Skip to main content

4 Week Wildlife Film Documentary Production Course

– Isle of Arran, Knapdale and surrounding areas –

Monday 4th to Friday 29th March 2024

Course Information:
This course will focus on the Isle of Arran, Knapdale and the surrounding areas. The overall production will follow a ‘presenter’ in a sea kayak paddling up the whole length of the west coast of Scotland. Utilising a sea kayak will give us unprecedented access to all things wildlife as well as some extremely picturesque locations. The advantage of filming a journey in sea kayak is we will be able to film both on, and underneath the water, as well as on the land and from the air. The final film produced will make up program 1 of a 6 part wildlife/travel documentary series.

Ric Swift (The course instructor) is a very accomplished sea kayaker. It is now 25 years since he undertook a 3600+ mile journey to be ‘The first person to paddle a sea kayak, solo, unsupported around the whole of the British Isles’ for which he gained a Guinness World Record for being the first person to paddle from John o’ Groats to Lands End solo, unsupported in a sea kayak. (1365 miles)

Please Note – As a Wildlife Film School student, you do not need to have any experience in paddling a sea kayak to attend any of our 2024 courses, as you WILL NOT be paddling a sea kayak as part of your course.

Course Route:
The course will start in Ardrossan, where will meet at a local supermarket to undertake a ‘bulk food shop’ as a group. We will then catch the vehicle ferry from Ardrossan to Brodick on Arran. Once on the Isle of Arran we will build our basecamp for the duration of our stay near Brodick (Approximately 2 weeks). From here we will travel in a clockwork direction around the southern end of the island passing areas such areas as Whiting Bay, Lagg and Blackwaterfoot. From Blackwaterfoot we will travel up the west cost of Arran until Lochranza at the northern point of Arran. Here we will catch a small ferry over to the mainland at Kintyre.

Once on the mainland we will travel north from Claonaig, via Tarbet to Lochgilphead. At Lochgilphead we will take the Crinan Canal to cut cross country to Crinan and the open sea. From here we will travel south past Loch Sweet and Loch Caldispirt and via Portachoillan to the Kennacraig Ferry Terminal. The course will end at the Kennacraig Ferry Terminal unless you are accompanying on the next section of our journey around the Islands of Islay and Jura.

The Isle of Arran

The Isle of Arran is an island off the west coast of Scotland. It is the largest island in the Firth of Clyde and the seventh-largest Scottish island at 167 sq. miles. Though culturally and physically similar to the Hebrides, it is separated from them by the Kintyre peninsula. Often referred to as “Scotland in Miniature”, the Island is divided into highland and lowland areas by the Highland Boundary Fault and has been described as a “geologist’s paradise”. There is a diversity of wildlife, including three species of tree endemic to the area.
The Island includes miles of coastal pathways, numerous hills and mountains, forested areas, rivers, small lochs and beaches. Its main beaches are at Brodick, Whiting Bay, Kildonan, Sannox and Blackwaterfoot.

The largest glen on the island is Glen Lorsa to the west, whilst narrow Glen Sannox and Glen Rosa to the east surround Goat Fell. The terrain to the south is less mountainous, although a considerable portion of the interior lies above 350 metres. The highest of these hills is Goat Fell at 873.5 metres.
Red deer are numerous on the northern hills, and there are populations of red squirrel, badger, otter, adder and common lizard. Offshore there are often seen harbour porpoises, basking sharks and various species of dolphin.

The island has three endemic species of tree, the Arran whitebeams.  These trees are the Scottish or Arran whitebeam, the bastard mountain ash or cut-leaved whitebeam and the Catacol whitebeam. If rarity is measured by numbers alone, they are amongst the most endangered tree species in the world. The trees grow in Glen Diomhan off Glen Catacol which was formerly a National Nature Reserve.
Over 250 species of bird have been recorded on Arran, including black guillemot, eider, peregrine falcon, golden eagle, short-eared owl, red-breasted merganser and black-throated diver. A large area of Arran’s upland areas is designated a Special Protection Area programme due to its importance for breeding hen harriers.

The north of Lamlash Bay became a Marine Protected Area, in 2014 the Scottish Government created Scotland’s first Marine Conservation Order in order to protect delicate maerlbeds off south Arran. The sea surrounding the south of the island is now recognised as one of 31 of Nature Conservation Marine Protected Areas in Scotland. The designation is in place due to the maerl beds, as well as other features including burrowed muds; kelp, seaweed and seagrass beds; and ocean quahog. The northern part of the island is designated a national scenic area (NSA), one of 40 such areas in Scotland which are defined so as to identify areas of exceptional scenery. It covers all of the island north of Brodick and Machrie Bay, as well as the main group of hills surrounding Goat Fell.


