Faceblock by Darren Williams

Hello From China, This is the only way i can get through to any social media here in China as its all blocked and banned, and i've had my iphone stolen. But all is well, incredible place and having an experience of a life time. Now i just need to find a giant salamander.

Watch this space!


Week 8 - Money - 29th Oct - 1st Nov by Darren Williams

We started this week with another trip to Broadcasting House home to the BBC Natural History Unit. The last time we had been at the BBC NHU we were a little overwhelmed and like rabbits in headlight as it was our first week on the course. That day was more of an introduction to the industry and life at the NHU, whereas today we where going to receive a master class in production management and how to make the money work. 

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Today was all about the key player in making wildlife productions...MONEY! We had previously learnt about where the money comes from to create wildlife films at the BBC, so today were were to learn how that money translated into the actual making production itself. The budgeting of a program falls to the production manager. Having been allocated a budget for a show or series, it is their job to get the absolute best value out of this money to allow the show producer to fill his/her editorial desires. For this to be done successfully it involves a close and honest working relationship between the production manager and the producer. So until the production gets the green light, hours, days and months of planning and discussions will take place to establish what the production manager can do to help achieve the editorial aspirations of the producer. We were shown examples of production schedules and budgets from Frozen Planet and the forthcoming Polar Bear Family and Me. It was a really great experience for our team to get a real life example of how the money is managed and how a production on the scale of Frozen Planet is managed. I personally think it was a truly vital experience for many members of our course. Mainly because very few of them have any business experience dealing with budgets and management. I believe it will hugely benefit a producer to understand this vital aspect of production and subsequently they will find working with the production management team far more cohesive. 

Better planning + honest close working relationships = INCREDIBLE PRODUCTION! See bellow for a fine example!

That afternoon we were all heading to the canteen for coffee and cake, and an introduction to our BBC mentors. Each member of the course has been assigned two mentors from the BBC NHU. The roles of our mentors are to help guide and advise to us as we progress through the course in particular having some input on our final projects. So it wont be until early next year until we really take advantage of this fantastic mentor relationship. 

Back to the class room on thursday to pitch our animation/wildlife collaboration story boards. We had been assigned a project 5 weeks earlier which was based on creating a short animation with an environmental theme. The main aims of the project were to learn how to collaborate with individuals from another creative discipline and use their skills along with our own to communicate a topic which is often quite difficult through live action alone. As the afternoon panned out, we realised that this was an incredible demonstration of how many different and diverse idea's can be produced from a small collection of minds. Due to the nature of animation being extremely time consuming, it is now in the hands of the animators themselves to decide whether to take these projects though to production. Having witnessed the quality of the collaborations and the storyboard idea's, it would be a real shame not to see them taken all the way!

Week 6 - Back to normallity - 22-26th Oct by Darren Williams

We returned back to normality for week 6, I think it was quite a relief to come back to a week of structure and normality after the Wildscreen week of fun games and drinking. So the networking was put aside, and it was back to our course syllabus and our monday session of 'Mastering the Business'. Todays lesson was all about short form story telling. These stories are basically short, concise and wrapped up within a couple of minutes. Good examples of short story would be the natural history inserts for the BBC's One Show, Autumn Watch segments and the small series of stories that make up the Deadly 60 program. Reema (our tutor) produced many of these inserts during her time at the BBC so brought in some examples of past scripts. Short form story telling sits at around 3-5 minutes long, so needs to be concise enough to wrap up your message and story in this duration, but in enough depth to hold substance to make it interesting. Its also worth noting that these segments are usually pretty low budget, ranging from £1500-£12000, and generally need to be turned around ASAP. So with this in mind you need to create a concise yet adaptable script to allow you to achieve your shoot with your limited time scale, which is often just a single day. 

Our edit suite, the more screens the merrier!

Our edit suite, the more screens the merrier!

In our tech session we were introduced to the editing suite. In the world of professional editing there are 3 main edit software choices. These are Final Cut Pro, Adobe Premier and Avid. Annoyingly for us, not one of these programs are specifically the industry standard, so when it comes to editing you really need to be familiar with all three edit packages. They have they're differences, and im yet to decide which edit software to use personally. They also cost a small fortune to own on your personal Mac at home.

Our thursday session for 'creating the story' involved a visit from Dr Erik Stengler who is based as the UWE Frenchay campus. He is part of the new Science Communication unit formed to study the way that portray science and pass the knowledge on through various media including documentaries. Its a developing topic but an important one for us as natural history filmmakers as much of our content is based on science. With our main aim of subtly educating whilst entertaining.


