Jeff Wilson: natural history producer
Jeff Wilson is a producer with the BBC’s Natural History Unit. He has worked on the flagship natural history programmes Planet Earth, Frozen Planet, Natural World and The Life of Mammals.
What are your key responsibilities?
I am involved in everything from the inception of an idea, the planning and pre-production, managing budgets, shooting material and directing talent through to taking the film through post and delivery.
What was your first job in your area and how did you get it?
I started as a logging assistant after doing two weeks work experience. I was given my first break by a series producer who taught me that everyone should be given a chance.
How long did it take you from there to where you are now?
Ten years. In my line of work you output a film every three years so progression is slow.
Did you do any formal training?
I have a degree in biology which can be useful when trying to communicate complex processes of the natural world to wider audiences. Otherwise I learnt on the job.
"Clearly Sir David Attenborough has an influence on many of us in the NHU, but really he is only the most famous of the leagues of exceptional people I get to work with almost on a daily basis." – Jeff Wilson
Was there a formative person who made you want to work in your area?
The list is endless for me. Clearly Sir David Attenborough has an influence on many of us in the NHU, but really he is only the most famous of the leagues of exceptional people I get to work with almost on a daily basis.
What is your favourite TV programme and online offering at the moment?
I am addicted to Homeland like no other program I can remember. Online though, I can’t get enough of TED talks. Twenty minutes of entertaining learning that is about as varied as you could imagine.
Has there been a moment where you’ve thought, “I can’t believe I get paid to do this!”?
Almost every other day. On alternate days though I often think how can I regularly work 18 hours a day and accept that as part of the job!
What’s been the proudest or most memorable moment of your career so far?
Watching the success of Planet Earth and knowing I was part of the team who delivered it.
What things do you always have with you?
Some form of music and a stills camera are essential. More important than those though is the ability to find anything or anyone interesting.
Most useful skill you’ve developed?
An understanding of when you are and are not in control of the circumstances you find yourself in. It can save you from being stressed and helps you focus more clearly on the objective.
Hardest lesson learnt?
That I make television, not film.
Anything you know now that you wished you knew then?
That those above you used to be like you.
Who has taught you the most?
Apart from my parents, the numerous passionate wildlife cameramen and women that I work with.
What three tips would you give someone wanting to do your job?
- Decide early on whether you want to be in wildlife TV because of the imagery or because you want to tell wildlife stories. It can be the difference between knowing you want to be a camera person or a production person.
- Humility goes a long way.
- Our work is almost a lifestyle, but it doesn’t need to be your life.