Knapdale forms a rural district of Argyll and Bute in the Scottish Highlands, adjoining Kintyre to the south, and divided from the rest of Argyll to the north by the Crinan Canal. The area is bounded by sea to the east and west (Loch Fyne and the Sound of Jura respectively), whilst the sea loch of West Loch Tarbert almost completely cuts off the area from Kintyre to the south. Knapdale gives its name to the Knapdale National Scenic Area, one of the forty national scenic areas in Scotland, which are defined so as to identify areas of exceptional scenery.

The western coast of Knapdale is deeply indented by two sea lochs, Loch Sween and Loch Caolisport. The highest point within Knapdale is Stob Odhar, at 1,844 feet above sea level.  The Four lochs within Knapdale are collectively designated as a Special Protection Area due to their importance for breeding black-throated divers.

In 2007 a successful application was made for a release project of the Eurasian Beaver in Knapdale. The trial was to be run over five years by the Scottish Wildlife Trust. The first beavers were released in May 2009. The remaining population was increased in 2010 by further releases, and in November 2016, the Scottish Government announced that Beavers could remain permanently, and would be given protected status as a native species within Scotland. Beavers have been allowed to extend their range naturally from Knapdale, and to aid this process and improve the health and resilience of the population, a further 28 Beavers were released in Knapdale between 2017 and 2020.

The course will take you through all the stages of –

•  Initial program / script ideas & brainstorming
•  Script writing
•  Production ethics
•  Presenter lead programming
•  Presenters’ scripting
•  Animal observation & tracking
•  Filming on location
•  Filming a Presenter on location
•  Sound recording on location
•  Video editing on location
•  Audio editing on location
•  Production of final film / documentary
•  All necessary logistics & camp-craft

(We will also cover the elements below at various points during the course (Time Permitting))
•  Locating / tracking Animals
•  Map & compass work
•  Navigation overland without a map
•  Route planning
•  Camp placement & orientation
•  Base camp management
•  Water management & sanitation
•  Emergency procedures & actions

Course Dates:
This course will be running from: Monday 8th April to Friday 3rd May 2024. This will be a practical course and you will need to be on location with us in Scotland for the full duration of the course.
We will be running 6 wildlife film courses during 2024, from March 2024 through to August 2024. Should you wish to, you are able to join us for more than one course.

Course Closing Date:
You need to have read, signed and returned your course booking paperwork back to us, and paid for your course, in full, with the equipment damage waiver before 5pm GMT on Friday 12th January 2024, to be able to attend this course. Your place on the course is not guaranteed until you have done this.
This course is booked on a ´First-come, First-served´ basis, so it is highly recommended that you book early to secure your place. You will not be able to book on this course after this date.

Course Overview:
You do not need to have any previous film production experience to attend a course. (However a basic understanding about the principles of ‘how a lens works’ as well as ‘shutter speeds’ and ‘exposure’ will help you)
We will take you through the whole process of producing a wildlife documentary film from start to finish including; script ideas, production ethics, script writing, presenter and voiceover-led productions, filming on location, recording audio on location and editing on location; as well as all the necessary logistics and camp-craft requirements to allow you to be able to successfully work in such a remote environment.
We can guarantee that four weeks of filming / working on location will give you an unprecedented amount of time for you to learn and improve both your camera and production skills in some truly fantastic locations. The west coast of Scotland by far is the best location in the UK to both see and film wildlife.

The entire four week long practical section of this course will be operating out of various basecamps situated in different locations throughout Western Scotland. Each course will have a maximum of 4 students working from a vehicle/s. The vehicle/s will have a course instructor and wildlife guide/driver, with the students occupying the rest of the vehicle. This vehicle/s will carry everything logistical we need for our time in Scotland; as well as selection of 4K cameras, lenses, audio recording equipment and other production equipment; plus various grip, tripod and support equipment.
During the whole of your course we will living / working out of a tented basecamp; which will have electrical power via a petrol generator. For your comfort each student will have your own 2-man mountain tent.

As part of your course fees we will supply you with:
•  All 4K camera equipment
•  All ‘on location’ production equipment
•  All ‘on location’ 4K editing equipment
•  All basecamp tents and equipment
•  All staff and instruction
•  All vehicles and transportation overland required during your course

Number of Students:
To minimise our impact on the ground in reference to the size of our base-camps, there is a maximum of 4 students permitted on each course.

Course Fees:
The cost of your course is £6000 per student.
You are able to pay for your course fees in monthly instalments.
We are offering a £500 ‘early bird booking discount’ for those who book and pay for their course in full, within 4 weeks of receiving their booking paperwork from us.

How to Book:
To apply for the paperwork to book on this course please – Click here
For more information on the Equipment Damage Waiver – Click here

Please Note:
•  All of the Wildlife Film School courses are booked on a ‘First-come, First-served’ basis.
•  It is highly recommended that you book early to secure your place, especially if you are from outside of the UK
•  You are not able to book after the ‘closing date’ of that course.
•  Flights to and from the UK are not included in your course fees as our students fly in from many different destinations around the world.