The legendary Sir David Attenborough is to deliver a masterclass to students enrolled on the National Film and Television School’s new Directing Natural History and Science MA, which starts in January 2017.

Paul Reddish is a highly experienced producer of wildlife documentaries and series, who has recently been appointed to lead the course, which features David Attenborough.

Paul has been producer and director across a number of high profile natural history films and series including Attenborough in Paradise, The Future is Wild, Hummingbirds Jewelled Messengers, and many more. This is what he has to say.

It’s great news that Sir David Attenborough is to give a masterclass to NFTS students. What’s it like working with him?

I have had the pleasure and the honour of working with David on several occasions. He is the consummate professional. David brings great authority to his films, based on an in depth knowledge of the natural world along with a deep and life-long passion for nature. He has made more wildlife documentary films, and garnered more awards than anyone in the world. He is a delight to work with and I’m sure the students will enjoy meeting and learning from this remarkable man.

How did you start your career as producer of wildlife documentaries?

I was lucky enough to have a BBC Horizon film crew come to film my professor’s work while I was a post grad. I knew straight away that I wanted to work in television, and I pestered the BBC until they gave me a job.

Is this what you always wanted to do? If not, what else did you want to do?

Up to that point I wanted to do science, working in the field, looking at animal behaviour. I have always been fascinated in the natural world, since before I could speak, so my mother tells me.

What’s the most memorable experience you’ve had from making wildlife programmes?

Too many to mention and all have their own charm or wonder or sheer terror. But sitting in the tops of 50-metre tall trees in the wilds of New Guinea, watching Birds of Paradise display is amongst the best. Standing on the open tundra of the Arctic, watching a large brown bear, less than 10 metres away take an unhealthy interest in us, is perhaps one of the more memorable.

What’s the most challenging aspect of making natural history programmes?

Writing a good script, is universally challenging in all forms of television, but in wildlife, getting that story to the cutting room – despite bad weather, corrupt customs officials, cancelled flights, delayed seasons, hurricanes, and uncooperative beasties – is a minor miracle when every film is successfully completed.

What kind of prospective students are you looking for and what kind of knowledge/ experience should they have?

First and foremost a passion for wildlife and science, and a desire to tell stories. If they have a science degree or evidence of their interest in wildlife and science – relevant jobs, short films they have made, all are helpful, but not essential.

What kind of cinematography gets the best results when filming a particular animal or animals?

For most wildlife a telephoto lens is essential. It is still the workhorse of the genre, but long lens photography is fiendishly difficult. Good camerawork with a 1000mm lens is one of the things I’m looking forward to seeing in the students’ work. Insects and many small beasties require macro-photography, and if anything it is more difficult than long-lens work. Then there is time-lapse which is used in many current documentaries and can be very powerful (if not overused!). Even slugs, snails and worms can be interesting when filmed in time-lapse.

What attributes do students need to have to build a successful career as a natural history producer and director?

Good communicators both to their audience and to the teams they will work with. Creativity married with good organisation and of course a sense of humour for the (many) times when things go wrong.

Applications are open until October 13 for the Directing and Producing Natural History and Science MA and the course will commence in January 2017. For further details contact the National Film and Television School, Beaconsfield Studios, Station Road, Beaconsfield, HP9 1LG.