At the end of June 2015 the prestigious Northern Film School at Leeds Beckett University will begin its first two-week Wildlife Filmmaking Workshop. Course Leader Nick Wright has this to say:
I can teach you to play the piano in less than a minute. Lift the lid, press the notes – deep notes to the left, higher notes to the right, and a loud and a soft peddle below. The rest, as they say, is practice.
The importance of practice is the basic concept we have adopted for the Wildlife Filmmaking Course. Practice and experience are particular opportunities we aim to build here which can never be accessed by theoretical means alone.
Inevitably, theory and background and knowledge have an important role to play, and these areas are well covered by the Course. Integral sessions cover wildlife law, fieldcraft, macro and long-lens work, specialized techniques, sound production and design, wildlife identification, ethics, screenings, storytelling, editing, history, commentary writing, logistics, navigation, personal safety – all the preparations necessary for wildlife film production.
What will bring this course to a special level is the emphasis and involvement in gathering real, first-hand personal production experience, and the development and understanding of ones own performance, confidence and responses that ensue from this engagement.
Four practical location sessions are planned during the two-week Course, with close staff supervision and instruction on site throughout. It is planned that each individual will contribute footage towards a set of final productions at the Course conclusion. Collective work is important, and a genuine, tested ability to work closely with others is vital.
Each practice-based session is programmed to bring a broad set of different experiences, building a range of knowledge and self-dependence for the future. The first session will focus on landscape, and on macro photography of plants and insects, in an acknowledged area of outstanding natural beauty.
The second location is a woodland and lakeside setting, with scope for waterfowl, for young bird and plant filming. This session will also look at developing fieldcraft, and the use of hides in approaching subjects.
The third location session is a special sound recording day, with discussion and practice around using natural sound in combination with other sounds to develop integrated, original soundtracks for films.
Sparrowhawk by Nick Wright
The fourth practical period stretches across two residential nights/days on location. Working closely with Yorkshire Wildlife Trust, the Course will have extensive access to Spurn Head National Nature Reserve, one of Europe’s most important wildlife sites. This is an extraordinary and unique place, a finger of sand, mud and shingle stretching out for three or four kilometers into the North Sea, and protecting the busy commercial port of Hull. With no solid foundation beneath it, this spit of land is vulnerable to constant attack from sea erosion. Nearby, a number of villages and settlements have already disappeared out under the North Sea over the last few centuries. On the other side of the spit, silt from the River Humber constantly rebuilds and regenerates, to produce a complex, ever-changing and challenging environment. This rare, lonely and iconic landscape is famed for its prominent position on the North Sea coast, attracting migrating birds by the hundreds of thousands as their first/last point of call on the British mainland.
A primary reason for choosing this particular location lies in the range of accessible environments concentrated within the relatively compact area of the Reserve. The rocky, shingly exposed east coast supports a rugged wildlife cohort, with rare nesting Little Terns and several unusual plant species not found elsewhere in Britain. At the southern end, substantial sand dunes provide a wealth of support for deer, foxes, voles, passerines, gulls and occasional birds of prey. To the west, the inside face of Spurn protects vast rich mud flats, providing home, nesting space and valuable feeding ground for hundreds of thousands of wading and estuary birds. Beneath the water lies a hidden secret world of shellfish and algae, fish and waterplants. And in the low-lying fields and inlets leading down towards Spurn Point there is an exciting variety of flowering plants, of dragonflies and butterflies, of insects and meadow birds. It is hard to imagine a wider range of wildlife film opportunities concentrated within such a comparatively compact space. This is a wildlife paradise.
We hope to be able to contribute some of the footage generated towards the redevelopment of the new Reserve Centre currently taking shape at Spurn, and the opening up of the original lighthouse as a visitor information centre.
Kit and car for wildlife film-making by Nick Wright
On return from Spurn to Leeds, work will start on shaping the footage generated through the Course. Storylines, commentary, soundtrack, editing, titles and scientific identification will all play a part in producing a series of cohesive self-standing films. These films will then be presented on the evening of the final day to a deserning, invited audience.
Without the context and support of scientific, photographic, theoretical, logistic, ethic and legal additional information, practical work alone is of scant value. The Course exposes the interdependence of theory and practice, presenting a powerful case for developing skills on all fronts in unison, and underlining the need for self-determination and confidence in creating a rounded, effective individual.
The overall aim of the Course therefore is to offer information, understanding and experience for each individual, according to their personal objectives. The Course Team will seek to spend time with each student in developing a plan for their course and for future steps. Practice, as they say, is unlikely to produce perfection initially, but to have a set of proven experiences tested in the field and in the heat of the moment with like-minded people is a valuable commodity. We anticipate that these skills and experiences will enable participants to take the next step in their personal journeys of discovery and self determination.
Whatever lady luck throws our way in terms of wildlife encounters, the chance to make film with those who share our passions is one not to be passed up. As always, I am excited at the prospect of making new friends and understanding a little more of the wonderful wildlife world around us all, with a view to placing it on a screen for others to share and enjoy.
Full details at www.leedsbeckett.ac.uk/fmapcourses
Wildlife Filmmaking Workshop 2015
Suitable if you are a committed amateur, an aspiring professional or have had some previous filmmaking experience and have a love of wildlife. Our location in the heart of Yorkshire offers an abundance of wonderful wildlife and filming opportunities that are sure to inspire.
Wildlife film production is a complex web of aesthetics, field craft, narrative, technology and physical logistics. Thisworkshop engages with all of these aspects, whilst allowing you to develop your creative vision and aesthetic.
Preliminary seminar and discussion sessions will interrogate moral standpoints and examine your own objectives. It will also include an overview of wildlife law and countryside codes of behaviour.
Using the Northern Film School’s equipment, you will practice use of long lenses, close-up photography, atmospherics, weather, water, stabilisation, sound production, storyline development and post-production.
Filming will take place on location; there will be some early starts, visits to field study centres and wildlife reserves, with at least one overnight expedition. You will edit your material into a cogent whole, with the completed piece being presented at a closing event to an invited audience, with scope for debate and discussion around the work produced.
On this workshop you will:
- work on wildlife projects with sensitivity for your subject, a background of basic wildlife law, and health and safety awareness in the field
- handle cameras, lenses, sound to enable effective wildlife production
- manage time and resources to produce positive outcomes
- work in teams and individually identifying objectives, scripting, logistics, application of technology and final editing
- develop an awareness of narrative, composition,sequence and context in your own wildlife production work.
13 days full-time
Course only: £2000 (inc. all equipment & location expenses)
Accommodation: £400 (bed, breakfast & evening meal)
29 June 2015
Book here: www.leedsbeckett.ac.uk