National Geographic has announced Queens, an epic, six-part natural history docuseries that follows six powerful sisterhoods within the animal kingdom where females rule. The all-women visionaries behind the series draw on their female intuitions to shine a fresh light on the natural world, revealing unique feminine behaviors in six distinct animal communities: hyenas, elephants, ring-tailed lemurs, insects, primates and orcas.
Queens, which began production this spring, will air globally in 172 countries and 43 languages and is a mammoth undertaking; crews are estimated to spend at least 300 days filming each of the six episodes in order to paint intimate portraits of each queen and the sisterhood she leads.
“Queens is a wild departure from anything you’ve ever experienced with natural history storytelling,” says Vanessa Berlowitz, series executive producer, Wildstar Films. “We’re accustomed to a narrative where the male animal voice often outshines that of the misperceived ‘gentler’ sex. In Queens, females drive the story: the most accomplished women in the industry get behind the camera to turn things on their heads, revealing surprising insights into how females rise to power, often relying on cooperation and wisdom over brute strength to get ahead.”
“With Queens, National Geographic challenges a historical bias in wildlife storytelling that favors masculine societies,” says Janet Han Vissering, senior vice president of development and production, National Geographic. “The assembly of first-ever women-led production team will bring a new perspective to telling these intimate narratives. Scientifically, women score higher for emotional and social intelligence, so it will be fascinating to see how the team will read relationships to underscore the nuances of how female-bonded societies operate.”
Each episode devotes itself to discovering just why the title of queen is so coveted and tenuous. While getting to the top signifies power, holding rank is far from easy. Every day brings challenges – and challengers – to a queen’s rule. How she remains dominant depends on individual personality, loyalty, cooperation, politics, strength and fate.
Despite major behavioral differences among each society – for example, bees, wasps and ants are slaves to a single dictatorial queen, while elephants choose the oldest and wisest of their matriarch – there’s at least one thing that each queen has in common: family comes first. In Queens, nothing outmatches the powerful bonds of sisterhood.
The production team is led by Berlowitz, CEO of Wildstar Films and series executive producer, and also boasts some of the world’s most renowned, accomplished cinematographers, including Sophie Darlington (Our Planet, Dynasties, Disneynature’s Penguins) and Justine Evans (Planet Earth, Frozen Planet, Life).
“This series is full of possibilities and will offer a contemporary perspective on nature with the ambition to build industry legacy through diversity, collaboration and inclusiveness,” says Darlington. “It’s so exciting to create a project with such a talented team; we share a strong commitment to the environment and believe that engaging women is key to saving the planet.”
Queens features state-of-the-art technology, including remote camera systems, the latest drones, cameras that operate in virtual darkness and gyrostabilized cameras for close-up, immersive filming. All the equipment used throughout each episode aims to give the viewer a profound understanding of the secret relationships within each queen’s sisterhood.
Queens is produced by Wildstar Films for National Geographic. For Wildstar Films, Vanessa Berlowitz is executive producer. Janet Han Vissering is senior vice president of development and production, National Geographic.