Basalt’s Vital Films cinematography to air on new National Geographic series, “Hostile Planet,” tonight

Erica Robbie
The Aspen Times

For more on Vital Films and its projects, visit

The culmination of three years of groundwork, two days in the backcountry of British Columbia, 40 avalanches and two Basalt locals’ cinematography will air tonight as the premiere to a new National Geographic series.

From the producers of “The Blue Planet” and “Planet Earth II,” “Hostile Planet” seeks to explore “the world’s harshest landscapes and the animals that have adapted to live there.”

“Vital Films” founders Matt Hobbs and Cael Jones, both of Basalt, filmed a few of the episodes that feature avalanches, mountain goats and the desert.

“It was definitely a really a challenging shoot, so not a lot of people have attempted it,” Hobbs said of the avalanche series opener. “The producers really wanted to show not the fluffy side of nature that most natural history or nature films show. … They’re really trying to show the raw and real natural world out there, so avalanches are definitely a big part of that.”

With director Mateo Willits at the helm, Hobbs and a Cineflex cameraman shot the avalanche segment last March about 15 miles outside of Revelstoke in an area known as Crown Land.

Both Colorado natives, Hobbs and Jones had hoped to film the avalanche content in their backyard, but struggled to attain permits.

“I think that’s what really drew us to Canada,” Hobbs said. Although the permitting process still was “intense” and spanned about a year, once complete, they received the green light without any issues.

Hobbs and the team visited British Columbia for three days, one of which was spent setting up and the other two using explosives to trigger about 20 avalanches.

“In nature projects, you can’t direct the wildlife or the weather, so our challenge was waiting for the sun. When the time came, the avalanche conditions were not extremely high,” Hobbs explained. “Although we did have a good amount of new snow, we did not have enough weak layers to get major fractures. We ended up with very large surface avalanches, but only fracturing about 1 to 2 feet down.”

The largest avalanche they triggered was nearly a mile long, he said.

Contrary to “Hostile Planet’s” description, Hobbs clarified that the avalanche episode is not tied to a specific animal.

“I think as much as animals are the main characters, so is the environment,” he said.

For the desert episode, however, Hobbs and Jones filmed falcons feeding on bats at a ranch in New Mexico.

And closer to home, the duo captured footage of mountain goats near Quandary Peak in Summit County as part of “Hostile Planet’s” mountain segment.

The mountain goats will appear with the series premiere on National Geographic today at 7 p.m. MST; the desert episode will air April 29.

While Hobbs cannot share specifics just yet, he said Vital Films is already working on other exciting future projects.

“It’s really a dream to be able to work on projects like these, to actually be able to help create content that shows how special nature is,” Hobbs said. “It’s a big privilege to bring these images to a large audience in hopes they appreciate the natural world that much more.”