August: New documentary unveils Bristol’s wildlife treasures | News and features


A new documentary reveals the rich and often unexpected wildlife that inhabits Bristol.

The 17-minute doc, BRISTOL: a hidden Edentook three years of planning and required night shots and 4 a.m. wake-up calls to capture some of the camera-shy animals.

Researched, filmed and produced by 20 students from the University of Bristol, the documentary has been called “sensational” by naturalist and TV presenter Steve Backshall.

Viewers learn about the UK’s largest mammal, the abundance of wildlife to be found in Eastville Park, the nocturnal adventures of urban foxes and ‘Bristol’s greatest conservationist’ – the goat.

The film’s original score was written by award-winning composer Owain Llwyd (who is not a Bristol student).

Director and producer Matteo Clarke began planning the documentary during his first year as a zoology student at the University of Bristol.

The 21-year-old said: “I think we were all very motivated to do this because we were making a real wildlife documentary about the incredible wildlife in our own town.

“And also to challenge us that if you put your mind to it, you can make a great documentary with the animals that are right on our doorstep.”

  • BRISTOL: a hidden Eden producer and director Matteo Clarke

The student team produced every part of the documentary themselves, as well as lessons and exams. Most images were captured over nine months, but some took much longer.

Matteo said: “One of the biggest challenges was filming the kingfisher sequence, it took me three years to get enough good footage.

“But with the help of the members – waking up at 4am before college started – we managed to capture enough of those elusive birds to do something worthy for the documentary.”

After filming wrapped, Matteo spent “countless days” collaborating with the composer and often stayed up until the early hours of the morning polishing different parts of the film, which is now available on YouTube.

Matteo came to Bristol because of its reputation as the wildlife film capital of the world.

In his senior year, he worked as a camera operator on a wildlife series by day and caught up with his college work by night. Now a graduate, he landed a research role with the revered BBC Natural History Unit (NHU).

Another frequent NHU collaborator is naturalist Steve Backshall.

In a video message to the student crew, he said: “To be able to go out and compose every element of a film, right down to the score, is sensational.”

He added that it was “hard proof” that they could tell stories about wildlife and therefore change the way people perceive the natural world. “It’s priceless, beyond value,” Steve said.

Professor Claire Grierson, Head of the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Bristol, said: “BRISTOL: A Hidden Eden is a stunning film that really captures the complexity of urban habitats.

“All of the students involved in the film did a brilliant job – we will definitely see more of their work in the future!”

BRISTOL: A Hidden Eden, was produced and directed by Matteo Clarke. The assistant producers were Luke Hurricks, Isabelle Spring and Bryony Morgan. It was narrated by Charley Greenwood and the researchers were Oliver Pink, Max Derème, Louis Plumley and Felix Roland.


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