Hey ! So you are looking for advice aye? There are plenty of better places then here for advice, I still pinch myself that people are coming to me about advice ?! But you are here so I will do my best! I reccomend not emailing me regarding advice, this is the best I can give xx
Where to start?
Start with a passion! Do you want this and have you always wanted this because this industry is heartbreaking to try and get into, do not do it on a whim. Have a game plan but be ready it might not go as plan. To shoot there are a few angles to go and none are better then the other I have seen people become camerapersons through shooting research roles (good for those with a biology degree), through shooting their own content and posting on socials (good if you have free time and money to do so) or via a kit technician or location role. If you are UK based (preferably bristol) then find a rental house or in house kit job, then you can get your hands on specialist kit that is used on location, you will be rigging it up for the big landmark shoots and be in direct contact with the crews going out. You will learn the kit, the people, the politics and everything in between ready to set you up for your first job on location. You can usually borrow the kit to also build your own content up ( maybe not enough to post daily on socials but enough for your showreel). I speaking mostly of the kit house route because this was mine. It will more then likely be the hardest work you'll ever do in this industry but set you up perfectly to be the kit know it all on location. You will however lack location and field experience which the other two paths bring. Any opportunities to learn animal behaviour and general outdoor survival would be reccomended.
If you are not uk based then you need to be a location role, being a local AC and fixer is a great way in. Its worth getting involved in online networking groups and linking with bristol talent on instagram, you need to know who is coming out to your location and how to pitch yourself right. Crews are trying to be as sustainable as possible currently which means they are looking for talent already on location. No one will know the wildlife hotspots better then you and they dont have to pay visas or travel! Also find local conservation groups, the world is digital now and every charity and science project needs to communicate this science and work, they need you and your skills ! I do this on the side of work through Buddha and the whale!.
why you though? What do you have to offer that the 10000s others doing the same thing dont. Do you have a specialism? are you really into macro, underwater, heights, climbing, lighting, horse riding, weird self built rigs, keeping aquarium tanks, looking after plants, do you know a remote special location, are you an FPV drone fan, have a love for blender and vfx? Sometimes its a skill or past job that you did not think was relavent to this role but actually is the exact combo of knowledge production needs for their new wacky show. See how you can combine some of your passions or build them up to a commercial level through HSE diving qualifications, Canopy access climbing or a masters in microbiology.
Things I wish people told me?
- its not like travelling the world as a tourist, you could see one tree for three weeks and that combined with the airport will be your experience of the country.
- its comes with its fair share of people politics. As much as you came here to be just you the wildlife and a camera, it will be a lot of team work. Every location team i've worked with has come away feeling like a family ( amazing but heart breaking when you dont see them again for three years). There is also industry level people politics, this is a competitive industry and not everyone will be going out there way to help you, its most competitive and brutal at the entry level, I've seen a number of incredibly talented people turn away from the industry for this reason and have dealt with my fair share of unfriendly behaviour. But there is a light at the end of the tunnel in the incredible people you will make life changing, death defying journeys and shoots with.
- help another out, its amazing what you can create when you shoot with fellow entry level proffessionals. Teach them what you know and they can teach you in return, learn from one another as you grow. There is an incredible group called the Wildlife Camerawoman Community, for the woman joining. It is living proof that we do not need to compete but instead celebrate one another.
- You may only spend 3 weeks at home in total during a year, be ready to have no social life ( which you probably don't anyway if you were anything like me) I actually see my friends more now since i make a concerted effort to fit it in during my home time.
- TAX! Its very rare you will have a PAYE camera role, so make sure you learn up on freelance tax rules or save up for an accountant.
- Paperwork! There is alot of work before and after and inbetween a shoot, applying for visas, contracts, specialist clothing shopping, covid lessons, safety zoom meetings, production meetings, shot list meetings, kit prep meetings, kit prep, training, invoices, timesheets, kit replacements, keeping up with new kit, cv, showreel and website updates, emails. It is a full time job between your shoots. A camera wage is usually above a production wage for this reason, you are not getting rich but spreading you wage over the three weeks of "free time" work.
I tried to give details that I could not find else where online, I hope this was useful to you!
Resources to look at :
Filmmakers for future
Wildlife Film Network