How to work with wildlife

BBC Natural History Unit producer Bridget Appleby in front of a helicopter Wildlife film producer Bridget Appleby takes to the air in search of the perfect landscape shot.

Producer Bridget Appleby has been making wildlife films at the BBC's Natural History Unit for 13 years.

She says her job has taken her to some "amazing" parts of the world, but her current project "The Great British Year" has kept her closer to home, coming up with new ways of portraying the country's abundant natural beauty on film.

Ms Appleby talks about the highs and lows of wildlife film-making, and offers her thoughts about what it takes to work in the industry.

How did you get your job?

I applied for a two week work placement at the Natural History Unit and was put to work writing a series of programme proposals for the Open University.

Bluebells carpet a forest floor A behind-the-scenes snap of one of Britain's best spectacles: blooming bluebells cover a forest floor

The programmes were commissioned, so I was taken on to help make them, and am still here 13 years later!

Can you describe a typical week at work?

There is no such thing as a typical week.

The pre-production phase is usually in the office chasing stories and writing scripts. During filming I might be frantically trying to arrange for camera operator and equipment to be in the right place for a seasonal event such as mayfly emergence.

A day of editing involves shaping the results of the year's chaos so it comes together as a film, which is incredibly satisfying.

Start Quote

I seem to spend most of my filming time covered in mud, wiping off bird droppings and pulling off ticks”

End Quote Bridget Appleby, Producer at the BBC's Natural History Unit
What's the best bit of your job?

Seeing amazing parts of the world and witnessing wildlife action that has never been seen before.

Recently we filmed with a new thermal camera and saw hundreds of bats coming to a pool. Even the scientist who had worked on them for 30 years had never seen this.

What do you think you'd be doing if you weren't working at the Natural History Unit?

I would have loved to be a journalist - covering stories around the world. But no regrets!

Can you tell us about what you're filming at the moment?

For the last year and a half I've been working on "The Great British Year". It's been a rollercoaster of a ride - trying to portray the beauty and nostalgia of a typical British year whilst dealing with some of the most atypical weather Britain has thrown at us this century!

Wildlife: Behind the scenes

BBC crew tracking killer whales

Watch a hairy moment in a balloon

Filming "the icy finger of death"

Close encounter: Killer whales

It's also been a real privilege. We have worked with some amazing cameramen to film some familiar events in a completely new way and capture others that have not been witnessed before.

Do you come across any common misconceptions about working in TV production?

Yes - that it's glamorous. I seem to spend most of my filming time covered in mud, wiping off bird droppings and pulling off ticks!

What qualities and skills do you think people need to work in wildlife film-making?

An overriding sense of optimism. You have to believe that it will work out despite every plan ever made having to be rewritten. Also creativity, integrity and bucketloads of patience.

What advice would you give people looking to break into the industry?

That you have to want the job enough to go into an industry where pay and working conditions are worse and stress levels are higher than in other sectors you might work in.

Dandelions in a field "The Great British Year" series aims to "portray the beauty and nostalgia of a typical British year"

You have to have a love of wildlife, storytelling or visual art which will keep you going when all those other things threaten to bring you down.

Given all that, it is a wonderful job and brings enormous rewards.

Join the big Summer of Wildlife conversation with BBC Nature on Facebook and Twitter @BBCNature and let us know if you are interested in wildlife film-making.

You can also share your wildlife photographs on our Summer of Wildlife Flickr group.

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