On the friday we were heading off on our first field trip to study animal behaviour and how to observe them in the wild. We set off for Westhay Moor on the Somerset levels which is a beautiful nature reserve to explore with its shimmering lakes and reed beds. We were met at the site by Dr Mark Steer who is a lecturer at UWE with particular interest in habitat conservation. Although not the ideal time of year to vist the reserve in terms of wildlife. It did give us an opportunity to take tips on how to watch wildlife in the field. In all honesty i just enjoyed the walk around a unique habitat, one of which i had never visited before. I was particularly keen to quiz Matt on every single bird i spotted because i hadn't a clue what i was looking for and when i did see a bird, 90% off the time i had no idea what i was. I must alos admit that i've never really been that interested in birdlife unless it had large talons or came from the south pole, so its amazing how much more interest you take when someone is there to point it all out to you!

Week 5 - Champagne & Baileys - Wildscreen Festival! 14th-18th Oct by Darren Williams

So this is my brief (hopefully) summary of the eagerly anticipated Wildscreen Festival week. I may aswell start by giving an introduction into the Wildscreen Festival and what its all about. Celebrating its 30th birthday this year, Wildscreen is the most prestigious event in the wildlife filmmaking calendar which culminates in the celebration of the best there is at the Panda Awards. The festival is held rather discretely in the very centre of bristol and this year as new comers to the industry, we would be volunteering our time for part of the weeks events. However, we would also be delegates on the opening sunday and this is where the fun began.

Sunday was all about the newcomers, so the day kicked of with a breakfast coffee morning where the networking began. In all honesty, i hate networking and the horrid shameless inane chit chat that ensues whilst people try to work out if your really have anything to offer them. So not thinking i had much to offer right there and then, I decided to step away from the networking. I like to think that any worthwhile networking develops more organically rather than forcing it, so i would really on it taking place a little more naturally. So, based on the fact that my networking tactic was essentially to do nothing but be myself, I naturally tucked into a danish pastry and a cup of tea. Good start! We did however bump into a few of the guys from the Salford MA Wildlife course, as nice as they were, i did enjoy smugly chatting about how much better the UWE course is. I can have no excuses now for not making it in the industry! Next time we see them they'll probably have jobs so they can be they one's with smug looks on their face, and good luck to them! In the afternoon, we watched a few of the Panda nomination films. One particular favourite was 'worm hunters', a great example of making a seeming dull subject fun and action packed. Best worm film since 'Tremors', Kevin Bacons finest work! 


That evening we had tickets the to UK's first screening of Disneys Chimpanzee. A great fature film in typical disney style, tells the story of a little chip called Oscar! Extremely cute so a must if you like chimpanzee's and a great reminder of how incredibly human like these animals are, not just physically but emotionally too. The only major down side was the fact that the bad chimpanzee was called 'Scar', original for a Disney film hey! In their defence the chimpanzee had been named by the research scientists years before and rightly retained his real name for his debut feature film. After the film we were invited to stay for champagne and canapés. Adhering to my networking tactic of being myself, there was only one option for me. So i chose to abandon my car in the centre of bristol and drink the free champagne courtesy of Panasonic. The car parking saga had begun along with the first morning of hangovers.

During rehearsals team Boys were unstoppable! (Thanks to Matt)

During rehearsals team Boys were unstoppable! (Thanks to Matt)

As we were only delegates for one day at wildscreen, the rest of the week was set aside for our volunteering duties. On the monday our first assignment was to be part of the rehearsals for the that evenings events. BBC Earth were hosting a gameshow style quiz, with familiar faces sat on the panel such as Monty Halls, Doug Allen, Steve Leonard and Martin Hughes Games. Before these lot were sent on stage they required some real talent for the rehearsals. My talent was picking the teams, I decided that we should go boys verses girls safe in the knowledge that our course fountain of wildlife knowledge was indeed a boy like me. Despite the fact they didn't count the scores during the rehearsals, im pretty confident that we won and that I at least contributed to one point. After watching the real quiz, we headed again for complimentary BBC drinks. No one seemed to be drinking the red wine which kept me happy but i was even more pleased when we got to meet Doug Allen, who is probably the worlds most famous and best polar underwater cameraman. The evening continued onto one of Bristols less refined establishments where we drank copious amounts of Baileys. Its safe to say that never had Bristol seen such a boom in baileys consumption in such a confined area as Salute Bar on Park St. Im not quite sure why we kicked this craze off, but i believe it was all part of endorsing the relaxed networking policy and Baileys on ice was enjoyed by all UWE, BBC or not.

