/News 31.08.23

Tasmanian documentary introduces US audiences to one of the planet’s strangest animals

American audiences will get a close-up view of one of Tasmania’s and Australia’s most intriguing species when The Platypus Guardian airs on USA’s PBS network to open its upcoming Nature series.

Described as a duck-billed, beaver-tailed, otter-footed, egg-laying aquatic mammal, the platypus is considered one of the planet’s strangest inhabitants. Its composition is so bizarre that the first European scientists to examine a preserved specimen assumed it to be a hoax.

The Platypus Guardian is a documentary from leading factual production company Wildbear Entertainment and Tasmanian production company Tetrapod Films that explores the unique relationship between Hobart man Peter Walsh and platypus he encounters in the Hobart Rivulet. It features breathtaking footage of platypus in their natural habitat of a quality never before seen and highlights the challenges they face living on the edge of an urban environment.

Platypus in Hobart Rivulet. Credit Pete Walsh & Wildbear Entertainment

Director and Producer Nick Hayward spent countless hours on the banks of the rivulet capturing unforgettable moments on camera.

“It’s an experience I won’t forget,” he said. “Accompanying Pete to some of his favourite locations and witnessing his interactions with the waterway and its wildlife has been something truly special.”

The Platypus Guardian premiered on Australia’s ABC TV and iView in June and reached 518,000 viewers in its first week, according to OZTAM data.

Director Nick Hayward & Executive Producer Chadden Hunter. Credit Wildbear Entertainment

Nick said he was humbled by the film’s early success – both in its broad appeal as story and the real-world impact he has observed in the short time since its release.

“Pete’s story is so powerful and engaging – as soon as I met him, I knew we had to make a film,” he said. “I’ve had people come up to me saying how much they love the film. But the bigger thing is that people are being much more careful about their rubbish and that’s what we really wanted to achieve.”

Screen Tasmania supported the documentary from the outset when filmmaker Nick Hayward approached the team with his concept. On the back of Nick’s extraordinary success a year earlier with 2021’s highest-rating Australian documentary Quoll Farm, Screen Tasmania invested $30,000 in development support. This was followed by investment of $100,000 from the Screen Innovation Fund to support production.

Pete Walsh at Hobart Rivulet. Credit Wildbear Entertainment

Screen Tasmania’s Executive Manager, Alex Sangston, said The Platypus Guardian was an example of a uniquely Tasmanian story with international appeal.

“It’s a fantastic story that resonates with audiences and Nick is a world-class cinematographer. We knew from Quoll Farm what he was capable of and for him to be teaming up with a company of the calibre of Wildbear – we didn’t hesitate to throw our support behind the project.”

Alex Sangston, Executive Manager, Screen Tasmania

Tasmania is home to an abundance of rare, threatened, and endemic species that can captivate and fascinate, and Nick continues to be inspired to capture their stories on film.

His next wildlife project – which has also secured funding support from Screen Tasmania – comes in the form of a natural history series based around Tasmania’s lyrebirds.

“Tasmania is such an incredible place to make films,” Nick said. “I can’t think of another place that has such a world of wildlife right on your doorstep – including animals that don’t exist anywhere else.”

The Platypus Guardian is due to air in the USA on PSB on 18 October. Further international distribution is yet to be announced.

If you’re interested in filming in Tasmania, get in touch with the Screen Tasmania team at [email protected] or call +61 3 6165 5070.