Michael Rosenberg won more Wildscreen Golden Panda awards than any other film-maker. Photograph: Wildscreen
Throughout the golden age of wildlife film-producing, in the course of the final quarter of the 20th century, a handful of visionary pioneers created the memorable Television nature programmes that millions watched and enjoyed. Numerous of them stuck to the attempted and trusted formula of showing spectacular scenes of animal behaviour. But a few – which includes Michael Rosenberg, who has died aged 71 – focused on the urgent message of conservation. His method accomplished gorgeous final results: Rosenberg won a lot more of the prestigious Wildscreen Golden Panda awards – the Oscars of the wildlife globe – than any other film-maker.
By means of series such as Fragile Earth, which appeared on Channel 4 from 1982 till 1993, Rosenberg and his colleagues brought audiences vitally critical, but constantly entertaining, stories about the plight of the world’s wildlife. For more than two decades, his independent business, Partridge Films, attracted some of the brightest and best talents in the business. Partridge offered a considerably-necessary foil to the BBC all-natural history unit’s output at the time, which sometimes ignored conservation stories on the grounds that viewers would switch off.
Rosenberg was an only child, born in Johannesburg, South Africa, to Kurt, the chief executive of a steel import and export company, and his wife, Natalie (nee Morrison). The family enjoyed a comfortable life in the upper echelons of South African society: Michael was brought up on a farm in Transvaal, close to Kruger national park, where he spent his childhood years photographing the abundant wildlife.
In 1962, the family members moved to the UK, and soon after gaining four science A-levels Michael started a degree in chemical engineering at Regent Street Polytechnic (now the University of Westminster). Soon, nevertheless, he realised that his true vocation lay elsewhere, and he switched to studying photographic technologies. Right after graduating, in 1968 he found function as an assistant film editor at Allegro Films, one particular of the very very first British independent production businesses, which specialised in music documentaries. Quickly afterwards he moved to the BBC, exactly where he worked on groundbreaking series such as Tomorrow’s Globe and Horizon.
His large break in wildlife film-producing came in the early 1970s, when he sold his initial full-length film, Wildlife in the Holy Land, to the BBC. Shot in Israel, it was broadcast as part of the prestigious Sunday evening series The Planet About Us, in 1974. This spurred him on to set up Partridge Films in the exact same year.
In 1979 he married the composer Jennie Muskett, who wrote the music for numerous of his most successful films.
A crowned hawk eagle at the nest with its chick, from Korup: An African Rainforest, 1982 Photograph: Phil Agland
Rosenberg, and Partridge Films, earned a deserved reputation for excellence and innovation, creating a lot of films for The Planet About Us (which was later retitled The Natural World). But he was becoming increasingly concerned about the extended-term fate of the wildlife and habitats he was filming. Frustrated with the BBC’s rather negative attitude towards environmental stories, he seized the possibility when a new and more radical platform became offered with the opening of Channel four in 1982. Fragile Earth was one particular of the first documentary strands to seem there, and made an immediate and lasting influence.
His classic films incorporated Etosha: The Place of Dry Water (1979), Korup: An African Rainforest (1982), and Selva Verde: Central American Rainforest (1983), all of which won Golden Pandas. He was also nominated for two Emmys, and was twice offered the Queen’s award for export achievement.
Though the business was a enormous inventive achievement, in later years it suffered monetary troubles. This was not least since Rosenberg was, as he readily admitted, not actually reduce out for running a enterprise, and would often overspend on films to make them even much better. But his reputation as a visionary programme-maker, and his willingness to give newcomers a break, remained undiminished. He also had a reputation for living life to the complete, as his colleague Michael Vibrant notes: “He loved his food and wine – but only great meals and exceptional wines.”
Even in a world exactly where individuality is generally deemed a virtue, Rosenberg was anything of a maverick. One particular colleague, Alan Miller, recalls him sitting by a fax machine as page after page spewed out, containing changes to one of his films proposed by a US executive. Rosenberg’s response was simply to spot a wastepaper basket underneath. How he would have coped with the micromanagement inflicted by commissioners on today’s wildlife Tv producers is challenging to picture.
Following promoting Partridge Films in 1996, he stayed with the new organization, United Wildlife, for five years, ahead of moving back to South Africa. There he set up a new company, Peartree Films, which continued to produce high-good quality environmental and wildlife programming for the international market.
He and Jennie separated in the 1980s and divorced in 2005. Michael is survived by their daughter, Kathy, and two grandchildren, Saskia and Blake.
•Michael Charles Rosenberg, wildlife film-maker, born 25 December 1943 died 21 October 2015