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.
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.
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.