Emmy Award-winning producer/filmmaker Michael Harris creates some of the most interesting television now coming out of the Pacific Northwest. His specials, films and documentaries have garnered numerous prestigious industry awards, including 11 Emmys and over 45 Emmy nominations in 15 different categories, from Producer, Writer, Editor, Director, Photographer to Composer, and in 2011 was even recognized in the coveted category of “Outstanding On-Air Host,” one of just four nominees across the five-state region, for the KOMO 4 (ABC Seattle) prime-time special, GIANTS of the Pacific Northwest.
Michael’s also considered a top-shelf one-man-band “Digital Journalist” (shooting producer with on-air experience) for network clients such as ABC News, CBS News, NBC News and VH1/MTV (Viacom), and beginning in 2004 became a regular Contributing Producer of spectacular “Weekend Windows” and “Weekend Adventures” for ABC’s Good Morning America, one of the most popular segments on GMA’s Weekend Edition.
His ABC work put him in a cage with great white sharks, face-to-face with brown bears in Alaska’s Katmai National Park and Arctic wolves and Porcupine caribou in the Brooks Range, on the water with humpback whales in Hawai’i and Sitka, Alaska and with friendly gray whales in San Ignacio, Mexico, and among killer whales in Washington’s majestic San Juan Islands. In December 2010 he was the first U.S. network crew allowed to shoot on “The Forbidden Island” of Ni’ihau, Hawai’i, securing an unprecedented private tour and exclusive interview with the Island’s reclusive owner.
Michael’s also covered a wide range of general assignments and breaking news for ABC, including its coverage of four police officers gunned down in Washington State. Michael has also been a top producer of original web content, being flown down to Silicon Valley every week of 2010 to produce for Yahoo!, the largest internet company in the world – including creating, writing, shooting, editing, directing and digitally delivering weekly search trends reports that were seen by over 9.2 million viewers* on 383 stations, including every Friday on ABC World News Now.
The Baby Wild Cew, with Olivia Newton-John in The Galápagos Islands, Ecuador. (l-r) Composer and Executive Producer Tim Truman, Executive Producer/Writer/Editor Michael Harris, Location Soundman Aaron Murphy, Host/Narrator/Co-Writer Olivia Newton-John, and Director of Photography Kevin Ely.
Friendly Gray Whales / San Ignacio, Mexico
Project: ABC Good Morning America. Michael Harris, Kevin Ely and naturalist Ceci Fisher out with eco-tourism pioneer Francisco "Pachico" Mayoral at Bahia San Ignacio, Mexico. Pachico, a local fisherman isince 1960, was the first person to have an encounter with a friendly gray whale. A legend in whale watching, as eloquently detailed in the "Whale Watching Bible," Dick Russell's 2001 book Eye of the Whale, Pachico started running whale trips in the the mid/early-seventies, after his first friendly encounter with a gray whale in 1972. Now he runs a tour operation in which his entire family is involved. Interestingly, part of the ABC crew was Vince Cooke, a Makah Indian, traditional hunters of gray whales.
"The Great Migration - Alaska's Caribou Head North"
Project: ABC Good Morning America. Michael Harris and Kevin Ely travel with veteran bush pilot Sandy Hamilton and wildlife biologist Ken Whitten to one of the coldest places on Earth, at the coldest time of year, to capture the winter migration north of Alaska's Porcupine caribou. The crew flew a Piper Cub fitted with skis into the middle of the Brooks Range, above the Arctic Circle, shooting aerials out an open window of the caribou as they crossed mountain ranges of as high as 10,000 feet, and then landing on the frozen Lake Chandlar where the ground temperature was reading 47 degrees below zero. Michael and Kevin stepped out of the plane in knee-deep snow, less than 50 yards from a pack of Brooks Range wolves on a hunt. One gave a short sprint toward Michael, then pulled up, turned his head like a curious dog, then trotted back with the rest of the pack into the trees. Michael and Kevin warmed up after the shoot with a couple bowls of homemade caribou stew cooked up by famed Gwich'in leader Sarah James. It was an amazing experience. Unfortunately, our biologist lost part of his ear to frostbite.
"The Forbidden Island of Ni'ihau"
Project: ABC Good Morning America. Michael Harris and Kevin Ely were the first U.S. network news crew granted permission to shoot on "The Forbidden Island" of Ni'ihau, Hawai'i – and in fact, were given a private tour by the Island's mysterious owner, Bruce Robinson. It took several years of persistent inquiries to get onto Ni'ihau, and the help of Mr. Robinson's cousin, Kaua'i resident Mike Faye, the Mayor of Kaua'i County, Bernie Carvalho Jr., and the wonderful (and equally persistent) Emele Frieberg of McNeil Wilson Communications. While on the Island, Michael and Kevin were introduced to the resident population of highly endangered Ni'ihau monk seals, shooting the only known footage of nursing mother seals, and the extraordinary conservation efforts undertaken by the Robinson family to protect them. Michael also provided the raw video to NOAA Fisheries and its Hawai'ian monk seal project, which has been invaluable to biologists trying to survey the population – as it is, the Robinsons haven't let NOAA visit their Island, either.
"Weekend Window to Katmai National Park, Alaska"
Project: ABC Good Morning America. Michael Harris and Kevin Ely get face-to-face with the Alaska's powerful and unpredictable brown bears -- not too long after one of them famously ate Tim Treadwell, "The Grizzly Man." The crew had to stop shooting several times to allow bears to pass (they always have the right of way at Katmai), and with only a few exceptions discovered that they were basically being ignored by these 10-foot tall predators – turns out, they were far more interested in the fish making their way up Brooks River and Brooks Falls. Some 21 brown bears were counted within a square mile of the crew's camp, and Kevin and Michael got some amazing sound and pictures – including the iconic shot of a bear catching a salmon mid-air as it leaped up the Falls. Nice catch, bear/Kevin.
