Wildscreen, Bristol’s biennial celebration of natural history on film, is back, and in its 34th year the fest is offering sessions covering everything from real-time wildlife programming to Brexit. Taking place from Oct. 10 to 14, the event is led by a brand new director, Lucie Muir, and will also feature the return of its long-time patron, Sir David Attenborough. Realscreen caught up with Muir (pictured) for a preview of what delegates can expect next week.
What’s different about this year’s Wildscreen Festival and how has this year’s event changed from the 2014 event?
One of the big things is I’m new in the post in terms of being CO of the organization. What I really wanted to focus on for this festival was making sure that we are looking to the future, and also making sure that Wildscreen’s overarching charitable objectives were integrated into the festival. I think other differences this year are key themes that we’re pushing. One is the art of storytelling — how you tell wonderful stories and engage audiences. There are lots of different platforms out there and lots of different ways that different demographics consume media. We really want to address that at the festival. The other thing we’re really fixing on is impact. Most people are involved in this industry because they want to make a difference in the world. So, how do you tell stories that reach the hearts and minds of the masses and then how do you get stories out there that will hopefully help people change behaviors? With platforms like Netflix and the other on-demand platforms, you can tell more powerful stories — they aren’t as editorialized or constrained as they would be if they were going onto particular broadcasters.
You mentioned looking to the future. Can you elaborate on that a little bit?
One of the things I didn’t mention was VR. So, obviously there are lots of different ways and platforms that people can use to tell their stories and engage people with the natural world. The natural world offers some of the best, possibly the best subject matter in order to go and explore virtual worlds. That’s something we have a real fix on this year. We’ve got a week-long VR showcase where we’re showing cutting edge VR projects that have been created using the natural world as a focal area.
What are some of the themes you’ve seen emerging from this year’s submissions?
One of them has been “real true festival films” if you like, those films that maybe wouldn’t necessarily be commissioned or bought by a broadcaster, but they’re kind of those really personal journey films like Jago: A Life Underwater, The Ivory Game or Warlords of Ivory, where you’re following someone on a mission to tell a story that you can tell comes from the heart. Another is popular broadcast. That, to me, has been one of the most interesting categories this year because, certainly in the UK, there’s been a trend to use non-natural history experts or celebrities that aren’t necessarily associated with wildlife and getting them to introduce their following and their audience and fans to the natural world.
How has wildlife filmmaking evolved over the last few years?
Looking at new technologies is definitely something that everybody is interested in. You have your central film, but how can you deliver content to different people or bring different people into the main content by using different platforms like VR or social media or things like Facebook Live? How can you do more around the main focus of film, but use different platforms, technology and media to pull in bigger audiences? Looking at those new technologies in terms of platforms and reaching different audiences has definitely been a shift.
What are some of the challenges currently facing the industry?
Money is the number-one concern for people. Because the technology is getting so advanced and people are being expected to make really glossy amazing films with the latest technology and deliver it in 4K, budgets are getting squeezed further and further. So, managing budgets and delivering those high-quality films on those small budgets is definitely and issue. I’m not a technical person at all, but from what I can gather it’s all to do with data. Because people are having to film in the field in 4k, managing that data and getting it back to the production house costs a lot of money. And you need more people in the field with you in order to constantly process the amount of high-quality material that’s coming through from a shoot.
Sir David Attenborough is back this year. He just turned 90. How does it feel to have secured him for another year and what do you anticipate you’ll be hearing from him this year?
For Wildscreen it’s really important this year for us to have him there. He is a friend of our founder Chris Parsons, he’s been here throughout Wildscreen’s evolution. To have him here supporting us means the absolute world to us. We’re talking about conservation a lot at the festival this year, and the future, and he’s seen a lot of the past, but he’s also really excited about the future and looking for solutions to how we save our planet effectively. It’s amazing to have someone of his authority, background and knowledge looking at how we can change things.