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?
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!