So, you want to be a Wildlife Filmmaker – How to get started

There are many different routes into the wildlife film-making industry – and many of these involve luck and chance. There is no set path that will guarantee you success, but there are definitely a number of things you can do to prepare yourself for the best chance.

Let’s start by looking at a few general ways you can prepare yourself, whatever job in wildlife film you are looking for:

1. Learn about Natural History
This should come naturally to you! If you are not passionate about natural history in the first place perhaps you will be better-off pursuing a career in another area of film/TV that will be easier to get into and better paid!

Learn about natural history by studying, by reading, by watching TV and through first-hand experience in the field. A good knowledge of wildlife throughout the world is highly desirable (but not essential as you always research your topic), along with a good grasp of world geography. Although there may be specific aspects of natural history you specialise in, you can’t guarantee work in your particular field of interest, so a wide general knowledge can only be a good thing.

Your learning about natural history should include animal behaviour, and much of this will come from watching wildlife films, and from nature itself. Spend time in the field watching wildlife for long periods, make notes, understand what the animals are doing, start to learn fieldcraft so that you can watch animals without being seen, heard or smelt. Get yourself a good pair of binoculars. Practise tracking animals, building hides, pretend you are making a film and make notes of shots you could have taken or sequences you would like. This is useful whether you want to be a camera operator, or a producer, writer, picture editor and so on.

Read books on natural history, and magazines such as BBC Wildlife Magazine. Study atlases and test yourself on where in the world various creatures (and plants) come from. Strive for expertise – never stop learning.

2. Watch TV
It may sound like an obvious thing to do, but I am amazed at the number of people I talk to (both wannabes and those already in the industry) who haven’t seen, or maybe haven’t even heard of, certain landmark programmes or series. So, watch as much wildlife TV as you can. Subscribe to satellite or cable TV if available, or watch online, and regularly tune into channels such as Discovery Animal Planet and National Geographic as well as any…

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