What do you get when you cross an over-excited wannabe wildlife filmmaker with a week’s work experience at one of the most prominent independent wildlife film production companies in the business? A literal dream come true, that’s what. And, for one glorious week, my reality.
In all seriousness, and with absolutely no exaggeration, Silverback Films is my own personal Disneyland (and they actually produce DisneyNature films). Smack in the middle of Bristol, this esteemed production company was founded by two ex-BBC Natural History Unit heads, and has a showreel that ranges from upcoming Netflix series Our Planet, to feature-length DisneyNature films such as Monkey Kingdom, to BBC bluechips like The Hunt. I literally could not believe my luck when they invited me to do work experience with them. I still can’t.
Understandably, during my week at Silverback I was exposed to a fair amount of information that I cannot and will not share here. Please don’t ask me what I was working on, because there’s no way I’m going to let slip. I also had to sign a document releasing all my intellectual property to the company while I was there, so don’t expect to see my name on any credits any time soon. That being said, I don’t see why there would be an issue with me telling you about the kind of work I got up to. After all, for some of you reading this, it might provide a valuable insight in to an industry you’re unsure of or have questions about.
I started off on the Monday working on rushes from a recent shoot – logging and rating each one to aid the job of the editor when they came to piece shots together. It’s a lot easier to build a sequence when you can search through clips by keyword or quality, so although this job can drag on, it could not be more important. At least, that’s the thought that kept me motivated when it became apparent I’d be logging all day. Don’t take that as a complaint, though – I could have kept going all week. When even the most boring job in a production line fascinates you, you know you’ve found the right career.
Day two, however, was something else. That Tuesday, I was unbelievably fortunate to be able to spend the entire day sat in one of the in-house editing suites, watching the assistant producer who offered me the work experience working on a project with a top editor. Being able to see how they work and the software they use (Avid, in case you were wondering) was such a valuable learning experience, as well as having the opportunity to talk to them as they thought aloud, and chiming in with my own suggestions from time to time. The hours flew past, and when they called it a day at 6pm I didn’t want to leave – I happily could have stayed there late in to the night.
By day three, I was on a roll. A morning spent logging the rushes for a bluechip production was enough to keep me happy for hours, but what came next was even more exciting. The assistant producer I was shadowing wanted my input in to her production. Having recently had to re-order the sequences in the film, she asked me to help provide new links between each portion of the film. I spent all afternoon typing up my ideas with the draft version playing in the background, feeling monumentally proud that she had liked my previous ideas enough to want to see what else I could come up with.
My last day here at Silverback inevitably rolled around far sooner than I was ready for, and once again did not disappoint. Another morning on the rushes was swiftly followed by an afternoon in the edit suite, continuing on the same project I had been introduced to earlier in the week. Editing really is an art form, and watching the editor so easily make adjustments that I would no doubt fumble over was surprisingly mesmerising. Afternoon turned to evening, and it wasn’t long before I had to head home again. I have literally never been so gutted to reach the end of a working week.
As a final note on what has so far been one of the most exciting weeks of my (admittedly very early) career, I would like to give a massive thank you to the assistant producer at Silverback who believed in me and so kindly allowed me to shadow her for the week. I am honestly more grateful than you can ever imagine – getting a foot in the door is never easy, and to have been able to learn from a company that I have always admired was such a privilege, and an immensely inspiring experience.
So, with all the gratitude I can give, thank you.