Michael Rosenberg won a lot more Wildscreen Golden Panda awards than any other film-maker. Photograph: Wildscreen
All through the golden age of wildlife film-producing, during the final quarter of the 20th century, a handful of visionary pioneers designed the memorable Television nature programmes that millions watched and enjoyed. Many of them stuck to the attempted and trusted formula of displaying spectacular scenes of animal behaviour. But a couple of – such as Michael Rosenberg, who has died aged 71 – focused on the urgent message of conservation. His strategy accomplished spectacular results: Rosenberg won far more of the prestigious Wildscreen Golden Panda awards – the Oscars of the wildlife world – than any other film-maker.
By means of series such as Fragile Earth, which appeared on Channel four from 1982 until 1993, Rosenberg and his colleagues brought audiences vitally important, but usually entertaining, stories about the plight of the world’s wildlife. For more than two decades, his independent business, Partridge Films, attracted some of the brightest and best talents in the industry. Partridge offered a a lot-necessary foil to the BBC organic history unit’s output at the time, which often ignored conservation stories on the grounds that viewers would switch off.
Rosenberg was an only child, born in Johannesburg, South Africa, to Kurt, the chief executive of a steel import and export organization, and his wife, Natalie (nee Morrison). The household enjoyed a comfortable life in the upper echelons of South African society: Michael was brought up on a farm in Transvaal, close to Kruger national park, where he spent his childhood years photographing the abundant wildlife.
In 1962, the family members moved to the UK, and soon after gaining 4 science A-levels Michael began a degree in chemical engineering at Regent Street Polytechnic (now the University of Westminster). Quickly, nonetheless, he realised that his accurate vocation lay elsewhere, and he switched to studying photographic technology. Right after graduating, in 1968 he located perform as an assistant film editor at Allegro Films, one of the very initial British independent production organizations, which specialised in music documentaries. Soon afterwards he moved to the BBC, exactly where he worked on groundbreaking series such as Tomorrow’s Planet and Horizon.
His big break in wildlife film-producing came in the early 1970s, when he sold his first full-length film, Wildlife in the Holy Land, to the BBC. Shot in Israel, it was broadcast as element of the prestigious Sunday evening series The Planet About Us, in 1974. This spurred him on to set up Partridge Films in the exact same year.
In 1979 he married the composer Jennie Muskett, who wrote the music for many of his most profitable films.
A crowned hawk eagle at the nest with its chick, from Korup: An African Rainforest, 1982 Photograph: Phil Agland
Rosenberg, and Partridge Films, earned a deserved reputation for excellence and innovation, generating numerous films for The Globe About Us (which was later retitled The Organic Planet). But he was becoming increasingly concerned about the extended-term fate of the wildlife and habitats he was filming. Frustrated with the BBC’s rather unfavorable attitude towards environmental stories, he seized the possibility when a new and far more radical platform became obtainable with the opening of Channel 4 in 1982. Fragile Earth was 1 of the very first documentary strands to seem there, and produced an immediate and lasting influence.
His classic films integrated Etosha: The Location of Dry Water (1979), Korup: An African Rainforest (1982), and Selva Verde: Central American Rainforest (1983), all of which won Golden Pandas. He was also nominated for two Emmys, and was twice given the Queen’s award for export achievement.
Though the business was a massive creative accomplishment, in later years it suffered financial difficulties. This was not least simply because Rosenberg was, as he readily admitted, not actually reduce out for running a enterprise, and would frequently overspend on films to make them even much better. But his reputation as a visionary programme-maker, and his willingness to give newcomers a break, remained undiminished. He also had a reputation for living life to the complete, as his colleague Michael Vibrant notes: “He loved his meals and wine – but only great meals and exceptional wines.”
Even in a planet exactly where individuality is typically deemed a virtue, Rosenberg was one thing of a maverick. A single colleague, Alan Miller, recalls him sitting by a fax machine as web page following page spewed out, containing modifications to one of his films proposed by a US executive. Rosenberg’s response was merely to place a wastepaper basket underneath. How he would have coped with the micromanagement inflicted by commissioners on today’s wildlife Tv producers is hard to imagine.
Soon after selling Partridge Films in 1996, he stayed with the new business, United Wildlife, for 5 years, ahead of moving back to South Africa. There he set up a new business, Peartree Films, which continued to make higher-good quality environmental and wildlife programming for the international industry.
He and Jennie separated in the 1980s and divorced in 2005. Michael is survived by their daughter, Kathy, and two grandchildren, Saskia and Blake.
•Michael Charles Rosenberg, wildlife film-maker, born 25 December 1943 died 21 October 2015