How I followed my passion for filmmaking

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By Emi, MA Wildlife Filmmaking

UWE Bristol student, Emi, tells us about her experience as an international student studying Wildlife Filmmaking in the UK. She shares what influenced her decision to change career, how she found the course, and the advice she’d give to prospective students.

Finding a new career path

My background is in communications and audio-visual production. I’d made a few films here in Costa Rica, but nothing related to wildlife filmmaking. Costa Rica is a wonderful country that’s full of wildlife so for me it felt a natural fit to pursue this course. I knew it’d be a good opportunity for me. In Costa Rica there aren’t many production companies dedicated to wildlife filmmaking. I could see it would benefit me, and my home country, to bring this knowledge back home with me.

I’m a producer and photographer by trade and in 2021 I became a National Geographic Explorer (NGE). It’s been a long journey to get where I am now and there’s been many challenges. Firstly, knowing this is what I want to do. There was some uncertainty for a while, and a lack of confidence, so it took a few years to build myself up and make the decision. Self-confidence was a challenge and one of the major elements for me to overcome.

“In this industry, you can’t do things alone. You need the expertise of different people, so it’s important to surround yourself with like-minded creative individuals. You can achieve so much more by working together and sharing your knowledge. It means you get to develop and gain new skills too.

The Wildlife Filmmaking course and its partnerships

For me, the course came first. I always wanted to study abroad, but I didn’t know where until I discovered the course at UWE Bristol. After doing some research, I learned that Bristol is home to some of the biggest production companies out there, like the BBC Natural History Studios. And as the course had amazing industry connections, I was sold on this course.

The course is divided into theoretical and technical aspects, with lectures on how the film industry works, alongside more logistical aspects that are specific to wildlife filmmaking. This combination, whether you’re a photographer or a filmmaker, is very common in the creative industries.

The lecturers are so experienced, as they’re all actively working in the industry and have been for years. Gaining the knowledge from them first-hand makes a massive difference when breaking into this competitive industry. Developing my expertise directly from industry specialists has been vital when joining with a different skillset. Also, the equipment we have access to is top-notch. The cameras, lighting, microphones – the tech is amazing, and that’s made a massive difference to my storytelling.

The partnership the course has with the BBC is incredible because we hear from industry practitioners. They share how they’re discovering amazing new methods of storytelling. How they’re trying to break boundaries, using technical cameras and new practices, to achieve impressive visuals that we never thought possible.

The course has honed my existing skills. I’ve become more intuitive and have benefited when learning from others, which I’ve enjoyed. It’s an amazing opportunity as this is an industry-renowned course, which opens doors for you in a very competitive field. It’s also helping me to build my network with relevant industry bodies and these connections will be useful when developing content in the future in Costa Rica.

Future aspirations

My plan when I graduate is to return to Costa Rica and develop a few films there that I already have in mind. While I’m in the UK, I’ll continue to build on my connections with different companies here and hopefully collaborate with them on my films in Costa Rica.

My aim is to continue to build and nurture the relationships I’ve formed with colleagues and industry professionals, so I can work with them again in the future.

My advice for international students

I regret not applying for the course sooner and thinking it was only relevant for experienced filmmakers. I didn’t realise the other skills I had were relevant to the production industry, but they really are, and you pick up everything else you need on the course. Any other technical skills that I didn’t have before, I’ve gained at UWE Bristol.

And don’t be afraid to study abroad. You’ll gain so much by studying with students from other countries and backgrounds, as well as appreciating the difference in nature between our countries – it’s been very insightful.

“It feels like a dream come true, and I was initially holding myself back from going for it. I wondered if I could I really do this and be successful. The answer is to just go for it. Even if it doesn’t happen this year, don’t give up on your dream. Like me, you may just surprise yourself.

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