Chick agrees. “Mike has an exquisite connection to country as well, he has deep empathy and pathos,” she says. “So while there’s definitely that science versus nature thing, there was a lot more science for me and a lot more nature for him as well than you see on screen.”
One point of difference for which the producers were grateful was that Atkinson’s methodical approach extended to his filmmaking – and given the contestants do all their own camerawork (other than some sweeping location shots), that was a huge gift.
“He provided a lot of the beautiful shots of the series, beautiful timelapses, the skyscapes, and some of those micro-shots as well,” says Daher. “It’s just him noticing beauty in nature. He had a genuine love of the landscape that he was in.”
The sheer volume of footage shot is almost incalculable. Each contestant recorded a minimum of five hours footage per day on each of up to to four cameras. In the case of the final two, that comes to a tally of around 1340 hours each.
Atkinson’s methodical approach meant he would often set up a camera before attempting something; Chick’s more instinctive approach meant she’d follow the moment, sometimes failing to capture it on the camera.
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Nowhere was that more evident than when she caught a wallaby with her bare hands while taking a toilet break in the middle of the night. It was the most critical moment of the entire season, and there was precisely zero footage of it.
“You can imagine what it was like in the edit suite when that footage came in,” says Daher. “There were about 15 people screaming ‘aaargh’.”
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That was a game-changing moment in two ways, says Chick. “The first is it was a 20 kilo animal, so now I have meat, I have abundant protein. The morale boost of that, of knowing I have a good three or four weeks of food, was huge.
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“The other part was just feeling my relationship with country deepening that much more, in that I asked for what I needed, and the country gave it to me,” she says. “I can’t explain it – voodoo bush magic, whatever you want to call it – but it kept happening.”
The $250,000 prize money will likely be a game changer too, allowing Chick to fulfil the dream of buying the land on which she runs her wilderness retreats. But it isn’t paid out until the finale has aired, and she’s not counting those chickens just yet.
“I had a run-in with a con man when I was younger and learned a very powerful lesson, which is money isn’t real until you have it in your hand – and even then, it’s not that real,” she says. “I haven’t even done anything with it in my mind. It’s just in this great limbo of possibility until it lands.”
What she has thought about, though, is what to do with the profile the show, which has drawn more than 1 million viewers for six of its episodes, most of them on SBS On Demand, will do for her profile, and her sense of mission.
“I’m a writer, that’s in my bones and in my blood, and there’s definitely books on the horizon,” she says. “I’m also a singer-songwriter, I recorded my album in lockdown in 2020 and that’s ready to go, I’ll probably drop that later in the year.”
But above all, she says, she wants to use her visibility to encourage “humans’ innate ability to be at home in the wild”.
She wants, she says, to “inspire people to just take that one more step into discomfort. Hopefully, by seeing my journey people will think ‘maybe I can just take my shoes off in the grass, maybe I will go camping, maybe the kids can build a cubbyhouse in the backyard’.
“All these little steps are, for me, part of what’s missing in our modern lives,” Chick says. “What I really hope is to keep inspiring people to go outside.”