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Old March 17th, 2006, 03:57 AM   #1
Join Date: Mar 2006
Location: INDIA
Posts: 1
How do I start a wildlife film making.

Hi all,

I am new in this group. I am neither a professional, nor a researcher. I know nothing about wild life filming to start with. I have never been in any kind of production, not even as a spot boy or helper. I have never seen or handled any camera or equipments. Hence my knowledge is blank in this field.

However, I want to catch a rare species on camera and this is an aim I swear I would accomplish. It is a Brow-antlered Deer found only in my State. It has been declared as one of the endangered species with only a population of 140 roughly. It has its habitat on floating morasses of a lake. It is rather a swamp covering an area of 42 sq km and the grasses on it are 6-8 foot long that shelters the animal, which would make it difficult to film the animal. The subject is a very shy animal and more than that its habitat is now a national sanctuary, which would need clearance for filming during the rutting season especially. I want to film it during the rutting season mostly since it would be easy to sight the animal. The period would be for 4(December - April) months before rainy season starts. My plan after making this film is to broadcast it over any of the renowned TV channels like National Geographic or Discovery.

Now below are my major challenges:

What would be my pre-production plan?
What are the equipments I require?
What are to be done in post-production?
What minimum budget is required in such kind of film production?

The other things I would like to know are:

Is it better to approach a production company (since I wonít be able to afford all equipments in one go) or produce it myself?

If I have to approach a production company which one should I approach?

If I have to approach National Geographic Channels International, what type of materials do I provide them?

What kind of video format would just fit the film since itís going to be broadcast on TV?

What is the minimum crew that is required for such a film and what kind of crew I require?

How much time would be required for planning before the filming starts?

What kind of story would be generally suitable for general public and more importantly to draw the attention of researcher and organizations to protect this animal and its natural habitat?

James Mayengbam.
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Old March 17th, 2006, 10:47 AM   #2
Join Date: Jan 2005
Location: Boulder, CO
Posts: 3,015
welcome, james, to dvinfo...

what you're asking is a bit like wanting to be in the National Football League without ever having played the game. it's not impossible, but it would take a tremendous level of natural skill and talent. good intentions are probably not sufficient for what you're saying you want to do.

for what you want to do, you'll need to rent, borrow, or purchase a lot of expensive equipment. it's an entire universe out there, and you need to spend some time figuring out your best options.

you should read around the site because there are a number of wildlife professionals who post here regularly, and you can have many of these questions answered by reading about how they go about their work. i find that, if i find a member who is doing what i wish i was doing, it helps to read all their posts and understand their thought processes. it's like having the opportunity to shadow a professional wildlife videographer right here.

here's an educational resource which you may find helpful, which can get your questions answered quickly, if you have the time and money to take it on:

i have seen a national geographic scout walk up to a presenter at a film festival and hand him a check on the spot for his video project (it was goran kropp, the amazing swedish adventurer, before he passed away). but i think that is a very rare and unusual situation. not impossible, though.

there are many environmentally-specific film festivals out there where you can get exposure for your project. even those are very competitive....

but good luck! it sounds like a great project.
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Old March 18th, 2006, 05:01 PM   #3
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Join Date: Feb 2006
Location: Palau Island, western Pacific
Posts: 30
Hi James,
The world of natural history filmmaking involves a thought and production process which takes years as opposed to months for project completion. I think you should get used to the fact, and change your thinking of production issues, to suit that time factor.

One way you can tackle your problem is to produce what is called a pilot. This means that you should find a suitable, second hand if the cost is an issue, miniDV camera and during the next window of opportunity, i.e the next rutting season, is to get out there, alone or with an assistant, using hides etc, to produce a five minute short on your subject. This can then be edited as a pitch item for a full production. You will also have to produce a written treatment to accompany the pilot which should address all of the production issues including why this production should be accepted, the importance of such a production, budget requirements, equipment and needs etc etc.

Once armed with the pilot and treatment you would then have to make the rounds looking for a potential investor / production company willing to go with the project. Don't forget to cover your approaches to production entities with a non-disclosure agreement which will protect you and your idea from poachers (there are a lot of unscrupulous people in the industry but many more honest and true).

To be honest your lack of experience or camera knowledge may be a hinderance so it may be a better idea for you if you would look to be associated with the project as a director or producer. You could also hire a local camera operator and become their assistant as a way to learn the skills of wildlife filming.

That said it is not an impossible task. I wish you all the best with your venture. Don't give up on your desire to get into this kind of work. It is a hugely rewarding industry and the sense of accomplishment when projects go well is more than worth the sleepless nights.

Mark Thorpe,
Underwater Cameraman,
Western Pacific.
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