Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Animal Planet to 'Unearth' next Great Wildlife filmmaker

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In April 2006, Animal Planet invited amateur wildlife filmmakers from around the world to apply for a once-in-a-lifetime chance to take part in an intensive filmmaking course with experts Andrew Barron and Lyndal Davies.

This unique television project follows the six contestants as they
embark on a demanding training course at the award-winning Shamwari Game Reserve in South Africa, where they learn the essential skills and realities of creating a natural history documentary.


I have recently on a Wildeye course and found out about the Unearthed competition from the Wildeye website. The competition was for six amateur film makers to be professionally taught how to film wildlife in South Africa's Shamwari Game Reserve over a period of three weeks. I had to make a DVD entry about myself which showed as many aspects of my wildlife film making as possible, which included underwater filming, night time filming, editing skills and of course wildlife. I did not expect for one second that I would actually win but thought it would be a good experience to try out some of the techniques that had been given on the
courses I attended at Wildeye.

You can imagine my total surprise and excitement when I received a
conference phone call to get more details about myself and my film. I assumed I was on a short list of contenders to go on the trip but when I was eventually told I was one of the six people to go I still didn't actually believe it until I arrived in Africa.

We flew out on the 8 July 2006 and I was a little bit worried when we arrived and found thermals on the bed! Of course it was winter in Africa and it can get really cold. Filming started immediately and it is a strange feeling having a camera a few inches from your face, and questions flying at you. Shortly after the film crew left us a white rhino strolled past the Lodge we were staying in. What a welcome!

For the whole three weeks we were there we had early rises and very late finishes, sometimes to 3.00am in the morning but the tuition and expertise that we gained was second to none and all six contestants enjoyed every second of it. We were taught not only the fundamentals of filming wildlife but also the dangers, the drive, dedication and hard work that are needed to become a wildlife film maker.

Our main source of information was from the film crew and the rangers on the Reserve but we did have special guests brought in to give us talks on individual subjects such as filming lions at night time. All the instructors were in the top league of their field and it became very clear as the weeks progressed just how privileged we were. The three weeks ended with each contestant picking a subject and making a film that would be judged by a top panel of judges at the end of the final week.

The subject I picked was a beautiful female leopard. It was a big
gamble as I have been to Africa before and know how hard it is to find a leopard and we only had 3 days to shoot the film but it was one animal that has always fascinated me. You can imagine my thoughts when on the first day of shooting her we woke up to torrential rain. It cleared up in the afternoon but due to the waterlogged ground we were told that we wouldn’t be able to go off road which would really restrict me. As it happened we found her in an open patch and she could not have given me a better afternoon's filming. The last day of filming her just showed what a gamble I had taken as she went deep into bush and we didn’t see her at

To find out exactly what we got up to you will have to see the
programme which comes out on 8th April on the Animal Planet at 7pm but I would like to say to everyone: enter every competition you can because you never know what you may achieve. Another Unearthed is going to be launched this year (see previous bulletin) so get your entries in.

Good luck
Bryan Grayson

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Don’t film if you can live without filming

My filmmaker friend, Diego Briceno, sent me this, and I found it very helpful when reaffirming my own passion about filmmaking...


(IDFA: Int'l Documentary Festival Amsterdam)

During the festival, each year IDFA holds an academy for emerging doc directors and students. Here’s some advice from Master Class Instructor Victor Kossakovsky for beginning doc filmmakers:

1. Don’t film if you can live without filming.

2. Don’t film if you want to say something - just say it or write it. Film only if you want to show something, or you want people to see something. This concerns both the film as a whole and every single shot within the film.

3. Don’t film, if you already knew your message before filming - just become a teacher. Don’t try to save the world. Don’t try to change the world. Better if your film will change you. Discover both the world and yourself whilst filming.

4. Don’t film something you just hate. Don’t film something you just love. Film when you aren’t sure if you hate it or love it. Doubts are crucial for making art. Film when you hate and love at the same time.

5. You need your brain both before and after filming, but don’t use your brain during filming. Just film using your instinct and intuition.

6. Try to not force people to repeat an action or words. Life is unrepeatable and unpredictable. Wait, look, feel and be ready to film using your own way of filming. Remember that the very best films are unrepeatable. Remember that the very best films were based on unrepeatable shots. Remember that the very best shots capture unrepeatable moments of life with an unrepeatable way of filming.

7. Shots are the basis of cinema. Remember that cinema was invented as one single shot - documentary, by the way - without any story. Or story was just inside that shot. Shots must first and foremost provide the viewers with new impressions that they never had before.

8. Story is important for documentary, but perception is even more important. Think, first, what the viewers will feel while seeing your shots. Then, form a dramatic structure of your film using the changes to their feelings.

9. Documentary is the only art, where every esthetical element almost always has ethical aspects and every ethical aspect can be used esthetically. Try to remain human, especially whilst editing your films. Maybe, nice people should not make documentaries.

10. Don’t follow my rules. Find your own rules. There is always something that only you can film and nobody else.

In addition to being a film director, Victor Kossakovsky (1961, St. Petersburg) is
also a cameraman, producer and editor. Kossakovsky’s works are conceptual and personal, but also playful and surprisingly easy to watch. In his films, there’s no difference between good and bad, only pure amazement at the world around us. Svyato (2005), Tishe! (2002), I Loved You (2000), Pavel i Lyalya (1998), Wednesday (1997) and Belovy (1993) are all anchored by brilliant ideas that Kossakovsky develops into intimate, completely uncompromising cinema.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Happy Birthday Charles!

Joyeuse anniversaire, mon Charles-O-Rama! May this year bring you everything you desire , including the many trophies you deserve for wakeboarding and kiting, my dear... x

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Who is your favourite singer?

So the good people at Mitre 10 agreed to be in my music video as an exercise for school. After we finished making the 'real' music video, we made this just for fun.
Who do you think sings with the most heart? Who's got the moves?
A big, big thanks to everyone at Mitre 10 in Mosgiel and Dunedin who made this possible. You rock!