Graduate stories: Ishan the wildlife filmmaker

A man pointing a camera and searching for what to take an image on.

Ishan always had a passion for wildlife and knew he wanted to work in the sector. After initially studying a journalism degree, he realised he wanted to pivot towards filmmaking. He came to Salford to study MA Wildlife Documentary Production and is now working at the award-winning wildlife production house Silverback Films. Take a read of his story below. 

A man photographing wildlife from a tree

A lifelong passion for wildlife

From a young age, I was always interested in wildlife, in particular bird watching, and over the years, this developed into a passion for wildlife photography. I decided to complete a bachelor’s in media and communications, however, this leaned more towards journalism, and this wasn’t the path I wanted to follow. Despite this, my bachelor’s still equipped me with skills in photography, storytelling and audio and visual production which have been invaluable to me throughout my journey.  

I always knew that I wanted to work with wildlife but after my undergraduate degree I still wasn’t exactly sure how, so I accepted a job with a wildlife tourism firm in India called Go Wild. Whilst in this role, I was able to volunteer at one of the biggest environment film festivals in my hometown of Pune. Here I got to meet various filmmakers from India, and it was after this event that I was inspired to look at how I could break into the environmental film industry, starting with my master’s at Salford. Whilst I didn’t have lots of filmmaking experience, I used the skills I developed during my bachelor’s and whilst working with Go Wild to showcase my passion for wildlife in my portfolio through photography and videography. The tutors were impressed with my work, and I was accepted onto the course.  

Working in environmental tourism fueled my passion for wildlife and made it clear to me that this is what I wanted to do. I knew it wouldn’t be a straightforward career path, but I had so much support from my parents. I was willing to take the risk because I couldn’t imagine myself doing anything else. 

My Master's at Salford

I arrived in Salford with very little experience in filmmaking. However, my professors were very supportive and helped me learn the skills I needed quickly. By the time I graduated, I not only felt equipped with the technical skills I needed but also prepared for the graduate job market.  

We also had several guest lecturers with connections in the industry and it was really helpful to connect with them when I was looking for a graduate job.  

As soon as the course started, we were told of the importance of our final project. This would be used as our showreel to introduce us to the industry. I shot my final film, Puffin Island, on the remote island of Stokholm. The film focused on the 10,500 puffins which migrate to the island each year, their habitat and the other creatures who coexist with them on the island.  

Once the film was released, it really did just blow up. It currently has over 150,000 views on YouTube and has recently won the International (Non-Funded) Category at the Nature in Focus Film Festival in India. The film has also been shortlisted at the Sony Future Filmmaker Awards in Los Angeles. I believe this film is one of the reasons I was able to secure a job after graduation.  

I went to Stokholm for a week to shoot the film with one of my coursemates and it was just such an incredible experience living and working in such a remote place. As we were leaving, our boat back was delayed and we ended up bumping into David Attenborough on his way to film his series, Wild Isles. I have never been so happy for a delay; it was such a privilege to meet a true icon in the wildlife documentary space. 

Journey since graduation

I moved to Bristol after graduating as this is where the majority of the natural history production companies are based. Initially, I found it tricky to find a job as I didn’t have lots of filmmaking experience. I quickly learned that networking and establishing connections are important in this industry. I used the connections I had gained from our guest lectures and started to establish new ones.  

Eventually, I joined Silverback Films as a Tech Runner, and I am involved in all areas from pre-production to post-production. My team are always trying to give me more opportunities to further develop my skills. One such opportunity was working on a new series called, Planet India, which looks at how India is tackling climate change. It was a fantastic opportunity to work with people who have been in the sector for over a decade, and I was able to help them with Hindi translations.   

Despite it being a niche sector, I am delighted that all my coursemates are working in the industry. In fact, one of my closest friends from the course is now my colleague at Silverback .  

Future plans

I plan to work in the UK on my Graduate Visa until January 2025 and learn as much as possible about the industry. I think I will then return to India. There are a few production companies based in Bangalore doing exciting things in the field so hopefully I will be an asset to one of them in the future with all the experience I have gained here in the UK.