Filmmakers Danny O’Malley and Alex Rivest Climb Creative Peaks With ‘Canary

The documentary centers on the adventurous and inspiring life of Dr. Lonnie Thompson.


A recent documentary that captured my imagination (and should win over a huge amount of film enthusiasts) is Canary. The documentary centers on Dr. Lonnie Thompson, a climate scientist who traveled to some of the world’s tallest peaks to extract ice cores and collect integral historical knowledge of our climate. Filmakers Danny O’Malley and Alex Rivest break down their respective challenges in making this first rate feature.

With a grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, Danny O’Malley and Alex Rivest set out to direct a science story that they found compelling. This is one of many steps that led them to the work intensive and gratifying experience of Canary.

“In that search, we came across Lonnie Thompson,” said Danny O’Malley, who is the exectuve producer behind the acclaimed series Chef’s Table. “And he told us these big adventure stories and then he told us about going into denial about the facts about his heart. This idea of a climate scientist telling the world about the facts of climate change and everyone in denial about it. But when he got his own facts, he went into denial. It had us on the verge of tears.”

We reviewed Canary on the latest episode of CinemAddicts:

Alex Rivest then told O’Malley if there was a story they should tell, it had to be about Thompson.

Part of making Canary an immersive documentary centers on the here and now and not just stock footage. The filmmakers and their crew traversed these mountainous locations to capture authentic moments with Thompson. “Challenge number one was how do we get all of our crew and all of the equipment – how do we make sure that people are not getting sick at that altitude. You get above 11,000 feet and then people can start to drop off like flies. We did oxygen deprivation training at home where had slept at a simulated 20,000 feet for three weeks in advance just to make sure we didn’t miss this opportunity.”

Full interview with Rivest and O’Malley is below:

Running at 104 minutes, Canary is currently playing in select theaters in Los Angeles (Laemmle Monica Film Center, New York, NY (Village East Cinema), and Columbus, OH (Gateway Film Center). Starting September 20, there will be one night engagements nationwide in a pleathora of cities including Chicago, Los Angeles, New York City, Philadelphia, Dallas, Atlanta, Austin, and Boston. For more information, go to Oscilloscope (for theater info) and!

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