The modern curse of self-promotion

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Logo: Wildlife Film Network

By Ric Swift from the Wildlife Film Network

Now being 50, I have the fortunate ability in life to be able to look back and remember life before the smart phone, actually I can remember life before the computer, and the days when you had to pre-arrange a time to be standing outside a telephone box at the end of the road to receive a phone call.

A lot has changed…

Unfortunately, not necessarily all for the better!

A camerawoman filming from the back of a Land Rover
Daisy filming from the Land Rover (Ric Swift)

Please let me introduce myself.
My name is Ric Swift and I have run the UK Wildlife Film School for almost 15 years now, and the Wildlife Film Network since 2019.

I started the UK Wildlife Film School what seems like a long time ago now, way back in 2007, taking a few people out onto the hill that were interested so they could gain some actual hands-on experience that they could then demonstrate to potential employers.

Over the years the film school grew from teaching 2 people at a time, operating just one HD camera to having a selection of 4k cameras, full audio field recording equipment, drones, gimbals, and enough camp kit for a dozen to live and work out of for up to 3 months.

The basis of the film school was taking students into remote parts of the Scottish Highlands and Islands and teaching them all the fundamentals required to produce a wildlife film out on location.

At our peak in 2019 (before Covid lockdowns) we were teaching a SCQF ‘Level 8’ Diploma in Wildlife Documentary Film making (the equivalent to an HND) over an 8-week long ‘on location’ practical film course. I am rather proud to say that, this in turn made us the only ‘independent’ wildlife film school in the world where you could gain a high-level internationally recognised qualification from attending one of our courses.  

Otter eating Butter Fish
Otter eating Butter Fish (Ric Swift)

That’s great, I hear you say, but what has it got to do with self-publicity and new media…
Well, over that time, especially the last five or so years, it became apparent from feedback received from our students, that even whilst teaching our HND/Diploma course, that this may still not enough to guarantee launching them into the world of professional wildlife film making. What was proving to be a significant obstacle to them seemed to be the lack of a Broadcast Credit, even for students who had studied a Diploma, Degree or Masters.

So, based on this feedback, we have spent the last 2 years building and launching the Wildlife Film Network (WFN)   

Our principal idea.
The principal idea behind the WFN is to create an international database of wildlife orientated people on a website. This website will be a hub where likeminded people can come together to produce wildlife films under their own actions (rather than having to rely on someone from the industry employing them).

However, I also didn’t want to limit our members to only film production personnel; but also include writers, scientists, environmentalists and conservationists etc. who will then all come together (all of these people are needed to produce a high-quality wildlife documentary or film) collaboratively to produce wildlife films and documentaries, using funds that have been raised from the WFN membership via our ‘production kitty’. As you can see, the WFN is a big, multi-armed, project.   

A row of tents at a base camp
Base Camp (Ric Swift)

Which brings us back to new media…
Personally, I really do not like Facebook, Instagram, Tik Tok (I don’t even understand what all the fuss is about with TikTok) and the likes, they all steal so much of your valuable time. Time when you could be out filming or producing something. In this modern world of self-promotion, everybody seems to be stuck to a mobile phone. It was crazy how quickly our film school students felt they were missing out when we camped in an area with no mobile phone signal!

And the trouble with all this self-promotion is it needs to be continuous. No sooner have you posted something than it has been superceded by someone else’s post, and if you want to find it you need to scroll down the newsfeed. (And it’s amazing how many people simply can’t be bothered to do this) Although your work had the potential to reach a lot of people your and effort has been overwritten in a flash it's now old news and the world has moved on.

Wildlife Film Network website homepage
WFN homepage (Ric Swift)

With this in mind, we decided to produce something where the Information you posted did not disappear as soon as it has been posted. (Commonly known as a website!)

I know some of the younger generation think websites are old and past it, but it does exactly what is says it does for the members, permanently lists all the contact details, work skills, knowledge, and experience; as well as displaying a few nice photos and a showreel and links to their own websites and yes, even links to their new media sites…. All without disappearing from view and forcing you to continuously update / upload things, so people can find you.

We are now in the process of adding a section called ‘Members Stories’ where people will be able to list / describe in far more detail a project that they have previously worked on; or are in the process of trying to produce. These stories will not only be in the written format, but also display any video footage filmed either in a completed film or a pilot format. We are hoping that this section of the website will become quite a large entity so it can be used by members to demonstrate their experience to others and also act to inspire others to become involved in wildlife film production.

We do understand that some people find an irresistible pull from new media. But if you are a little more grounded on the planet and want to stop scrolling - for a minute to do something worthwhile maybe you should become a member of the WFN and start working with likeminded people on both wildlife films; conservation films; environmental films or any other film that could be of educational benefit to others.

First published in CJS Focus on Working with Wildlife in association with The Wildlife Trusts on 17 October 2022. Read the full issue here


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Posted On: 30/09/2022

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