My volunteering at the festival itself was to be on the thursday helping with a DSLR workshop hosted by Sandesh Kadur, one of india's finest wildlife photographers and documentary filmmakers. The workshop was based on how to shoot wildlife films on DSLR camera's, in particular the Canon 5D mark III. My job for the 3 hour session was to simply stand at the door and tick names off a list as they entered workshop. So with 15 names ticked off list, my extremely brief job was done so I stepped inside and absorbed all i could during a masterclass on how to shoot with DSLR cameras.  Sandesh himself is a self shoot wildlife filmaker, which basically means that he's writes, shoots, produces and cuts a lot of his own work. Its somewhere i feel myself heading for my own career, so I was lucky to be volunteering on this workshop. Hopefully i can produce some thing of Sandesh's quality in the future. 

Week 4 - Dr James Holt - 8th Oct - 12th by Darren Williams

Lee Dunsford - Marine Biologist and father to be

Lee Dunsford - Marine Biologist and father to be

This blog is starting with a mention of my friend Lee Dunsford, who has affectionately given me the title of 'Blog Twat'. Please excuse the language, i appologise. Despite my new title handed to  me by my close friend Lee, deep down i know he loves these blogs. They comfort him knowing im having a lovely time on the course down here in Bristol, so im not stopping them now. Its also worth mentioning that he and his fiance are expecting their first baby very soon, mother is doing excellent whilst Lee himself has gained a healthy stone and a half of baby weight, apparently this is normal for expecting fathers! Xmas on the way soon too, so we can expect a further stone to be added too, good luck to you both ;).

On to business then and the activities of the weeks passed. Im actually playing catch up right now on these blogs, but im keen to do them week by even if they are a little behind. So let me dig deep into my memories, so long as they havent been wiped by Wildscreen week, of which activities i will divulge in the next blog.

So this week kicked of with a visit from Alistair Rickman from the BBC NHU. Alistair is the health and safety officer for the unit, and the aim of the visit was to highlight the issues encountered when starting any filming project from the very top. So our thoughts were all on the risks at hand when, working with animals, being on location, working with equipment, being abroad etc. We were given the task in class of assessing the risk of a set scenario. A trip of a group of young children walking on foot through Tanzanian bush with no back up support vehicles and well off the beaten track. The 11 day trek would also be heading through known popular elephant territory . So in small groups we set about identifying what the risks may be and what we would do to minimise these risks. We looked into the all the procedural efforts you could employ if there were an incident and basically highlighted everything you might do to safeguard everyone on the production. We were then shockingly revealed that this Expedition took place and unfortunately it didn't pass without incident. Sadly, a member of the BBC crew was killed when a bull elephant made a charge at the group. On this trip, all the appropriate safety measures were made, and all procedures executed perfectly but even when you try everything you can to reduce the risks, you can not control nature and the actions of a wild elephant. Risks will always be taken when filming with wildlife in its natural environment.

Later in the week we have to make our first presentation of our research for a Festival of Nature short film. The brief was to create a beautiful 2-3 minute film about wildlife in around the local area of bristol. So prior to todays presentation pitches we went away and found an interesting local topic for a short film, I chose the Bristol Bath Cycle path which i have dubbed an 'Urban Wildlife Ribbon'. We will have to see how if my project lives up to its title. With our presentations wrapped up by lunch we were due to have yet another guest from the BBC. Continuing with the topic, our guest was Nadege Laici, a BBC researcher at the NHU currently working on 'Seasons'. Having spent the previous week making our best efforts to pull in some research it was great to have a professional, let us know how its done today in the BBC. At this stage in our development as wildlife filmmaker, learning how to effectively research for a film will be a vital skill. 

Up until now we had just been given a overview of the business of wildlife filmmaking, so onward to Wildscreen Festival where the world of Natural History programming would come together in bristol, out of my depth........mmmmm yeah somewhat!

Remembering Grandad - Roy Williams (1932 – 2011) by Darren Williams

Nan and Grandad

Nan and Grandad

On October the 25th 2011 I lost my Grandad, the person who gave my family everything we have today through generosity, a kind heart, love and support. I wish he could see what im up to right now, i think he'd be impressed. So just as a tribute, one year since he passed i'd like to share the words i spoke about him at his funeral. If you knew him, please read on and remember him as i did.

For Royster, sorely missed, wonderfully remembered;

Well, I’m not really here to tell you how wonderful he was because we all knew that and in typical Williams fashion I could talk all day. Neither am I going to talk about grandad and his football days. Its quite weird for me, Ben, Elliot and Carly, as a lot of the tributes over the last week have been remembering our Grandad as a footballer and Hereford United legend. From what I have been told and read its clear he was very good, certainly better than me. I just remember him and will always remember him as being my Grandad, and he was really good at that too, if not better.

