Second week into the course and I already feel like I'm in my element!
This week kicked off with a screening of last years students final Wildlife films, and what a lot we have to look up to! Fifteen very different films were played and all with very different stories to tell. Being the forerunners of this incredible course I have a lot of admiration for this group of people who have all gone out and created films that they should be very proud of. The top three movies were picked to play during the course of the morning whilst important BBC personnel were around to watch, and although I would have found it difficult to pick between them the three certainly were fantastic. These included Madeleine Close's "A Silent Spring", Darren Williams' "Giants on the Edge" and Spencer Austin's "We Are Rhino".
You can watch many of the films here: http://vimeo.com/groups/204428/page:1/sort:date
We also had a bit of time this week learning about some of the different lenses which we get to use throughout the course and are fundamental tools for Wildlife cameramen! These included a 400mm Telephoto Lens (with a 2X converter making it 800mm) and a 100mm Macro lens used to shoot smaller wildlife up close. We got to play with both, taking the telephoto out to Ashton Court which is located around the back of the university and hosts a large number of red deer, and bringing some insect life inside to play with the macro. We thought we had all got some great shots, but when we brought them inside to take a look on the big screen we realised we still have a long way to go before we have the abilities of last years students... Oh well, all the more reason to practice!!
During the last half of the week we were honoured to have visits from two great speakers, Dr Erik Stengler who is the Science Communication expert at the University, and James Honeybourne who is BBC's Head of Landmarks and producer of the incredible series "Africa".
Erik gave a brilliant lecture on what it is to communicate science - to understand the audience that you are communicating to and to do so in a way that will entertain and inform. But a large part of our jobs in natural history filmmaking needs to bring emotion, as Erik quoted:
“Emotions influence people’s life to a much greater degree than logic” – Gunther Von Hagen
If we can bring emotions to our films then our audiences are far more likely to relate to and understand what we are speaking about. A great lesson early on in our course!
James Honeybournes talk had all the wildlife students eyes glowing with excitement as he talked about filming the excellent series "Africa" (which if you haven't seen I couldn't more highly recommend). The scale of making the program was put into perspective for us when James pointed out that it took 18 months of research before a full script was completed, 3 and a half years of filming, 550 cameras (only 8 of which didn't make it home) and 2,000 hours in total of footage shot! Creating a film about a country such as Africa is not easy - this is a country that has been at the heart of wildlife films for 100 years and so the team had to find a new perspective in order to keep viewers fascinated. But I can certainly vouch that the final product was like none I have seen before - the footage stunning, the content unrivalled.
And the next big landmark to watch out for? "Worlds Oceans" is currently in the making - 10 years on from the previous ocean landmark series "Blue Planet" James assures us that with the thousands of discoveries having been made since we will have plenty to look forward to.
And this is just the second week... I can't even begin