There is an incredible diversity of species and habitats on our doorsteps. Even within cities is it possible to find interesting locations for nature. Even so, the natural world can be too often ignored, or it is easy to assume that it is all much the same. Wildlife and conservation organisations, and others, do much to promote nature, yet there are always more opportunities to try and get people engaged with the natural world, to appreciate, savour, and understand the subtle, complex, fragile relationships that exist within the range of habitats around us.
As I’ve been gradually learning to identify the organisms around me, sometimes I just stop and look, surveying the environment before me, soaking up the shapes and colours, and the diversity. What are the insects doing? What is eating the insects? Why is that plant growing there? From there it isn’t a huge step to start musing on the wonder of the great biochemical cycles and processes that underpin it all.
Inspired by that thought and that moment of sitting and watching, I thought it would be fun to try to capture part of that in a short film. More than that, it could be a suggestion of a simple way for anyone to catch a snapshot of the wildness wherever we are. So, my moment of watching morphed into a manifesto for a wildlife film, with some faint echoes of the Dogme film movement, further inspired by the BioBlitz phenomenon (in which participants record all species in a particular location over a 24 hour period), and by Pan-Species Listing, since all of life is interesting, from Buttercups to Buzzards, and from Blowflies to Bracket Fungi.
Coincidentally, the Wildlife Trusts have recently started their My Wild Life campaign, to encourage people to spend time out in nature, enjoying it, understanding it, which has strong resonances with the film idea.
But what should it be called? Initially I toyed with the name “Know Your Place” but for me that has even wider resonances, with deep community enagagement, understanding and taking part in a wide range of stuff where you live, as well as encouraging people to learn about the local built environment, history, and indeed all the threads that inform and make up the spaces where we live.
So, it needed to be more wildlife-focussed, and specific to a place, which led me to both #WildlifeHere and #MyWildPlace. The latter feels better since it suggests our relationship with the place we are looking at.
This isn’t just about the countryside either. Our wild places include urban locations, from the plant communities of paving cracks to railway margins and parks. And this isn’t just about Britain; these short wildlife films could be made anywhere in the world.
A Manifesto for a Wildlife Film
To capture and celebrate the diversity of life where we live or happen to be, anyone should be encouraged to make and share a simple short film.
A film should show a specific locality and attempt to give a sense of the range of wildlife within it. However, it should be something that is reasonably easy to do and which doesn’t involve lots of complicated equipment.
At the time of making the film, the participants should also attempt to identify as many species as possible within a defined amount of time, such as an hour or two. You don’t need to be an expert in natural history to do this, though you can ask for identification help from places like iSpot or various natural history groups on Facebook.
The film should be captioned very simply eg: Place Name (including country), Grid Reference or other location co-ordinates (to, say, 100m accuracy), Date/Time, Participants
- The film should simply show the habitat, perhaps as a long 360° pan or with close-ups showing specific microhabitats or species
- As many species must be recorded in the allotted time as possible, and should cover all groups of organisms, not just a single group
- The species recorded should be ‘wild’, ie not obviously planted
- The film must be no longer than 5 minutes duration
- The film must have no added music or sound not recorded at the location
- The film must have no video effects or transitions
- The film should be ‘subtitled’ with a list of all species found within the allotted time
- The allotted time will most likely be an hour or two, depending on how long you have
- The area covered within the allotted time is up to the participants, but is probably going to be no bigger than 100mx100m
- Subvert the manifesto. This is your film, so do it however you like
- Completed films must be posted on YouTube and then tweeted with the hashtag #MyWildPlace