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.