A $250K Road And A Navajo Shrine: Producing Nik Wallenda’s Grand Canyon Walk

By Alex Weprin 

Daredevil Nik Wallenda’s walk across a wire suspended above the Grand Canyon drew massive ratings for Discovery Channel when it aired last month. Now, Variety‘s Brian Steinberg goes behind the scenes to reveal the surprising challenges NBC News’ Peacock Productions faced while producing the broadcast.

Gretchen Eisele, executive producer for Peacock, found herself having to construct a production virtually in the middle of nowhere, a piece of land under the authority of the Navajo nation that was so remote that a trip to a real bathroom required a 15-mile drive. Construcing the road alone cost $250,000, according to Peacock. The team had to secure limited air rights around the site in case a pilot wanted to saunter above and try to get a look during Wallenda’s walk…

Meanwhile, the Navajo were concerned Wallenda’s event might damage an important spiritual shrine, and also expressed concern the nearby Hopi tribe might have authority over other elements of the site, Eisele recounted. Cameras had to be mounted below the tightrope and positions planned in the airspace above and around Wallenda.

While Peacock secured Willie Geist and Natalie Morales to host, the pair had to wake up at 1:30 AM to make the live broadcasts for the east coast, while the hotel the crew was staying at was in a different time zone than the wire walk location, causing confusion. It is quite a read.