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Sir David Attenborough to deliver film school masterclass
Directing Natural History and Science MA in focus
By Vicky Hewlett - National Film and Television School
13 September 2016

National Film and Television School - David Attenborough

The legendary Sir David Attenborough is to deliver a masterclass to students enrolled on the NFTS' new Directing Natural History and Science MA, which starts in January 2017.

We met with highly experienced producer of wildlife documentaries and series, Paul Reddish who has recently been appointed to lead the course answer and asked him what students can expect if they are accepted onto the course. Paul has been Producer and Director across a number of high profile natural history films and series including Attenborough in Paradise, The Future is Wild, Hummingbirds Jewelled Messengers, and many more.

Itís great news that Sir David Attenborough is to give a masterclass to NFTS students. Whatís it like working with him?

I have had the pleasure and the honour of working with David on several occasions. He is the consummate professional. David brings great authority to his films, based on an in depth knowledge of the natural world along with a deep and life-long passion for nature. He has made more wildlife documentary films, and garnered more awards than anyone in the world. He is a delight to work with and Iím sure the students will enjoy meeting and learning from this remarkable man.

Paul Reddish
Paul Reddish

How did you start your career as producer of Wildlife documentary maker?

I was lucky enough to have a BBC Horizon film crew come to film my professorís work whilst I was a post grad. I knew straight away that I wanted to work in television, and I pestered the BBC until they gave me a job.

Is this what you always wanted to do? If not, what else did you want to do?

Up to that point I wanted to do science, working in the field, looking at animal behaviour. I have always been fascinated in the natural world, since before I could speak, so my mother tells me!

Whatís the most memorable experience youíve had from making wildlife programmes?

Too many to mention and all have their own charm or wonder or sheer terror. But sitting in the tops of 50 metre tall trees in the wilds of New Guinea, watching Birds of Paradise display is amongst the best. Standing on the open tundra of the arctic, watching a large brown bear, less than 10 metres away take an unhealthy interest in us, is perhaps one of the more memorable.

Whatís the most challenging aspect of making natural history programmes?

Writing a good script, is universally challenging in all forms of television, but in wildlife, getting that story to the cutting room, -- despite bad weather, corrupt customs officials, cancelled flights, delayed seasons, hurricanes, and uncooperative beasties -- itís a minor miracle when every film is successfully completed!

Hummingbirds Jewelled Messengers - credit: Mike Potts
from Hummingbirds Jewelled Messengers - credit: Mike Potts

What kind of prospective students are you looking for and what kind of knowledge/ experience should they have?

First and foremost a passion for wildlife and science, and a desire to tell stories. If they have a science degree or evidence of their interest in wildlife and science Ė relevant jobs, short films they have made, all are helpful, but not essential.

What kind of cinematography gets the best results when filming a particular animal or animals?

For most wildlife a telephoto lens is essential. It is still the workhorse of the genre, but long lens photography is fiendishly difficult. Good camerawork with a 1000mm lens is one the things Iím looking forward to seeing in the studentsí work. Insects and many small beasties require macro-photography, and if anything is more difficult than long-lens work it is macro! Then there is time-lapse which is used in many current documentaries and can be very powerful (if not overused!). Even slugs, snails and worms can be interesting when filmed in time-lapse.

What attributes do students need to have to build a successful career as a natural history producer/ director?

Good communicators both to their audience and to the teams they will work with. Creativity married with good organisation and of course a sense of humour for the (many) times when things go wrong!

Applications are open now until October 13th 2016 for the Directing and Producing Natural History and Science MA and the course will commence in January 2017.

NFTS Sirecting & Producing Science & Natural History

For more information, please visit www.nfts.co.uk

Facebook: facebook.com/NFTSFilmTV
Twitter: @NFTSFilmTV

About the National Film and Television School

The NFTS is one of the world's leading film, games and television schools. It has been cited by some media as one of the top five film schools globally and by one as the No.1 international film school. In 1967, the government recommended the creation of a national film school for the UK and in 1971 the National Film School opened its doors for the first time focussing on postgraduate education. In the 1980s, the school officially changed its name to the National Film and Television School to incorporate the demand for courses in television production and has since added games to its remit. NFTS prides itself on producing world-class, award-wining industry leaders. It has more Student Academy Awards (Foreign Category) than any other film school. NFTS students and graduates also regularly win BAFTAs and have won the short film category for the last three years. Other prestigious accolades include the Grierson Award for Best Student Documentary, which NFTS students have won for the last three years as well as multiple Royal Television Society student awards and Annecy Animation Awards. NFTS graduates have gone on to win seven Oscars and 100 BAFTAs with alumni including cinematographer, Roger Deakins (12 times Oscar nominee); BAFTA winning director, David Yates, (best known for directing the Harry Potter films); Oscar winning animator Nick Park (creator of Wallace & Gromit) and Oscar winning composer Dario Marianelli among others. The NFTS is a registered charity (313429). For more information see www.nfts.co.uk

National Film and Television School

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