In May 2019, Marine & Natural History Photography Associate Lecturer Neil Aldridge got the call to help with one of the most ambitious conservation projects ever undertaken in England; Back from the Brink.
A partnership between Natural England and Rethink Nature (a team of seven conservation groups), Back from the Brink needed photography and short films to highlight the plight of priority species and habitats facing extinction in England.
Neil enlisted the help of Anna Roberts, director/producer and Senior Lecturer on Marine & Natural History Photography, and they saw a great opportunity for the students with whom they had good established relationships to work with them in creating the series of 21 short films.
"It was a win-win – we could work with crew we know and trust, and the students could get industry experience at a crucial moment when they were soon to graduate, giving them excellent material for their showreels and CVs, and contact with people in the wildlife and conservation film world," said Anna.
The Back from the Brink films are three to five minutes long and highlight our most threatened species; from the narrow-headed ant who clings on in just one heathland in Devon, to the grey long-eared bat who only has eight known maternity roosts in England. The films show England's beautiful endangered habitats and incredible, rarely filmed endangered species, inspiring viewers to love, cherish and protect them.
Twelve films are finished and seven are going into edit, so in all this will be a year-long project for those involved.
Anna continues: "This has been an amazing experience for our graduates, and we have loved working with them. A project like this gives them the opportunity to work in a professional capacity but with the support of Neil and I. They were all very reliable on the professional front already – which is why we invited them to work on the films – and they all experienced rapid skill development through having to produce high standard footage, sound and edits under intense time pressure. Because we all knew each other well and had developed good working relationships through their time as students, everything flowed seamlessly from university to the working world."
The students that started working on the Back from the Brink series last May have now graduated, and are using the films and industry experience as a springboard into filming and production jobs in Cornwall and Bristol. The Back from the Brink project has given them immediate, valuable and relevant production experience that supports their entry to the workplace.
Back from the Brink will be releasing the films over the coming months, each one accompanied by a behind-the-scenes interview with Neil that gives a fascinating glimpse into some of the ups and downs of finding and filming very rare animals. The whole team hopes they will make many more people aware of England's endangered species and, most importantly, what can be done to help them.