National Geographic Society

  • Connect:

The Trick You Don't Learn in Film School

Behind the Scenes of Wild Justice: Operation Imposter

Photo: Wardens surround the house of a suspect

Photo: Wardens surround the house of a suspect (View larger version)

Photo by Original Productions

By Molly Mayock, Series Producer


When the Wardens serve a search warrant or arrest warrant, the primary components are officer safety, speed and the element of surprise. They don’t want the suspect to have time to reach for a weapon, escape or destroy evidence.

As a producer, my primary concerns when we’re following Wardens in these situations are CREW SAFETY (don’t forget to wear your Kevlar ballistic vests!), SPEED (don’t lose the Warden you’re following) and STORY (don’t miss the shot)!

When the Wardens have to jump over fences to get to the suspect quickly, it’s extremely challenging for the crew to climb those fences fast and get a usable (let alone good) camera shot at the same time and then run to catch up with the Warden.  Those shots usually end up all herky-jerky and pointing down at the ground. We never want to miss a single shot of action.

We’ve learned something that film schools never teach in TV Production 101—check if the gate is unlocked so you don’t have to climb any fences!  That happened in our Warden Impersonator story this season. A (real) Warden jumped over two fences.   While we were jumping over the two fences to catch up with him, we nearly missed the shot of a woman trying to get away. It turns out the gate was unlocked and we could have run in with cameras rolling smoothly and kept up with all of the action without all the unnecessary, herky-jerky climbing.

A few weeks later... we faced a similar scenario, but this time the gate was padlocked. As the Wardens jumped over fences to catch a suspect, we got smart and followed the one guy carrying bolt cutters. In less time than it would have taken to climb a fence with cameras and gear, we were in. They got their “bad guy,” we got our shots. And everyone went home safe.

Tandra Mathis
Tandra Mathis

I just found Wild Justice a couple of weeks ago, I really enjoy it! I came on NG looking to shop for Wild Justice t-shirts. So far I have not found any, but I have found the blog about behind the camera stuff. While we are watching Wild Justice we wonder about the camera crew following the Wardens.

Are they trained some to learn about following the Wardens before going out in the field first? Will there be a video of behind the camera? It would be great to have the Wardens sit down going over recent shows.

I've read some comments and can't understand why people think its ok to be so hateful and rude." Key board tuff guys"

It's a tv show, if ya don't like it, turn the channel.

So thank you really really for the blog and for Wild Justice!! Love you guys!

Randy Bailey
Randy Bailey

The only thing worse than this terrible show is the fact we waste our tax dollars paying these dopes.  The quote "We are hunters of men" should be "we are leaches of the tax payers".  No wonder California cnt pay its teachers, we are paying these dopes to swarm homes with elk antlers and stake out dirt roads looking for people who run over snakes!  Christ what has happened to common sense.

Bonnie Shirley
Bonnie Shirley

I watched the episode about the Mendocino pot bust with the so cal surfers.  There were a number of dogs there.  What happens to them?  I hope Animal Control rescues them.  Maybe I missed that.  If animals such as dogs are in a scene where owners are removed, I would like to have comments made about what happens to the dogs.