Jobs in wildlife production – why so hard to get one?

Jobs in wildlife production are always in short supply. That’s no secret.

It is one of the most exciting fields of filmmaking in the world- and one of the toughest. Wildlife filmmaking often evokes the image of a globetrotting, well-travelled and raconteur-ready camera expert, who’s hardy and resilient in the face of some of nature’s biggest and most challenging landscapes on our planet. Granted, some of the mythology is true – and the opportunity to travel can’t be denied.

However, while being a aspirational pursuit, wildlife filmmaking is also a hard one to get into.


Jobs in wildlife filmmaking

In short, there are a lot of differences between the world of wildlife filmmaking and anything else.

A good number of wildlife filmmakers are stuck in a rut: they know they want to be a wildlife filmmaker, but they’re frustrated at the lack of roles in wildlife filmmaking that suits their skillset. This has led some wildlife filmmakers to turn to other careers – and to make that change permanent, although it’s not a story we hear often in the mainstream press; it is known within the industry at large. It seems like there are several common problems facing wildlife film-makers, with the biggest simply being: a lack of roles and jobs at any one time.

Why are there not more jobs IN WILDLIFE PRODUCTION?

In a word: access. Simply put, it is expensive. Access to the big animals, whether it be leopards, lions, tigers or pangolins, the difficulties in acquiring permission to film, or even securing work permits to travel – none of this is easy for a non-essential journalist. Moreover, in the UK the nature reserves and parks where most wildlife film and TV productions operate can be highly restricted – or, you at least need to really dedicate yourself and do the research to ensure you are able to roam and film as much as you suitably – and sustainably – need to.

There are quite literally dozens of reserve areas that are off-limits to the general public and where entry requires permits. How do the producers get the permits? We are all aware that BBC wildlife productions have a documented requirement for their shoots to be ‘natural’ (i.e. outside of permitted areas with exclusive access to areas that tourists and most independent filmmakers can’t get to), and we can see the results of that perhaps most astonishingly in the Blue Planet mega-series.

Dùn Chàrlabhaigh Broch


What makes wildlife filmmaking so tough?

The good news is that the best wildlife documentaries are hard to make! Because they require asking some really, really tough questions about the forces at work in nature, and how we and the wildlife around us are at the mercy of them. They can involve exploring conservation communities, business communities and those who might be opposed to restoration projects.

Wildlife filmmakers have to naturally ask some of the most visceral questions about how humans and our ecosystems can live -either together in tandem or completely individually within their own contexts of ecology and biology.

Often, in assessing a documenting a particular genus or species, you often have to capture, unflinchingly – what might happen when a creature’s luck runs out in its natural habitat. 

What’s the best way to get into wildlife filmmaking?

So how do you get involved in wildlife filmmaking or find Jobs in wildlife production? There are a few ways to get involved in the world of wildlife filmmaking. For one, there are lots of organisations, including conservation charities, charitable trusts and foundations; zoology foundations and of course some of the big broadcasters themselves, that are full of skilled professionals – however you may find that they’re not always willing to open the books. It can be notoriously ‘old boys’ club’, and the reputation doesn’t seem to have dissipated despite the progress being made across the film and televisual industries as a whole.

However, given the fragmentation of media and ever-increasing importance of content creation distributors like YouTube, Youku in China and even the most familiar viral social media platforms (as well as the filmmaker favourite, Vimeo): these days, being a wildlife filmmaker with relevant audiences can take you around the world, even from just your mobile phone.

But if you’re finding that the ivory towers are still exactly those: ivory, and locked – then take a little punk ethos and pepper it into your own practice to break the ice: make your own short film. That’s how we started out!

The joys of knowing your way around the right wildlife kit and cameras are together not a power to be underestimated, and to make something totally original and honest is actually very tough – and more important than ever if we are to raise the right kind of awareness or out indsutry and keep it alive.

And things have changed since we began nearly a decade ago. With affordable gear including the items that youll need to wear and live in while you’re on location; wildlife film equipment for hire for less than 10% of the value of buying equipment for a whole week’s shoot, and even some incredibly professional YouTube videos of how to do things that might save you a small fortune in going to film school, remember this well: you don’t have to have a corporate namebadge to make something engaging, compelling and to gain an audience who choose your content.

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