By Pete Berg, Field Producer:
Working on “The Incredible Dr. Pol” is an adrenaline rush. At its heart, it is a show about medical emergencies…so every day, time is of the essence, and life is on the line.
Our TV crew finds ourselves chasing a 70-year-old at 80 mph on back roads in Michigan, hopping into pens with angry bulls and narrowly dodging charging animals – that’s just another day on “The Incredible Dr. Pol.”
The thing about Dr. Pol is that first and foremost, he is a real, professional veterinarian. Treating sick animals and helping his clients is always top priority. Being the star of a TV series is an afterthought…if we’re following Dr. Pol to film his work that’s great – but if we miss it, we miss it. Dr. Pol isn’t going to slow down for some camera crew. He’s got sick animals to treat!
(Of course, if we miss something cool, Dr. Pol will taunt us… “Ya missed it! Ha-ha!”)
Since Dr. Pol is too busy to wait for the crew, we’ve learned to always be on our toes.
Dr. Pol works quickly. He could speed off at a moment’s notice for an emergency farm call, and if we’re not right behind him, we’ll get left in the dust. Dr. Pol isn’t going to let a cow die (or keep a client waiting) because we’re getting our camera set up.
And we only ever get one shot to capture the moment. We’re dealing with real animals. There are never any retakes. A calf is only going to get pulled once, and if a bull starts running buck wild, we only have one chance to get that shot.
We always have to have our cameras ready to go, and we have to make sure we get it the first time.
Over the seasons, we’ve become something akin to a S.W.A.T. team operation.
-We always keep a crewmember in the clinic office (our “mole”) to run the “Command Center.”
-As soon as we get word of where the next farm call is (often, before Dr. Pol even knows about it), we send out an advance crew – they get permission to film, interview the farmer, get shots of the sick animal, and set up to film Dr. Pol’s arrival in real time.
-We always have one camera crew following Dr. Pol wherever he goes. We never know when he might get an emergency call when he’s left for “just five minutes” to go to the gas station… so we stick with him.
-All of our teams use a GPS Tracking program on our smartphones so that we can see where each other are at any moment. We can look at a map and see little blue dots showing where Dr. Pol is located – and where he’s headed (usually at 80 mph).
-When the Dr. Pol Follow Crew gets within range of the Advance Crew, they walkie-talkie in (“Green Team, Green Team, do you copy?”) And the Advance Crew responds: “We copy you Red Team.” Red Team: “Dr. Pol is coming in HOT! We’re 30 seconds out… 20 seconds… Dr. Pol turning the driveway in 10, 9, 8, 7…” And Green Team gets the shot of Dr. Pol’s arrival. Red Team waits for him to clear the frame, and then chases in behind, camera and sound operators hopping out of the car while it’s still moving and chasing right after Dr. Pol.
-We shoot the farm call (which is a whole process in and of itself), and then as soon as Dr. Pol is done, he hops in his Jeep and speeds off to the next one – where our other Advance Crew is already waiting for his arrival.
This is a show that we couldn’t script if we tried. Everything you see involves real sick animals that we have no control over, and there’s only ever one take.
Dr. Pol is the same person on and off camera: a professional vet who works quickly and always puts the animals first. Even if there’s a 20 person camera crew chasing after him!