BBC Studios Natural History Unit has announced a one-year development partnership with Underdog Films, and its founder, James Reed – director of the Oscar-winning documentary My Octopus Teacher.

The collaboration will grow BBC Studios’ pipeline of natural history feature documentaries and further enhance the Natural History Unit’s creative process, with Reed joined by his creative partner at Underdog Films, Matt Houghton.

Reed’s credits as a director include the multi-award-winning features Jago – A Life Under Water and Rise of the Warrior Apes.

In 2021, Reed received further accolade as the director of My Octopus Teacher, the story of a South African filmmaker who forges an unexpected friendship with an octopus, which became a huge critical and audience success on Netflix and went on to win the Best Documentary Feature Award at the 93rd Academy Awards.

Jonny Keeling, Head of BBC Studios Natural History Unit, said: “I’m delighted to be embarking on a collaborative development partnership with James Reed and Matt Houghton, the outstanding creative talents of Underdog Films.

“Character and emotional storytelling are at the heart of filmmaking both at the NHU and Underdog Films, so we look forward to developing a number of original, ambitious and compelling natural history features for audiences across the globe. I’m hugely excited to welcome James and Matt’s input and perspectives to the NHU’s creative development process and can’t wait to start working with them.”

James Reed, Managing Director, Underdog Films, said: “We are very excited to get into this with the NHU. They’ve been at the forefront of natural history film-making for decades and their further growth in the feature doc market will be a fantastic development for the industry as a whole.”

Matt Houghton, Underdog Films, adds: “Collaboration and successful partnerships are a key part of Underdog Films’ approach to filmmaking and we’re delighted to be working with the talented storytellers of the NHU. The team has exciting, ambitious plans and we’re looking forward to contributing to stories that will be entertaining, enlightening and thought-provoking.”

Jon Creamer

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