"The Great Migration - Kaua'i's Winter Whales"
Project: ABC Good Morning America. Michael Harris and Kevin Ely travel to Kaua'i to hang out with the winter humpbacks – and plenty of spinner dolphins, as well. This was a follow-up to a spectacular shoot Michael and Kevin did with these same whales for ABC GMA in Sitka, Alaska.
"The White Sharks of Isla Guadalupe, Mexico"
Project: ABC Good Morning America. Michael Harris teamed up with National Geographic cinematographer Andy Brandy Casagrande IV for perhaps one of the most spectacular (and spine-tingling) shoots Baby Wild Films has ever done. Michael and Andy traveled 20 hours by boat from San Diego, California to the Marine Reserve of Isla Guadalupe, Mexico, home to some of the largest and most ferocious great white sharks in the world. The crew spent three days in -- and often out -- of the shark cage, capturing extraordinary (and at times unprecedented) underwater and surface shots of these remarkable creatures. At one point, Michael found himself being tossed around like a floating rag doll by "Cal Ripfin," an 18-foot male who inadvertently bumped into the cage and then, startled, pushed the cage upward, almost out of the water. Michael had been in the water with sharks before, but never white sharks in the midst of feeding on elephant seal pups. And none this big. The resulting "Weekend Window" was one of the most popular ever done for the show.
"CLIMATE WARS / CAMBODIA"
Michael Harris and Kevin Ely traveled with Seattle environmental attorneys Jen Marlow and Jeni Krenceki-Barcelos (University of Washington's THREE DEGREES Project) to the remote jungles of Cambodia for this investigative documentary on a proposed multinational titanium mining operation that was set to devastate one of the last standing tropical forests in SE Asia, home to a number of highly endangered animals, including the Indochinese tiger and Asian elephant (one of which is pictured below throwing mud at Michael and his camera). And these are climate wars – the crew actually had to be escorted through the Southern Cardamom Mountains at all times by well-armed members of the Cambodian Army, and were in constant risk of assault or arrest by corporate thugs or corrupt local police. In the end, the footage they captured and the malfeasance they uncovered led to the Prime Minister of Cambodia reversing a previous decision and rejecting the permit for the mine. It was a great victory for the people of Cambodia, and the climate. But the fight's far from over.
VH1/MTV - Michael Harris and Kevin Ely with recording artists 50 Cent and Sir Mix-a-Lot, for a number of "clip shows" for the Viacom properties.
Project: Yahoo! Turns 15. Michael Harris and Kevin Ely were sent by Yahoo! Digital Media Bureau Chief Pamela Woon to Taipei, Taiwan to visit with Yahoo!'s Taipei office and meet and interview some of the country's most famous residents, including the world-renowned choreographer Lin Hwai-min, author and blogger "Queen Illy," and i'Miusa fashion designer Vanessa Lin. An unscheduled shoot turned out to be one of the most interesting of the trip – Mr. Lin invited Michael and Kevin to a mountaintop monastery to ring in the Chinese New Year with his good friend, the President of Taiwan.
"ONE WORLD With Olivia Newton-John: THE GALAPAGOS"
Michael Harris, Kevin Ely and Tim Truman traveled to Ecudaor's Galápagos Islands with Olivia Newton-John and her daugher Chloe for an extraordinary excursion into the Land of Darwin. The crew also covered the breaking story of The Jessica, a ship that had just run aground, dumping thousands of gallons of bunker fuel on this World Heritage Site. The resulting three shows and hour-long special aired on Outdoor Life Network and Channel Nine, Australia's biggest broadcaster. The shoot was also documented for Woman's Day Australia (last image). Michael and cinematographer Mark Dwyer also met up with Olivia in her hometown of Melbourne, Australia (second-to-last photo) to shoot film elements and track narration for the series.
"THIS IS INDIAN COUNTRY With Billy Frank Jr.: The Iñupiat, Hanging On at the Top of the World"
Michael Harris and Kevin Ely have made frequent trips with the great Indian activist and Nobel Peace Prize nominee Billy Frank Jr. to Native Alaska, including "The Top of the World," the Native Village of Barrow/Ukpeagvik, the northernmost point in North America. The special looks at the climate crisis from the perspective of Billy's Iñupiat brothers, an environmental disaster threatening a whaling culture thousands of years old. The crew was invited to the great bowhead hunt by the great Eskimo activist Etok Edwardsen and his family, the oldest whaling family on the Alaskan Arctic.
"A2P: The Atlantic-to-Pacific Trail" (Tierra del Fuego, Argentina/Chile)
From the top of the world to the bottom... Michael Harris and Kevin Ely have been traveling – quite literally – to the end of the Earth, el Fin del Mundo, shooting a feature-length documentary on the natural and cultural history of Tierra del Fuego, Argentina/Chile, building the narrative around a proposed Atlantic-to-Pacific Oceans trail linking the guacho country of frontier Argentine Patagonia to the remote, strikingly beautiful Darwin Mountains and Kurakinka National Park in Chile. Work has already begun on the "A2P Trail," which when completed will span some 150 miles through one of the world's most mythical and spiritual places, a journey unlike anything in the world.