This course will focus on the Islands of Islay & Jura. 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 2 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.
The course will start in Oban, where will meet at a local supermarket to undertake a ‘bulk food shop’ as a group. We will then drive south to Kennacraig Ferry Terminal to catch the vehicle ferry Port Askaig on Islay. Once on the Isle of Islay we will build our basecamp for the duration of our stay on the island (Approximately 2 weeks). From here we will travel in a clockwork direction around the southern end of the island passing areas such areas as Port Ellen and Portnahaven. From Portnahaven we will travel up the west cost of Islay before rounding the headland and head south the the ferry port. Here we will catch a small ferry over to the Island of Jura, where we will make our way up the inner side of the island until crossing back over to the mainland and paddling north to our final destination of Oban.
The course will end back in Oban, unless you are accompanying on the next section of our journey around the highlands areas of Rannoch Moor, Glen Etive, Glencoe and Benn Nevis
The Isle of Islay
Islay is the southernmost island of the Inner Hebrides of Scotland. It lies just southwest of Jura. Islay is the fifth-largest Scottish island and the eighth-largest island of the British Isles, with a total area of almost 240 sq. miles. The main commercial activities are agriculture, malt whisky distillation and tourism.
Islay is 25 miles long and 15 miles broad. The east coast is rugged and mountainous, rising steeply from the Sound of Islay. The western peninsulas are separated from the main bulk of the island by the waters of Loch Indaal to the south and Loch Gruinart to the north. The south coast is sheltered from the prevailing winds and, as a result, relatively wooded.
Islay is home to many species of wildlife and is especially known for its birds. Winter-visiting barnacle goose numbers have reached 350,000 in recent years with as many as 100,000 arriving in a single day. There are also up to 12,000 greenland white-fronted geese, and smaller numbers of brent, pinkfooted and canadian geese are often found amongst these flocks. Other waterfowl include whooper and mute swans, eider duck, slavonian grebe, goldeneye, long-tailed duck and wigeon and is a popular destination throughout the year for birdwatchers.
The elusive corncrake and sanderling, ringed plover and curlew sandpiper are amongst the summer visitors. Resident birds include red-billed chough, hen harrier, golden eagle, peregrine falcon, barn owl, raven, oystercatcher and guillemot. The re-introduced white-tailed sea eagles now seen regularly around the coasts.
A population of several thousand red deer inhabit the moors and hills. Fallow deer can be found in the southeast, and roe deer are common on low-lying ground. Otters are common around the coasts along Nave Island, and common and grey seals breed on Nave Island. Offshore, a variety of cetaceans are regularly recorded including minke whales, pilot whales, killer whales and bottle-nosed dolphins.
The Isle of Jura
Jura is an island in the Inner Hebrides of Scotland, adjacent to and northeast of Islay. With an area of 142 sq. miles, and 196 inhabitants Jura is more sparsely populated than Islay and is one of the least densely populated islands of Scotland: The island is mountainous, bare and largely infertile, covered by extensive areas of blanket bog. The main settlement is the east coast village of Craighouse. The Jura distillery, producing Isle of Jura single malt whisky, is in the village, as is the island’s rum distillery which opened in 2021.
North of Craighouse is a number of other small settlements on or near the east coast. George Orwell lived on Jura from 1946 to 1949 and completed his novel ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’ while living at a remote farmhouse.
Between Jura’s northern tip and the island of Scarba lies the Gulf of Corryvreckan, where a whirlpool makes passage dangerous at certain states of the tide. The west coast also has a number of raised beaches, which are regarded as a geological feature of international importance. The island is dominated by three steep-sided mountains on its western side, the Paps of Jura, which rise to 785 metres.
The Paps dominate the landscape in the region and are visible from the Mull of Kintyre and, on a clear day, from the Isle of Skye and Northern Ireland. The route of the annual Isle of Jura Fell Race includes all three Paps and four other hills.
The island has a large population of red deer, through browsing, have prevented the vegetation on the island from turning back to woodland, which is the natural state. An alternative explanation of the island’s name is that it derives from ‘the great quantity of yew trees which grew in the island’ in earlier times.
Jura is also noted for its bird life, and especially for its raptors, including buzzards, golden eagles, white-tailed eagles and hen harriers. Since 2010 Jura has been designated by NatureScot as a Special Protection Area for golden eagles. Like many other parts of the Hebrides and western Scotland, the shores of Jura are frequented by grey seals, harbour porpoises, and the elusive otter is also relatively common here.
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
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.
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.
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.
• 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.