Bristol-based Editor Stefanie Watkins writes for Media Parents about editing natural history programmes, hoping to have a family and a career, and her latest project Planet Earth Live, which TXes on Sunday 20th May at 8pm on BBC1.
I’m an editor, writes Stefanie Watkins, working mostly in natural history and science for the past seven years. Bears and presenters are some of my favorite animals to edit, but I tend to fall in love with whatever topic I’m editing and always do my best to make the audience fall in love with it too.
As an American recently moved to the UK, my biggest challenge has been cracking into the industry here. Resources like Media Parents, Fast Train, and of course the Wildscreen Festival have been vital towards helping me get to know the right people to make it here. These critical contacts aren’t necessarily the talent managers and executives you’d expect, and as I always say to film students, keep in touch with your classmates and be nice to everyone. Case in point, the first hour-long broadcast show I ever edited was for the currently running series “America the Wild” on Nat Geo Wild. The executive producer is a former classmate of mine, and he took a chance on me because he already knew I’d fit in well with their team. You really never know who will be your next boss!
Natural History tends to take an immense time to shoot and edit, so one of my chief jobs as an editor is weeding out the best stories and beautiful shots from hours and hours of often not a lot happening. There’s a reason channels aren’t inundated with live wildlife drama every day. The amount of time needed to film and edit compelling natural history is phenomenal, and the urge to perfect a scene to the highest quality must always balance with rigid deadlines.
Working with the BBC, I’ve been blown away by the spectacular footage, beautiful original scores, and incredible stories produced from all corners of the globe. I’ve been editing a few short five-minute pieces about a family of giant otters for Planet Earth Live, and I can only hope I’ve done it justice. These wildlife camera people and producers are some of the best natural history storytellers in the world, and I feel so privileged to be surrounded by such talented people.
Spending hours in the edit room or filming wildlife in the field, we all feel some form of bond with these animals. It’s hard not to, because we as humans will always see our own humanity in their actions…and scientifically speaking this isn’t far off. Many animals do have emotions and bonds with their families similar to our own. That’s why the Planet Earth Live stories about parents fighting to protect their babies resonate with so powerfully with us.
My husband and I have been talking about starting a family in the coming years, and I have to admit the thought terrifies me, especially working with parents who often sacrifice time with their children into the late night hours, just to get a show out. I’m so happy to be a part of Media Parents for this very reason. Hearing everyone’s stories about how they’re coping gives me hope you can have a career in TV and a family life. Plus, fingers-crossed, we’ll never have to fight off voracious caiman or marauding lions. And for that, I’m incredibly grateful.
Stefanie Watkins is currently editing a film on black bears for BBC/Nat Geo but will be available from mid-July. Please contact her through the TALENT section of www.mediaparents.co.uk