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”.