‘It’s a privilege to work on a TV show millions of people will be watching’
As millions of us sit down to watch the latest spectacular David Attenborough wildlife show this weekend, the talent of a Melton man will be helping to bring it all to life.
Benji Merrison, a former student at Long Field Spencer Academy, has composed the atmospheric music for The Green Planet, as he did for Attenborough’s acclaimed Dynasties series, which aired in 2018.
Ground-breaking filming techniques, including time-lapse photography using specially-designed robotic cameras, will enable us to ‘dive into a world where a single life can last a thousand years’ and ‘see things no eye has ever seen’ in a remarkable visual documentation of plant life across the globe.
Benji’s musical score will accompany Attenborough’s distinctive commentary during the five-episode series, which starts at 7pm on Sunday on BBC1 with the focus of the first instalment on tropical forests, including fast-growing trees and flowers which mimic dead animals.
Benji (45) told the Melton Times: “It’s always definitely a thrill when you see the finished film and it will be exciting to see how people respond to it.
“I think they will enjoy it because it is an amazing spectacle.
“This is certainly a subject matter that is close to David’s heart - it’s one of his core interests, botany and plants.
“It is a pivilege to do something that you know millions of people are watching and hopefully enjoying.”
Born in Melton, Benji says he got a great grounding in music while attending Sherard Primary, Long Field Spencer Academy and the old King Edward VII Schools in the town.
He talked about the excitement of working again with veteran wildlife broadcasting legend Attenborough, who also grew up in Leicestershire, and the benefits it can bring for his career.
“Being associated with David’s programmes helps to raise your profile for sure,” said Benji.
“It opens a lot of doors because everyone around the world has heard of him and he is universally liked.
“I have heard feedback from him on the tropical episode on this latest show that he absolutely loved the music and I will certainly take that as praise.”
Benji works with co-composer Will Slater on projects, laying down a score for scenes which is then performed by a full orchestra.
He says he learns so much about the natural world from watching the footage and predicts that viewers will not be disappointed when The Green Planet starts at the weekend
“There are some amazing things in it, like plants that walk,” he said.
“I also didn’t know that there are these trees in Namibia that support each other when one is in trouble - they send roots out to them and provide nutrients.
“The way film makers have shot it they’ve managed to slow everything down to the point where they are like animals moving along in real time.
“The programmes show how plants interact with each other and they have all these battles and wars, how they steal from each other and help each other out.”
Benji said social media gives him an invaluable insight into what viewers think about his musical scores.
He explained: “I like to watch Twitter as it is going on and what people are posting while watching a programme.
“When it comes to people showing their emotions most of it is as a result of the music.
“Are they feeling scared or feeling emotional at that point?
“It gives me future information for what works and what doesn’t.
“You can literally see it scrolling in front of your eyes, what people feel about it.
“From a professional level, when a broadcast is going out you can feel the emotion from how they respond and the emojis they are using.”
Benji, who also scored the music for Professor Brian Cox’s Forces of Nature television series, has worked on drama as well, including the ITV production, Victoria.
And this year he scooped a prestigious World Soundtrack Award for his work on the movie, ‘SAS: Red Notice’, starring Sam Heughan and Andy Serkis.
Married with two young children, Benji works from his home studio in Hertfordshire and has plenty of new projects in the pipeline for both the small and big screens, including the second season of Dynasties.
He is clearly very proud of the new wildlife series, which will also be shown around the world and which highlights amazing aspects of the natural world and the threats posed to it.
“There are messages about climate change and the impact humans are having on the world but the main message is ‘look how amazing this is and it’s not too late for us to make it even better’,” Benji added.
“It takes you to another world and I think it’s something people could do with right now.”