Wildlife Filmmaker Career Summary

Do you want to work as a wildlife filmmaker?

READ: This page helps you to read about the career and the info you need to decide on whether this is indeed the career you want to follow.

RESEARCH: ​Learn about the skills required and minimum subjects to enter this career, as well as the places where you can study further after school.

PREPARE: If you want to plan and prepare for your career, then join the OZT Community! Members have access to tools while chatting with other students and experts from around the world. Prepare to be amazed!

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UPDATED: 26 August 2020

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What is a wildlife filmmaker?

Wildlife filmmakers are individuals that make use of video recording to capture the behaviour of various kinds of wild animals for research and entertainment.

Wildlife filmmakers capture video footage, and in most cases also do the preliminary editing and production.

First Documentary?

Robert J. Flaherty's 1922 film Nanook of the North was the first feature-length documentary

Documentary Greats?

Sir David Frederick Attenborough is considered the icon of wildlife documentary filmmakers

What does a Wildlife Filmmaker do?

Groups of animals a Wildlife Filmmaker works with

Mammals List Icon OZT
Mammals
Birds List Icon OZT
Birds
Fish List Icon OZT
Fish
Reptiles List Icon OZT
Reptiles
Amphibians List Icon OZT
Amphibians
Insects List Icon OZT
Insects
Arachnids List Icon OZT
Arachnids
Crustaceans List Icon OZT
Crustaceans
Mollusks Link Icon OZT
Mollusks
Myriapods List Icon OZT
Myriapods
Nematodes List Icon OZT
Nematodes

Career Categories

The Wildlife Filmmaker career falls within the following career categories:

  • Media
  • Business
  • Education
  • Marine Conservation
  • Wildlife Conservation

What does a Wildlife Filmmaker focus on?

Wildlife filmmakers focus on the capture of animal behaviour and interaction on film.

They may also edit the video afterwards for the selected audience.

What are the daily tasks of a Wildlife Filmmaker?

  • Purchase and service equipment
  • Discuss contract and brief with producers and sponsors
  • Research species to be worked with, the country and environment they will work in
  • Obtain entry visas and accommodation in foreign country where footage will be taken
  • Relocating and setting up camp
  • Assembling and checking equipment before filming
  • Filming animals and saving digital film to be edited and forwarded to producers
  • Discuss editing with producers
  • Administration and marketing

Work conditions of a Wildlife Filmmaker

Where does a Wildlife Filmmaker work?

Environment –

Wildlife filmmakers generally spend most of their time outdoors in rugged environments. 

Places of Employment –

Most are freelancers, creating films or footage on contract. A small amount are fortunate enough to work for large animal organizations that use filmmakers to create documentaries.

Filmmakers can decide to focus more on editing and producing, or accompany other filmmakers and producers as camera operators. These careers are discussed separately on OZT.

What is the average annual salary of Wildlife Filmmaker?

The average annual salary for wildlife filmmakers is around US$40,000. The salary, or income, will differ between freelancers and full-time employees, and from country to country.

What kind of difficulties can a Wildlife Filmmaker face?

The most difficult part of being a wildlife filmmaker is the conditions under which they need to work. It can get tough and at times even dangerous, with extreme weather conditions.

Roughing it out in the wild also means that they might be without everyday luxuries and amenities, as well as being at risk of diseases.

They also do tend to travel long distances and are away from home for a length of time.

​Future growth and Possibilities

Entry into the wildlife filmmaker market is difficult, and only the strong and passionate push through to make a name for themselves.

Future growth in this market is relative, and new techniques and equipment (such as the use of drones) could spark a niche market and more work.

Availability of Jobs

Average

Which Skills are required by a Wildlife Filmmaker?

The skills required for a career as a wildlife filmmaker can be divided into two very important groups. The first is the group containing life skills, which are the core skills that are necessary or desirable for full participation in everyday life. The second group is career skills, or the specific skills required to allow a person to enter and operate effectively within a specific career. Some or maybe even all of the life skills can assist in strengthening the career skills, and they might even be the same for specific careers.​

Life Skills

  • Self-awareness
  • Empathy
  • Critical thinking
  • Creative thinking
  • Decision making
  • Problem Solving
  • Effective communication
  • Interpersonal relationship
Life Skills
40%

Career Skills

  • Good business knowledge
  • Good photography and camera skills
  • Basic customer service skills
  • Good health and physical fitness
  • Excellent computer literacy (editing software)
Career Skills
60%

Which Subjects must I have at School to help prepare for this career?

