The Making of O'Shea's Big Adventure

A Few Facts:

O'Shea's Big Adventure (OBA) was filmed over five years from 1999-2003.

There were Four Series:
(1) The Americas; (2) Australasia & the Pacific; (3) South & Southeast Asia, and (4) Africa & S.America.

Series 1 and Series 2 each comprised 13x 30minute films.
Each series comprised five shoots of 2-3 films each.

Series 3 and Series 4 each comprised 4x one-hour specials.
Each series comprised four shoots.

Series 4 was filmed in High Definition, the first film of its kind to be shot in this way.

OBA totalled 34 films and 21 hours of television.

OBA was filmed in 24 countries on six continents.

Over 650 species of reptiles and amphibians were encountered during the entire four series'.

O'Shea's Big Adventure was the series title on Animal Planet/Discovery but it was called O'Shea's Dangerous Reptiles on the UK's Channel 4 (despite the fact many of the species featured were far from dangerous).

The Team:

On Location the four series of OBA involved:
8 Directors or Producer-Directors
2 Producers
8 APs & Researchers
1 Presenter
4 Camera operators
2 Sound recordists
click here for an explanation of these occupations
click here for crew lists for each shoot


The Aim:

Screen grab from the Keynote presentation
Blood, Sweat & Snakebites:
The Making of O'Shea's Big Adventure

The aim of OBA was to bring genuine herpetological fieldwork onto television screens whilst entertaining the viewing audience at the same time.

OBA was not intended as a pure action series, it was intended to be thought provoking, and cutting edge, both by imparting new or unusual information, by introducing never-before filmed species to the audience, or using new technology, such as HD on land or under water.

Therefore species had to justify why they should become an OBA 'quest species', beyond just being large or dangerous. The idea that someone was highly venomous or ate humans was not sufficient reason to go and film it, there had to be something more tangible, more scientific to investigate.



Screen grab from the Keynote presentation
Blood, Sweat & Snakebites:
The Making of O'Shea's Big Adventure

Several story-lines were developed that centred on small, even diminutive, often overlooking species. Two such instances were Exotic Island (Ser.1) which featured a small Trinidadian lizard, last seen in the 1930s, which was said to glow in the dark when disturbed, while Green Blood (Ser.2) investigated why three small Papuan lizards might have toxic green blood.

Provided small species had an interesting story there was no reason why they should not be considered as a 'quest species'.

The ideas for OBA films came from a wide variety of sources.

Many were subjects Mark had wanted to investigate for some time, such as the Papua New Guinea stories. Others were suggested by the series researchers or by fellow herpetologists.


Screen grab from the Keynote presentation
Blood, Sweat & Snakebites:
The Making of O'Shea's Big Adventure

Some came from unusual sources and one such could be said to have come in a flash!

The Siamese crocodile (Crocodylus siamensis) was long thought extinct in its native Thailand (formerly Siam), until a photograph surfaced on the internet. Researchers for the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) had rigged a series of remote camera traps to assess tiger populations along the Thai-Burmese border. One such camera captured images of leopards, a tiger, monitor lizards, other animals, a Buddist monk, and on the 37th frame of a 36 frame film, a freshwater crocodile. This single internet photograph was the kick-start for Siamese Crocodile (Ser.3).


We also researched more films for each series than we could possibly make because we would usually loose one or two films. Reasons included a military coup in Fiji, a civil war in the Solomons, a hurricane in Honduras, a credible al Qaeda threat in Tanzania, the death of an aboriginal elder, followed by the customary mourning period, in Kakadu, Northern Territory, and one month after 9/11 we had been due to make a film about the little known McMahon's viper (Eristicophis macmahoni) on the Pakistan-Afghan border. We also failed to complete a film we were making in Cuba when the promised filming permissions were repeatedly postponed and our visas ran out while we waited.

Nor did we succeed in every quest. In Series One we got to film 5 (Jewel of the Jungle) before we failed to find the quest species but that was not the only time we did not complete the quest as hoped. We actually failed to find the quest species in six films from the total of 34 and failed to find one of the two quest species in another film, but an 81% success rate is pretty respectable.

To reiterate the aim of O'Shea's Big Adventure, it was intended to bring genuine fieldwork to the television screen and to that end the project had a self-imposed NUMBER ONE GOLDEN RULE:


There would be:

NO staged captures, to make it more exciting;

NO re-shot captures, due to technical failures;

NO captive specimens, posing as wild-caught;

NO pre-caught wild specimens, posing as new finds;

NO choreographed captures, to make the Presenter look good.

All reptiles and amphibians encountered or captured on camera, during all four series' of OBA were genuine finds, filmed as they occurred.

If we failed to find the quest species, we failed....... but we failed honestly.

Failure was disappointing for the entire crew but it is part of life and Mark's outlook was:

"Success and Failure are two sides of the same coin
To appreciate the one you must also taste the other."




Mark O'Shea's popular Keynote presentation:


Blood, Sweat & Snakebites:
The Making of "O'Shea's Big Adventure"

is available for booking.

Contact: Mark's agent
All Electric Productions or David Foster Management
for details.

Blood, Sweat & Snakebites: The Making of "O'Shea's Big Adventure".