Announcing Secrets from a Forest!


The secret is out! The Bell is pleased to announce its newest original planetarium production, Secrets from a Forest, led by the artistic vision of award-winning nature photographer Jim Brandenburg. This planetarium program is currently in development and will be released in the Whitney and Elizabeth MacMillan Planetarium later in 2023.

Jim Brandenburg

Secrets from a Forest tells an interwoven story of the relationship between nature and art through the exquisite and rare Stradivarius Violin. The story begins deep in the Paneveggio Forest in the Dolomite Mountains of Northern Italy, where spruce trees grow over 200 feet tall in the crisp alpine air. For centuries, Paneveggio has been home to the “singing” spruce, the source of wood for the Stradivarius Violin. 

During this feature-length planetarium show, audiences will explore the majestic Paneveggio Forest throughout the seasons and observe the role of smaller life forms that shape the growth of Paneveggio’s towering trees. After a spruce is harvested on the winter solstice, audiences will be transported to a violin maker’s studio, for an intimate and first-hand look at the creation of this exquisite instrument. The final minutes of this emotionally engaging sequence will take audiences into a concert hall, to hear the violin—the thrilling and powerful result, of this delicate dance between human beings and nature.

Two side by side images of violinsA forest

Planning for this production started in 2019, when the Bell began the conversation with Brandenburg and his team. A year later, the cinematography team—led by Neil Lucas, award-winning director of many of Sir David Attenborough’s films—completed several film and technology tests to confirm this project was possible. The project will be filmed in several locations in Europe, including the Paneveggio Forest and a special studio in Bristol with a curved replica of a violin maker’s studio, constructed exclusively to be filmed for a planetarium dome. Live action dome productions have been challenged by both the complexity and technical limitations of the filmmaking process—but Brandenburg and his team of award-winning BBC natural history filmmakers have accomplished something never imagined in the planetarium field.

Secrets from a Forest introduces audiences to a story that has yet to be told through this medium. A story demonstrating the intricate links between the natural world and the human condition; one that celebrates the arts and musical expression. Furthermore, it opens doors to partnerships within the Twin Cities music community, and beyond. The Bell envisions this film as a cornerstone planetarium production and an example of the brightest and most creative uses of the medium, for years to come. 

Support was generously provided by:

Beni Aguilar & Jerry Erickson, Barry & Sandy Baines, Ford & Amy Bell, Ronald & Janet Christenson, Liz & Van Hawn, James Ford Bell Foundation, John & Nancy Lindahl, Manitou Fund, Katherine & Jordan McGowan, Laura & Bradner H. Smith Family, WEM Foundation