit as they are all about change and less about fluffy stories and Orangs in Nappies! Again its more a shot selection for the editor, so i offer it here just as an insight into the area and how i approached filming.

UPDATE 24 01 2014: The Promo worked! This project is now commissioned. I return to Borneo with a team FEB

One More: A few  GVs of the Borneo Location.. Lovely bubble blowing orang at the end..


‘Best Producer/ Best Cinematography… NO sadly not. Its nominated for’ Outstanding Narration!’ Steals the thunder a bit i know but hey, i reason that if storytelling is about finding a voice, getting the tone right and conveying a powerful message, then seems we must have achieved that somehow in a way that distinguished our film from the barrage of content that makes up prime-time. Truth be known, although a rare pride wells in me as i consider the new top line of my CV the real win here is that Denise (my girl) and I made good on a promise to help tell an important story and in doing so likely drew attention to the incredible work of Alan Knight international Animal Rescue and the magnificent Karmele lano Sanchez and Ketapang team… onward and upward, dreams and never ending small steps in the right direction… jus

Finally a few Production Picture & Screen grabs:



About the author

National Geographic correspondent for the 2016, globally distributed, prime-time series of EXPLORER, Justin Hall is an Emmy-nominated documentary filmmaker, broadcaster and journalist. He is also a Fellow of the UK’s Royal Geographical Society, specializing in hi-tech digital storytelling technologies. In the course of reporting on issues across the board from illegal wildlife trade, deforestation, gold mining, cocaine production, child slavery, piracy on the high seas and more, Justin has covered a lot of ground: From helicopter raids on cocaine factories in Bolivia to tracking down arms dealers in Moscow, he’s hitchhiked a ride on a rusty Russian jetfighter and was one of the first to use tech to champion the rights of tribal peoples back in 2000. His passion for environmental, cultural and tribal issues was cultivated through his early work with Academy Award-nominated anthropologist and filmmaker Jean Pierre Dutilleux on the series ‘Tribal Journeys’. An avid storyteller in all its forms, Justin continues to crisscross the globe, with recent investigations taking him to Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Belize, Borneo, Somalia, Colombia, Congo DRC and three visits to Libya. Armed with a smile and nothing but good intentions, Hall is not your standard correspondent.

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