For me, Football was just a way that granddad was introduced into people’s lives and many of you became friends for life and many of you are here today. But, simply knowing Grandad as a footballer would be just scratching at the surface of his life. So ..........I am going to talk about MY Grandad.

First of all he was affectionately known as Royster, a nick name given by Elliot a long time ago, and a nick name suited him as we grew older because, because he certainly didn’t. He never felt like an old man to me, he was never a ‘grandad’. He was young person really and liked young things, enjoyed the company of young people and generally didn’t act as you imagine old people to act. He didn’t have a bus pass, he didn’t talk about the war, he didn’t wear glasses, he didn’t have false teeth, he didn’t wear beige....well not too much and he didn’t moan about the weather.

Infact, he didn’t moan at all, (Nan might disagree) but not to us grandkids. Remarkably he battled through the last few year of ill health, without complaining, fussing and feeling sorry for himself, and never made an effort of sharing his illness with the world, it was never really on the agenda.

Instead he went to Spain, played golf with his friends, sat and watched the football with me and my friends, and his favourite recent films were Madagascar and Meet the Fockers. He really was young at heart!

This is probably the reason why not only older friends are here today, but there are many people younger than him are too, my friends, Lisa friends, Dad friends. Friends young and old became naturally enamoured with Royster and if you could bottle his personality it would be priceless.

As grandchildren, we all spent a hell of a lot of time with Nan and grandad, we were always spoilt rotten by the pair of them. Elliot and Carly lived away for many years and also nan and granddad used to spend a lot of time away in Spain, but somehow we still all managed to spend a lot of time with them as kids altogether. One thing I will always remember as kids was the volume of Nan and Grandads conversations!!! We would be sat the lounge and you would think that world war 3 had kicked off, as you hear them bellowing at each other in the kitchen. Yet you’d walk in and they’d be having a normal conversation by their standards, but sounded like a game of who can shout loudest. There was always a favourite line you’d often hear from Grandad which will be fondly remembered by all, 'Bloody hell She!'. Anyway, a noisy house was a happy house, and you knew the only time there’s a problem in the Williams house was when it’s quiet.

However, he never raised his voice to us grand children, except for the odd ‘Mind the Ladro!!’, I remember when we were little we used to run around the house playing a game called Queen Elizabeth the 1st, I don’t know why it was called that but it involved me, Ben, Elliot running and hiding around the house whilst Carly had to find us. Carly soon cottoned on that it was more fun for us boys than it was her. But we must have made a hell of a noise running around and hiding in cupboards wardrobes, treading on boxes, knocking off shelves clothes off, but never did we get told off. We used to play in the garden, climbing the biggest of the firs in the corner, as we got older and heavier (no thanks to the salami on toast that Nan and Grandad used to have at breakfast) we used to break bow after bow off the bottom of the tree until it was just a bare stump for the first 5 foot ......but, he didn’t care as long we were having fun.

Me, Ben and Elliot used to play football down the side of the house, there was a lovely trelace perfect for kicking the ball back and forth over, great fun! The only problem was not for us kids, but for Nan and Granddad and their beautiful pink climbing rose bush that used to grow through it. We must have taken every head off the every rose over and over all summer long, they never had a chance, but neither Grandad or Nan bat an eye lid.

One of my personal oldest memories of grandad, was lighting fires in the back garden. I don’t know how old I was but I used to love it. Mum used to drop me up there and we used to burn the fire all-day long, I would chuck whatever I could get my hands on into the fire. It left its mark on me, as anyone who knows me will know that the sight of an unmanned a box of matches or a lighter is simply too tempting to resist. I haven’t burned a house down yet, but it’s only a matter of time.

I couldn’t talk today, without mentioning granddads beloved Rolex Tour. Past tour members are here today, and hopefully one day you may play on the tour once more in honour of Grandad. If you do, you could play for this, i would like someone to accept this is Cup for Grandad to honour ‘el Presidente’ as he was affectionately known as on tour. Some of you may still have your winning Rolex watch from the tour, and if they’ve run out of battery I’ve been told by Morrow that Oswins are more than willing to chuck it in the bin for you. Bloody MORROW!

When you lose someone like Grandad, you’re grieving and feelings come over in huge waves of emotion. Its one those inevitable parts of life that nobody escapes. But you don’t sink in those waves; you ride them out on the back of a 1000 of fantastic memories and feelings of happy times.........So, your job in life is to make sure when you're hit with these waves of emotion, you have enough great and happy memories to ride out the biggest of waves, safe in the knowledge that nothing could make you sink.