The subjects you choose at school are important as they lay the foundation for further studies at college or university. While still at school, it’s also important to learn more about the animals you will work with, as well as gain some experience.

OZT has a list of various tertiary institutions where you can study further, after school. Each of these institutions also have their own Group page on OZT where you will find the exact subjects they require of you to have passed in school. Keep these requirements in mind, and discuss it with your school, guidance counselor and parents to ensure that you are prepared!

What will I need to Study to become a Wildlife Filmmaker?

Minimum Requirements

​There is no minimum requirements to become a wildlife filmmaker, but the most successful filmmakers do study further with at least a College diploma.

Study Focus

Major –

Major subjects in photography, media production or even zoology will assist you in gaining knowledge of filming and the different species.

Extensive study towards a Bachelor’s Degree in Film making (wildlife film making where possible) is recommended.

Short Courses –

in handling equipment and camera techniques are a must!

Study Duration

The duration of College and Bachelor’s Degrees can be up to 3 or 4 years. Short Courses are usually between a few weeks and a year.

Possible Career Preparation Paths

If this is your dream career that you want to pursue, then it’s important to plan the way forward.

Why is planning important?

​To ensure that you understand the requirements for your career, and that you are always prepared for the next step on the road towards your dream. A Preparation Path is like your road map to where you want to be.

Possible Paths:

Possible Combined Career Paths

It is possible to sometimes combine two or more related careers. This normally happens when you study and practice a specific main career, but the knowledge and experience gained also help you to have a paying hobby or secondary income career.

Possible Alternatives (there are a lot more):

Stepping Stone Career

Being a wildlife filmmaker can also be used as a stepping stone career. A stepping stone career is one which is used to help you get to another career, normally because the other career is too difficult to reach (sometimes due to things like high fees etc).

You can begin as an intern filmmaker or cameraman after basic short courses and expert guidance (maybe working under a mentor). The money made can then be used to pay for studies towards a promotion or another career, and the experience helps in gaining knowledge. One paying to help get to the other.

Some of the possible paths:

Training and apprenticeship

Even though it is important to study to get into some of the animal careers, most of the skills you will need as a filmmaker can be acquired through practice. This means that you will learn how to perform some of the daily tasks, such as handling the camera, by actually doing it a few times and learning the steps.

In some cases entry level positions (or junior filmmakers) require training sessions even before you are allowed to actually perform your job duties. These sessions are offered by the place of employment, after you have successfully applied.

Apprenticeship is also possible where you need to learn skills from a more senior cameraman, filmmaker or expert.

Join the Wildlife Filmmakers Group as a member of the OZT Community to learn more and even interact with the educational institutions that will help you secure your dream career!

Average level of education of all the people who enter the career:

High School Certificate 0%
Diploma or Short Courses 0%
Degree or Higher Studies 0%

Licenses, Certificate, Registration and Professional Associations

Certain animal careers require some form of legal certification to prove that you can indeed do the work, and work with the necessary equipment.

Although not required by law, certifications may help workers establish their credentials and enhance their skills.

Learn more about requirements by joining the Community.

Professional Associations

Where can I study further?

All of the above information will help you understand more about the Career, including the fact that there are different paths to take to reach it. But if you are almost done with High School (Grades 11 or 12), you also need to start thinking about further studies, and WHERE you will study.

See the List of Universities, Colleges and Online Training Academies who offer courses towards film making.

Do you have information that you would like to contribute to this course? Please click on the red beetle to access the contribution form.

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Join the OZT community & Career Group

Join us as a special member and learn more about becoming a wildlife filmmaker.

Members of the Platform have special access to:

  • Info on the best places where you can study (colleges, universities and online)
  • Expertly designed advice to prepare you for the career, and links to places where you can gain valuable experience. For some career experience is necessary, otherwise you wont get the job!
  • Top notch info on each of the different species you will work with
  • Make friends around the world and share knowledge
  • Compete and win points, badges, games, prizes and certificates. Be the best of the best, while you learn and prepare!

If you have decided on being a Wildlife Filmmaker, please click on the JOIN GROUP button. Members will be directed to the Group, while non-members will be assisted to register first.

If this career is NOT the career for you, then you may return to the MAIN CAREER menu, and search for something different.

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Career Profiles and Resources

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Contributions by expert members are always appreciated to allow the Students to make informed decisions. Please add your contribution through the attached Form:

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List of Career Mentors/Educators who have contributed to this Career info:

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