Creating A Great Eden Shorts Wildlife Film

Eden Shorts producer Sam Pearson on what the judges want from your wildlife films, some key considerations and answers some frequently asked questions.

What Makes A Great Short Wildlife Film?

Having overseen the first iteration of the Eden Shorts wildlife film competition I was blown away with the incredible quality and variety of skills and techniques on display - believe me we weren't expecting anywhere near the calibre we received.

Michaela Strachan lends her broadcasting experience as one of the judges of Eden Shorts.

Michaela Strachan lends her broadcasting experience as one of the judges of Eden Shorts.

Judged by natural history broadcasters Michaela Strachan and Nigel Marven, alongside Eden's General Manager Emma Ayech, Eden Shorts intends to inspire amateur nature filmmakers to get outside and record wildlife. If you've ever been that person that enviously watches the "Making Of" films at the end of some of Sir David Attenborough's landmark wildlife programmes this might be the very competition for you!

But what kind of things do you need to include or consider for your short film to stand up to the scrutiny of our judges?

Understand The Rules & Judging Criteria

It seems pretty obvious, but do make sure you read and stick to the rules and meet the judging criteria!

Your film must be exactly one minute in length, uploaded to your own YouTube channel, must only use the music tracks provided by us - although, you may mix in any wild or atmospheric sounds that you record or use more than one of our tracks. Other than that, your film must be your work - the prize can only be given to one person after all.

The Eden Shorts judges are looking for films that meet a certain criteria, and if you think hard about these while you're putting your film together, you should end up with an altogether better product.

Displaying your wonder of the natural world should come pretty easy - after all you're entering a wildlife film competition! However, some entrants may think that stops with just showcasing a relevant wild subject. Alongside thoughtful communication of a story, your passion can be translated much more easily and readily if you invest some of yourself into your film's narrative. This could be through presenting or narrating and is something that we touch on later.

The judges are also looking for quality in filming technique and editing. This doesn't necessarily mean that you need the latest camera equipment or software, but more that you have invested time and energy into using what you have to its maximum - most smartphones now record in HD and there have even been instances where amateur footage filmed on low-budget cameras has made its way into the very best natural history documentaries.

Eden Shorts 2015

A montage of the best of Eden Shorts 2014 entries.

Browse Through Last Year's Films

Last year's entries were fantastic, and if you have a watch through and you may find some inspiration for your entry this year. Elsewhere you may see some common techniques used that may help you to finesse your own film.

While the rest of the shortlisted films exhibited a range of techniques, including narration, presentation, graphics, beautiful visuals and consummate editing, Simon Owen's winning piece "Effortless Beauty" really captured the judges hearts, although it was a close call. Michaela loved Simon's poetic delivery and Nigel was inspired to get outside by the beautiful mix of British wildlife shown.

Some Missing Pieces

It was incredibly hard work selecting the shortlist. Some of the entries that fell just short were visually excellent but lacked the translation of their wonder and passion for the natural world, something which could have been easily remedied by utilising their personalities in presenting or narrating their film.

Alongside producing Eden Shorts Sam Pearson created some instructional films with Chris Packham and Nigel Marven.

Alongside producing Eden Shorts Sam Pearson created some instructional films with Chris Packham and Nigel Marven.

It can be tough trying to suppress the self-consciousness that comes with presenting or narrating your film, but it need not be scary! Even if you're not sure with the outcome, why not have a bit of fun with it and give it a try? Your film needn't be packed full of you though - even the smallest involvement can provide the necessary context for your film.

Show your film to friends or family and ask them to be critical or see if they can explain to you what the story you're trying to communicate. If you find that you have to explain what's going on you have a pretty good indication that you need to think more about your structure. We even have Chris Packham on hand to talk you through presenting and narrating tips with his excellent How To Guides.

Elsewhere there were some fantastic entries that ticked all the boxes in terms of communication and filming, but was lacking in visual storytelling. Just making sure that you have a selection of different shots to pick from, including wide, medium and close-up alongside some scene-setting cut-aways, help you to build a visual story that you can place alongside your presenting or underneath your narration.

And Finally...

  • Ensure your film is horizontal in a 16x9 format - don't film vertically!
  • Don't rely too heavily on still images - it's a film competition after all!
  • Try not to just create a music montage - make sure you tell a story.
  • But, most importantly, have fun and be creative!

So for your chance to see your effort on television and also win £500 worth of filming equipment make sure you get involved and submit your wildlife film to Eden Shorts. Good luck!