The inaugural recipients of the RSPB Scholarship for students on the NFTS Directing and Producing Science and Natural History MA are announced as Gisela Sepulveda and George Pretty.

The RSPB is the official course partner for the MA, which is now in its second year. The charity is working closely with the School to inspire a new generation of filmmaking talent equipped to create engaging and innovative content that champions the charity’s conservation cause  by reaching new audiences through new and impactful visual communications.

Students on the course benefit from access to RSPB nature reserves to practice and enhance their wildlife filming technique and receive masterclasses and practical sessions, delivered by the RSPB’s  world famous Film Unit on conservation filmmaking, field craft skills, and the role of ethics and animal welfare in wildlife filming best practice. Read about the students’ first visit to RSPB Sandwell where they learnt to put up hides and use telephoto lenses.

Grant Wisbey, RSPB Creative Studio Manager said of Gisela and George’s selection: ‘Firstly we’d like to thank all of this year’s student intake for their applications to receive the RSPB Scholarship. The calibre of applications was extremely high with a number compelling cases being put forward. Through their applications both Gisela and George demonstrated aptitude, enthusiasm and commitment to conservation filmmaking. Our award-winning film unit champion an ethical approach to filmmaking and are delighted that our scholars represent these values. We are incredibly proud to be supporting the next generation of natural history filmmakers and wish Gisela and George the best of luck.’

We caught up with Gisela and George to find out how they are getting on since starting in January:

Gisela: These first few weeks have been an incredible whirlwind. My highlight so far has been learning the importance of storytelling to drive a documentary. I am using this knowledge in the pre-production of a science interview, in which my colleagues and I are basing a story on the RSPB’s work of satellite tracking turtle doves’ migratory routes to help protect this vulnerable species. For the future I am looking forward to learning specialist camera techniques next term such as time lapse, macro and long lens.

George: It’s been a fascinating first month here at the NFTS. It’s an enormous privilege to be surrounded by so many talented individuals all working in their respective fields. We’ve had an incredibly varied introduction to the School, receiving masterclasses from award-winning filmmakers such as Denis Villeneuve and Alex Garland and Ken Loach’s long term producer Rebecca O’Brien. It’s been incredibly valuable to analyse the common themes of storytelling that unite all forms of film making. Over the next few months we’re fortunate to have more course driven masterclasses from industry professionals such as renowned underwater cameraman Doug Allen. Our first project (which is currently ongoing) is a scientific interview with a scientist of our choosing. In our groups case we’re focusing on work at Plymouth Marine Institute into the effects of microplastics on marine ecosystems.

On receiving the RSPB scholarship Gisela and George said:

Gisela: I would just like to say thank you to the RSPB for this scholarship, it has given me the opportunity that I otherwise would not have had to chase my dream. Not only has it allowed me to join the NFTS but it has also given me the path to be able to create documentaries in order to communicate ideas and target conservation awareness.

George: I feel a great sense of honour to have the support of an organisation I’ve held in respect throughout my life. To know that the RSPB sees something in me worth developing gives me the confidence to move forward as a filmmaker, building upon a rich history of Science and Natural History documentary.

And on their future plans:

Gisela: Currently the dream would be to become a director. However, the most important career ambition for me is to use documentaries as a medium to keep current and future generations interested in looking after our planet. I would like to do this by finding new ways to visually interest them in wildlife/science documentaries to encourage them to take conservation action. Technological innovation has always been driving science/natural history documentaries forward and in new directions. Taking this on board I would like to consider using VR or animation combined with traditional documentary methods as an exciting new cross-genre format.

George: I intend on challenging the norms of natural history film making, whilst taking the strongest elements of dramatic story telling and combining them with a refined visual aesthetic to produce both visceral and intellectually stimulating films. At its core I hope to use these tools to produce high impact documentaries strongly rooted in conservation biology and as a drive for positive social change. I have a particular interest in the impacts of human activity upon marine and terrestrial ecosystems. For my first year film I intend to use 360 underwater cameras to record the impact of purse-seine trawlers upon fish populations. I’m hoping to use emerging VR technology to provide audiences with a novel immersive experience of the world around us.

Applications for the Directing Natural History and Science MA are open until the 2nd May 2019 and the course will commence in January 2020.