Last year, Nat Geo WILD aired a humorous alternative to the Super Bowl called Fish Bowl, in which television viewers were introduced to Goldie the Goldfish. This year fans can watch Goldie and her new co-star, Charlie the clownfish, spend an exciting, fun-filled day at Frying Pan Farm Park. Fish Bowl II premieres Sunday, Feb. 1, 2015, at 6 p.m. ET/PT.
The program was shot on location over the course of two beautiful sunny days in early October 2014. Farm Manager Paul Nicholson served as the Fairfax County Park Authority’s liaison during production and was instrumental in the success of the shoot. He managed the farm animals and even milked a cow in one scene. Nicholson’s fear that his animals would drink from the fish bowls never happened, and his quick reflexes may have saved the famous fish from becoming a pig’s snack. “They were awesome and knew it was a funny shoot, so they had some fun with it, too,” he said.
Nicholson shared his experience working with Nat Geo WILD on the set of Fish Bowl II.
What was your role? My main role was to have the animals ready in the background and try to get them to focus on the fish bowl. Of course, how do you get livestock to care about a fish! Two part-time farm staff members, Steve Luckett and Laura Mowery, were also involved in the filming. We moved some animals to new pastures, and Steve is in the background mowing grass on a tractor in one of the scenes.
During the sound recording, he had a list of sounds that were needed to complete the show. During the filming, one of the cows is scratching her neck on the fence in front of the bowl. He asked to repeat that noise. How do you get a cow to scratch her neck on command I say to him? We found an old board and brought the board to her neck and body to re-create the sound.
Can you describe some of the different settings in which the fish bowl was placed? The first scene we shot was the fish bowl on a wagon in Middleton Barn, with calves grazing in the background and the sun rising over the Antique Equipment Shed. Then we moved the fish bowl outside and filmed the larger cattle on the other side of the fence. The fish bowl was resting on straw bales. The chicken house finished out the first day of shooting. The rising sun played havoc on the next scene as we milked the cows early in the morning, outside of Kidwell Barn. Jesse the horse was next to be filmed in Kidwell Barn, and then we finished the day with a litter of young piglets in the field.
Did anything funny happen while shooting? We had met with Nat Geo a few weeks before the shoot and I brought up cow milking and they loved it. Of course, I was thinking it would be a stationary shot with the cow in the barn, fresh milk in the clear milk machine, and maybe a calf bottle on the ground while the cow ate her breakfast. The day of filming, the director said to me, ‘Which one of you will be milking during the shot?’ I’m sure our jaws dropped, as we thought only animals were involved in this film! Guess I got the short stick and got to milk her on camera. My two sons were behind the camera, and I could hear them saying ‘Hi Daddy’ while I was milking.
During the large outdoor cattle scene, [Nat Geo] wanted something in the background and we got Steve on a tractor and had him mow the pasture. He would go up and down the field, coming in and out of the shot. They filmed for around an hour, but the field still needed to be finished, so I let Steve keep going on his tractor. At one point, when they packed up the camera, he knew his stardom was over and I was just having him mow the field!
How did the animals react to the fish bowl occupying their space? The animals see so many different and unique things on the farm, that their new barn mates were treated no differently. Jesse was the most curious and welcoming of any of the animals. We were concerned one of the animals would try to drink the water, but it never happened.
What challenges did the film crew have to overcome? The sun and the wind caused trouble with the lighting and blowing over their shade and reflection screens. Being a beautiful day on the farm, we had lots of school groups and visitors. Some would look at us funny, with a fish on the farm, and most would laugh when we told them what we were filming. We removed some of the wire fence on the chicken yard to get the perfect shot. While trying to get Jesse to look at the fish bowl, we were behind the camera teasing him with a bucket of grain. At one point, we did such a good job that he touched the fish bowl that was balancing on two stacked benches and almost knocked it off! The director screamed and ran to catch the fish. Just some splashes out of the bowl and all was good. Well, I guess she had a heart attack! Also during the piglet filming, the pigs ran around and knocked the wire panel and the bowl was almost knocked into the pig pen. We knew they would eat the fish, but the bowl stayed upright and did not fall.
Do you have any other funny stories to share? The cow-milking scene was first, and then we would move over and film Jesse in the barn. During a down time in the cow-milking scene, I asked Laura to check and clean Jesse’s stall if needed. Time went on, and we started filming the cow-milking and we hear the director say ‘Uumm, you in the background, please stay where you are.’ Little did we know that Laura was in the background and coming into the picture as they filmed!
Fish Bowl II premiers Sunday, February 1, 2015, at 6 p.m. ET/PT. Frying Pan Farm Park is located in Herndon, Va.
Watch the Fish Bowl II trailer: http://channel.nationalgeographic.com/wild/videos/fish-bowl-ii-trailer/?cmp=user_post.
Prepared by Matthew Kaiser, deputy public information officer, Fairfax County Park Authority