Finally, I noticed he said the following words quite often in his last few years. Usually if we took him anywhere, or did something nice, had a roast dinner, a family BBQ, or a day at the football. It was usually characterised with him giving a wave with his better arm.

So, In the words of my Grandad “Thank you very much everyone, I’ve had a lovely time”.

Week 3 - Sound Advise! 1st Oct - 5th Oct by Darren Williams

Yet another interesting week in the life of an aspiring wildlife film maker and a very busy one too! Monday was all about one of the more challenging topics when filming with wildlife. We were discussing and learning about ethics! A tricky subject because mainly because many of the ethical issues faced are resolved with personal judgement. There in lies the problem......personal judgement, everyone is different and everyone see's and views things differently to the next person. This becomes an even bigger problem when you try to second guess what the audience 'ethical' view is. Its a very tricky and difficult balance probably highlighted best by the example given by Reema Lorford (our tutor) in our lecture. In her time as a producer on BBC's Springwatch, Reema and her team encountered many ethical issues. However, there was one story that emphasised the difficulty in guessing the audience opinions. A few years back, the Springwatch team were following a nest of buzzard chicks and their mother. They were a key part of the show and integral as one of the main story lines for the series. Unfortunately it had been a tough year for the buzzards as food source's were extremely low. Rather gruesomely, the chicks started eating each other out of desperation. One by one the chicks slowly disappeared, so what to do? They were faced with ethical dilemma of whether to show true nature in its most gruesome reality or to drop the story. The one opened up question of taste and the would deny the audience the chance to follow the story. They decided to continue with the story highlighting the cruel realities of nature, but without any gory images. Although prepared for possible complaints, they did not expect the nature of them. To the surprise of the class, Reema revealed that the most common complaint was in fact from viewers who were angry because the team were not feeding the starving chicks. They believed that the BBC Springwatch team should not stand by an watch but actually intervene with nature by feeding the chicks. This in turn opens up another ethical minefield in itself, but more importantly demonstrates the difficulty in trying to understand what the viewers deem ethical. Food for thought.......is that inappropriate?

Playing with the sound, up high or lower which sounds best?

Playing with the sound, up high or lower which sounds best?

Next on the agenda was some sound advice from David Neal, and quite literally to. This weeks workshop would be an introduction to sound recording. In a world of affordable beautiful 3D HD LCD televisions sound can be easily over looked by the viewer. Its probably only when you go to the cinema that you're reminded of how powerful and enjoyable sound can be. In my opinion quality sound is more important than quality image. If you think about this for a moment you'll probably agree. You can enjoy any footage regardless of the quality, so long as it is accompanied by great sound, weather it be dialoge, ambiance noise or soundtrack (think 'you've been framed'). Try it the other way around, and your find that the whole viewing experience intolerable with poor sound. I think, The Dark Night Rises really pushed its luck with the voice of Bane, to the point that some times it was all you could concentrate on. Imagine frozen planet with poor sound FX's and soundtrack, you just cant enjoy the images without good sound. We were being taught how to use the the familiar (animal attracting) sound booms with mics, you know the one's with big fluffy ends on poles. Before I started the course, friends would often say to me, take me with you and i'll hold the sound boom it looks easy. My answer now is a firm NO! Sound recording it far more difficult and requires a lot more skill than probably many perceive. 

On the Thursday we were joined by guest lecturer James Brickel, BBC Producer currently working on a four part series 'Seasons'. The format should need no more explanation, but its worth me saying how beautiful the preview was which included shots from a camera never before used in wildlife film making, you'll have to wait to see it. On this day James was going to be talking to us about his most recently finished project, Great Barrier Reef. You may have seen this recently on sunday evening on BBC2 present by Monty Halls. It was incredible to hear about the effort, organisation, problems and realities of creating a program even in one of the most beautiful places on earth. Fascinatingly, James explained to us how little of the barrier reef, even today has been dived on and explored. So throughout the filming, location after location they were discovering certain species on the dives that were not supposed to be there. Highlighting that making scientific discoveries are common and one of the most important byproducts of wildlife filmaking. Finally, how could we not quiz the man on diving with tiger sharks? I along with alot of people i know, have an insatiable fascination for sharks, shark facts, shark footage, shark attacks etc etc. I'm also terrified of them, so much so that i even think that when im swimming in the sea at Borth (wales) i am in some-sort of imminent danger of and attack. So... the opportunity to quiz James who has dived on numerous occasion with Tiger sharks was great. What i learned was that sharks, like animal have behavioural traits. Each species has a different personality and common behaviours, therefore knowledge is key to safely diving with this perfectly formed predator of the Great Barrier Reef! So diving with tiger sharks can be perfectly safe with knowledge and understanding on your side. Mmmmmm............im still not ready to jump in just yet!

