We first talked about working with Michael Douglas at Brightside guest apartments in flatts village, Bermuda. The apartment was our base throughout filming.
One evening we were transferring footage after a long day filming. In the background Neil was going on about how he could possibly secure Michael Douglas to narrate the series. Neil was recounting a tale of how Michael Douglas had agreed to narrate another non profit film for a friend’s daughter. As you can imagine we were intrigued and somewhat sceptical.
Neil’s uniquely flippant manner often made for frequent double takes of things he’d say. “I was playing a drinking game with Nick Faldo once” or “once I ate a piece of chicken i’d taken out of a dogs stomach” I could go on. Consequently we didn't pay much attention to Neil's claims but in true Neil burnie style he went on to explain how he personally knew Michael Douglas.
As a local Bermuda vet Neil was often required to help dogs give birth. Late one night Neil was called out to help a dog called Lola. When Neil arrived to help Lola he was met by none other than Michael Douglas and his wife Catherine Zeta-Jones, Lola's owners.
Neil proudly astounded us all, adding how he’d suggested that Michael and Catherine wake up their children to experience the birth as a family. Neil explained that Michael and Catherine reluctantly took the advice and woke up their children, apparently it turned out to be an unforgettable experience for Michael and Catherines family.
Andy Smith the series producer and co-director of Ocean Vet was standing next to me at the time listening to Neil's story. I turned to Andy and said “can you imagine how amazing it would be if we could get Michael Douglas to narrate the Diaries episode of Ocean Vet!? ”. Andy and I had always been in two minds about Neil narrating the Diaries episode, the episode tells the story of how we made the series. Andy and I felt another voice would add a different perspective.
I can remember Andy confidently assuring me that if it could be done then he’d do it. The next day brought more incredible adventures way out in the ocean and we soon all forgot about it. The production of the series completed in October 2014 and Andy and I returned to the UK to start post-production. On the 11th of November 2014 Andy and I received the news that Neil had passed away in a tragic diving accident.
Several hours after we’d been given the news Andy and I were sat in our production studio devastated. Not only were we coming to terms the loss of a dear friend but we realised losing Neil was going to cause a major problem with the series.
Neil had only completed narration for one episode at the time of his death. Neil also had to complete ADR (automated dialogue replacement) on several underwater sequences. It was a massive crisis, we were ravaged with grief and distraught, we needed some options.
Andy and I were confident we could shift the series narrative to a third person style. We just needed to find someone suitable to complete the narration and thats when the lightbulb went off. Andy immediately spoke to a contact in Bermuda in an attempt to reach out to Michael Douglas.
As soon as Michael was reached and made aware of Neil’s death he was onboard. To this day I still feel incredibly humbled by Michaels decision to help, It’s a testament to who Neil Burnie was and a remarkable example of Michael’s kindness.
The first task was to partner with a US audio facility, Michael recommended Kessler Media in NY. This facility was chosen to carry out the physical recording of Michaels Narration.
First Andy and I would cut each episode and write the narration script. Using the script we would then record our own narration and lay it down onto the cut. After some checks we would create two versions, one with our narration as a guide and a clean version.
The script and both the versions would then be sent to Kessler Media to be recorded by Michael. The first time I heard Michael’s audio was surreal. It was the narration for the turtles episode. This was (and still is) the only episode Neil completed before he died. I’d heard this episode with Neil’s narration multiple times, now I was replacing it with the voice of Michael Douglas!
Michael Douglas was an absolute pleasure to work with. He completely got Ocean Vet and everything it stood for. He could see the good that Neil and his team had done for Bermuda and the marine environment and recognised its importance. We will forever be indebted to Michael for his contribution to the series. He has helped promote Bermuda and ensured Neil’s legacy is shared with the world. Thank you Michael!