Ahead of yesterday’s launch of The Wonder List, Bill Weir spoke with numerous media publications.
To the LA Times, he said:
“There were a lot of nights when I was walking off the set on the seventh floor thinking, man I’d rather be getting off a plane somewhere I’ve never been telling much deeper stories.”
To SFGate, he reflected:
“It’s so rare to take an anchor off the air for six months,” he said, “and then have him go on the road for six months with a world-class cinematographer and bank on the idea that quality over quantity will work out. It’s been the gig of my life.”
To TheWrap, he said:
“I have the best job in TV news, hands down,” Weir told TheWrap. “It was a little bit of an ice bath to take off the tie and walk away from the studio for this amount of time. I’ve been on TV on a daily basis for 23 years, so to sort of disappear and go off and make movies was interesting, but I’ve absolutely loved it.”
“To be able to luxuriate in a place for two weeks at a time… and how fast we turned this around and got it on air; I’m incredibly grateful to get the space and time.”
And to Mediaite, Weir said:
He’s been preparing for this since his early days as a local news producer. “I was a one-man band,” he told Mediaite. “As the cameras got better, smaller, cheaper, I’ve always been playing around with selfie recording.” During the 2012 election Weir and a producer skipped the staged campaign stops and instead wandered the states interviewing potential voters with handheld video cameras and editing the footage on a laptop. “The smaller the crew, the better the interview,” Weir learned. “Subjects tend to forget they’re on TV if there’s no lights and boom mics in their face. Smaller cameras mean better storytelling.”
Emphasis on smaller. Weir recruited Phillip Bloom, a “rock star” of the camera world, to film his travels abroad, unaware that Bloom’s freefly movi stabilizer camera, usually reserved for feature films and high-end commercial shots, cut the girth of Stonehenge. The tiny crew lugged the beast up mountains and down swamps. The result was worth it: Bloom’s sweeps of volcanic heights and Florida marshes make The Wonder List one of the more visually arresting shows on television.
It also renders the show vulnerable to charges of voyeurism, of which Weir was hyperaware. “Vanuatu was a careful choice for that very reason,” Weir told Mediaite. “I originally thought about how great it would be to visit some uncontacted tribe in the Amazon. But that’s a very ethical issue. Most of those tribes don’t want CNN crews showing up.”