Week 2 - The Man From Del Monte by Darren Williams

Two weeks into the course and it feels more like ten weeks. The past week in particular has felt extraordinarily long, but in a good way! I think this can be put down to the sheer variation of tasks during the week. We kicked off on monday morning with the homework we had been set a week earlier. It was based on familiarising us with the various types and styles of natural history programs and critically deconstructing their format and bringing our views to the group. It was a great exercise, however, since our group discussion I find it hard to sit and watch wildlife programs without analysing every little aspect. I sit and watch them through a new set of critical eye's analysing their structure, how they're telling the story?, the speed and tempo, camera techniques, style of narration......blah blah blah! The good news is that I think I enjoy wildlife programs even more now than i did before. 

Getting to grips with the Panasonic AF101

Getting to grips with the Panasonic AF101

In the afternoon we had a talk from our friends at the BBC Natural History Unit. As part of our 'Mastering the Business' module, NHU Creative Director Mike Gunton and Commercial Manager Jon Lindley. If you looking to master the business it makes sense that you learn from the 'masters of the business'. When your being fed valuable knowledge from the executive producer of the likes of BBC's Life you know you're in good hands. 

The star of the show!

The star of the show!

Tuesday was all about technology and getting to grips with all the kit involved in making wildlife films, most importantly... camera's. I'd like to think that technology is my thing, but even for me there is going to be alot of learning. Broadcast quality cameras are little different to your camera on an iphone, and its fair to say there's more to it than point and shoot! Our first toy to play with was the Panasonic AG-AF101. After an introduction workshop introducing us to the key key elements of the camera, and how to use them. We set off to learn the easy way by putting it into practice. Avoiding the obvious ease of filming the red deer on Ashton Court Estate we headed into the bushes on campus to find something a little more challenging. After a few minutes along bobbed a little robin, it was the perfect subject for a little practice. Keen to return to the workshop with cinematic wildlife gold, I knew I we had to get this little fella on film. The little robin was to teach me my first valuable lesson as a wildlife cameraman....patience. Luckily the robin didn't disappear on us, however, deciding where to point the camera on the large tripod in the bushes proved to be tricky. That was the second lesson this little robin taught me, animals are unpredictable. However, with patience, we decided to point the camera on a small branch hoping that it might be the perfect little perch for a robin. After 15-20 mins sat waiting, the little bird read the script (almost) and sat on a branch 4 or 5 foot from the one in our frame. I quickly scrambled to turn the camera on to it, frantically trying to get the focus right before the little bird flew off. It wasn't a lion taking down a buffalo, or great white leaping out of the sea but we we got the shot.

Wednesday was set aside for the group to go to a workshop about creating a website. Already having one I didn't need to attend, but I took it as a day to revise mine a little. I decided that if this site was to be my portfolio, then it really needed my name plastered all over it. Despite loving the name MyNextAdventure.co.uk it had to go, but what to replace it with? Darren Williams isn't the most unique name in the world and hardly memorable, anyhow, darrenwilliams.com or .co.uk had already been taken. Luckily all my life i have been called by my nick name Diz or Dizzy. Growing up many people didn't even know my name was Darren, so people often called me Dizzy Williams. I've never really been keen on this amalgamation of my nick name and surname but now i think might be the perfect time to embrace it. So DizWilliams.com was born and hopefully it will serve me well. Watch this space!

On Thursday we again had the pleasure of another visitor from the the BBC. Like the man from Del monte, in walked Dr Ted Oakes. He was a the epitome of a man who's work reflects his character. He was extremely knowledgable, quirky, fascinating, a little controversial, enthusiastic but completely enthralling. His recent works as a producer include Swimming with Crocodiles which featured Ben Fogle and The Bear Family and Me both of which are excellent. They're are a great reflection of his personality and as he describes they are the type of "gig he's on right now". The most important lesson i learned from him was that you need to make programmes that you enjoy, that make you tick and to believe and commit to your story from the very beginning. I think it was a great lesson to learn, and an important tip to take on board early. It got me thinking about what  i think i would like to make, what would reflect my personality and what makes me tick. I think from that one simple lesson I have a clearer impression of the direction i need to go. 


PASSION by Darren Williams

The MA Wildlife Film Making team in the points west studio

The MA Wildlife Film Making team in the points west studio

Before Week 2 begins i wanted to get my blog post up, so a lazy Sunday has been the perfect opportunity to reflect on what was an incredible first week. Incredible though it was, my brain was somewhat overloaded with the sheer torrent of UWE welcome dross on the first day. Luckily this was brought to an end on Tuesday by being shown an incredible and inspirational promo video for the BBC Natural History Unit (NHU). You should by now have clicked on the link, if you haven’t then do it now; the video is far more interesting than my blog. Anyway, the video doesn’t need much explanation, its incredible and the finest example of why I’m chasing my dream as a wildlife filmmaker.

The single best thing about the video is that the team that produced its incredible content are heavily linked with our course. It was only on Thursday that it came to light how strong and deep these links are. We had been invited to the BBC Broadcasting House, home of the most prestigious wildlife film unit in the world, the NHU. I can safely talk on behalf of the rest of my fellow course members when I say that we were all blown away by what was to follow.

After excitedly meeting in the BBC foyer, we made our way up to the NHU offices and into a meeting room. As a group we were welcomed by Mike Gunton and Neil Nightingale both senior executives at the NHU. Both experts in their field of wildlife filmmaking, it was an incredible privilege to receive their advise and unrivalled insights into the industry. We then set out of a tour of Broadcasting House. As interesting as this was, the highlight of the afternoon was to follow. We made our way up to a large conference room in Broadcasting House and settled down 4 rows from the front. Of the 15 or so rows available these were premium seats. We were attending the monthly NHU Unit meeting, where all matters within the unit were discussed, from future projects to in house initiatives. A slight contrast to my last directors meeting at CleanMy Ltd. As the room filled up, I noticed that the presence of the 15 students in the 4th & 5th row had denied actual staff members a seat. With a feeling of guilt and an apologetic look on my face I peered to my right at the unfortunate people left standing. To make matters worse I instantly recognised James Brickell leaning against the wall. I hardly felt worthy of my seat with BAFTA award winning wildlife filmmakers propping themselves up against the walls. However, I wasn’t to worry though, we were soon and repeatedly made to feel very welcome as the meeting was kicked of by Wendy Darke, Head of the Natural History Unit. What followed was incredible showcase of current affairs, future projects and celebrations of past work, most recently the 4 Emmy awards received for Frozen Planet. We all felt were truly privileged to be allowed to sit in on such an insightful meeting.

Following the meeting we headed down into the bar in Broadcasting House. Our privileges continued as we enjoy complimentary drinks and to our luck, 3 members of the unit were leaving so the were a few words and toasts to be made. This, in turn bolstered the attendance of staff from the unit joining us at the bar. Mike Gunton took to the floor with entertaining toasts for each leaving member. Following Mike was Wendy Darke who led a toast to the unit, in particular to the team behind Frozen Planet and its 4 Emmy Awards. Being a satisfied viewer I happily raised my glass to that and wallowed in the sense of achievement in the room. Embarrassingly, next toast was to be made to us. As far as I was aware not one of our 15 strong team had won an Emmy award, but glassed were raised and we all felt a little overwhelmed. It was an incredibly warm gesture, which underlined the BBC NHU’s enthusiasm and investment in our course. I now aim to make sure it’s not the last toast we receive in the BBC bar.

After all the toasts were made the warm and welcoming atmosphere continued as we supped red wine. As a small group of us stood drinking, Susan McMillan our course tutor, rushed over with a tall imposing figure. He had been brought over to introduce to Charlie (a fellow student) who recognised him immediately. Rather ignorantly I didn’t recognise the gentleman, but instantly realised that Charlie held him in great esteem. He was award winning director James Honeyborne, who’s past works included the feature film The Meercats. He was one of the first of many distinguished BBC staff to happily and enthusiastically chat with us, as we quizzed him on his recent work including the forthcoming BBC series Africa. I asked him for one tip for the year ahead and making a career in the industry. His response was simple and reassuring, he said ‘passion’.

The night continued, and we spoke personally and at length to other members of the NHU team. We also continued to drink the complimentary red wine, when that dried up we moved on the the house cider. A little inebriated, a handful of us proudly propped up the bar until everyone else had left the building. However, now it was our time to go home too, relieve the barman of his duties, and return back down to earth.

The following morning nursing a mild hangover I sat and had bacon and eggs in my flat. It was nice opportunity to reflect on how incredible the previous day had been. It was also a chance to recap on the things we had learned during that day. One thing above all echoed in my head. It was James Honeyborne’s tip for the future; luckily it was something I knew I had already acquired, ‘PASSION”.

the adventure starts here....... by Darren Williams

This isn't really the start of the adventure, just the birth of my new site. I'd like to think that the adventure got started years ago but it is only now that things are getting really exciting. So why not start with a little background, to explain how I got to where I am. At the age of 27 I recently decided that had to make an exciting positive change in my life and career. The problem for me was deciding what to do and what move to make next.

I have until now been proudly working with my family business (www.cleanmy.biz) since graduating from the University of Birmingham. Stepping into the business was something I never thought I would do growing up, especially as cleaning and hygiene supplies isn't the most exciting of industries to be involved in. However, it was my family business, I was needed, so I stepped in to help pick up the pieces that nobody else had time for. 5 years on and the company has gone from strength to strength, relocating to new premises, total rebranding, modernising and streamlining, and most importantly we have built a team perfect for running the business for years to come.


At this point now, I was left in the fortunate postion where everything was in place for me to step away from the business and pursue what I really wanted to do for the rest of my life. So, back to my original dilema, what and where? 

Luckily I have always known what makes me tick. I love adventures, the great outdoors, being active, being creative, i'm a bit of a closet geek with technology, I love photography and finally i've always loved and been fascinated by wildlife! (Its is worth noting that none of these passions were satisfied by working with my family business). Therefore, I sat with a friend and decided to think what my dream job would be. It was extremely obvious to me, but equally as unrealistic. I wanted to be involved in wildlife film in some way for this would tick all my boxes, yet how would I ever get into it? I do love wildlife, I do obsessively watch wildlife programmes and collect wildlife magazines, but, I had no previous experience working with animals, or film making and I certainly didn't have a degree in Zoology. 

However, despite my seemingly thin level of experience I knew that I had the skills, desire and ability to get into the industry somehow. At least now I knew what I wanted to do, even though it still seemed unrealistic that I could actually attain my dream job, I was going to have a go at it anyway. So I faced my next question of, where? where on earth do I start? It was after trolling through the internet looking at numerous volunteering scheme's, photography workshops and wildlife adventure experiences, that i eventually stumbled across the dream course..........MA Wildlife Film Making at UWE Bristol. It seemed to too good to be true, it was in Bristol, for one year and ran in partnership with the BBC Natural History Unit. This was incredible and there was no doubt in my mind that if I was ever going to get into the industry, this would have to be my route.

So the application process began, immediately buoyed with optimism after reading that the course was actively looking for applicants from various backgrounds. It seemed that my dream job may not be such a dream after all. So I took to digging out the old GCSE, BTEC certificates none particularly relevant for a masters. Even my degree in Sport and Exercise Science seemed a tenuous scientific link to the course content. I knew that my strengths lay not in my qualifications, but in my heart so i poured it out into my personal statement as best i could. 

It seemed to have done the trick, and on the 20th July 2012, up popped an e-mail on my laptop inviting me to attend an interview for the course. I was ecstatic, I couldn't believe i had been given an interview but knew that if there was anyway I could prove myself, an interview would be it, perfect! So that left me one week to prepare for the interview. Plenty of time you would think, but when you are anxious to impress you always believe there could have been more time to prepare. I prepared some of my favourite personal photography and put together a 7 minute movie showcasing footage taken from a trip to Tanzania. Never had i thought that the footage taken on that trip would be shown to professionals in the industry. Oh well, its all i had, so it better work!

Interview day came, with my interview at 11.30am, i set off bright and early leaving Hereford at 8.15am for Bristol. Leaving plenty of time for me to grab a cup of tea, relax and obtain some passport photo's. Or so i thought, it seems passport photo's on the 26th of July are hard to come by. I tried four photo booths in four different locations in two cities, luckily I found a working machine in plenty of time and it had justified my early leaving time from Hereford.

The interview was at the leafy Bower Ashton Campus, I sat waiting in reception, 11.30am came and it seemed they were running late. Nevertheless, I was greeted by a smiling Susan McMillan  (one of the course leaders) and we made our way to the interview room where I met Reema Lorford and Abigail Davies. Thirty or so minutes later i shook their hands and thanked them for a great interview. I then left with a smile on my face as i felt it had gone very well, but i wasn't getting too excited just yet.

During the interview I had been told by Abigail that they would let us know their decision as soon as possible, 'great' i thought, but it was only that afternoon I realised I didn't ask exactly how they would let me know. So i sat staring at my inbox all day friday eagerly waiting for a response. By 5pm it hadn't arrived so I resigned myself to a weekend of anxiously waiting until monday.

When monday arrived I continued watching my inbox, i must admit it wasn't my most productive couple of days at work. By 4.30pm, still no sign............ then I remembered. As we had applied online for the course using they're online application process, it was obvious that that was where their response would be. Feeling a little stupid and even more so anxious than ever, I logged on, checked my application for my dream course, and read the two best words i could wish to see... UNCONDITIONAL OFFER.

With out hesitation, I clicked the option to firmly accept the offer.......the adventure starts here!