Wildlife enthusiast and TV presenter, Michaela Strachan is on the panel of judges for Eden Shorts for a second year running. We caught up with her to talk about her involvement in the competition.

Michaela Strachan

Michaela Strachan

For those who are unfamiliar with Eden Shorts, please can you tell us what it's all about?

Eden Shorts is a competition run by the Eden TV channel for amateur wildlife filmmakers to make a one minute film showing the beauty of the natural world. Within that remit they can be as creative as they like.

Why is it important that we continue to capture the natural world in all its glory, even if it's for such a short space of time?

I think if we can capture the beauty of the natural world it tends to inspire people. People need to be inspired to get outdoors and enjoy wildlife. We need to continue to stay connected to wildlife. A lot of people these days are disconnected and we have a lot of competition for our time; technology and screen time has really taken over in people's lives. I think it's very important to balance that with our connection to wildlife. Television and any media about wildlife encourages people to get out there and inspires them too.

The entries are judged by several different measures but is there anything that you are looking for in particular on top of those parameters?

I think originality is something that I look for but learned from last year's Eden Shorts that it's not good to go into the judging process with boxes to tick. When I watched the 30 films that were in the final selection, they were really surprising. They didn't tick my boxes and stood out for what they were. Each of them was different, there was a lot of variety and it seemed very obvious which ones really stood out- I think there were about five or six. I wasn't looking for production value, I wasn't looking for good music; it was just the whole package that came across.

Last year Simon Owen won with one called 'Effortless Beauty' and it was all British wildlife. It was beautifully filmed, beautifully edited- but the bit that made it very special were the words over the top of it. They were all about what it's like to spend time with nature. It was very thoughtful and poetic and extremely beautiful.

He was our winner but there were other ones like 'Swimming with Blue Sharks' which was a really good film. I can't believe the photography that they got- stunning. There was a quite strong message that went out with that one as well.

There was another one I really liked called 'Potter Wasp'. It was all about these insects called potter wasps which people know very little about. In a minute I learned a lot about an animal that I was unfamiliar with. There was another one on metamorphosis which was again beautifully shot and edited. There was a real variety of subject matter and how people put forward their subject matter in their edited versions.

As a wildlife enthusiast, you have been filmed and photographed with lots of animals so is there any creature you are hoping to see captured in film?

What I enjoy is learning something about the little stuff and that is what we do on Springwatch a lot. That's what gets me interested. There is always the big sexy stuff that people film but I love the little stuff. For instance on Springwatch this year, the star of our show was a little Stickleback fish. We filmed him in his nest and his attempts to mate and rear his young and it was fascinating. If someone had pitched the idea to the BBC of 'I want to do something on the Stickleback', they probably wouldn't have been successful. I love the fact that on Springwatch we were able to big up the little guys. With the Eden Shorts it would be really nice to learn something new about something that I don't know much about.

David Attenborough said that 'the future of natural history communication rests with amateurs who film wildlife around them', do you agree with him?

I do to a certain extent but I think the future of wildlife filmmaking is with amateurs that are in the right place at the right time and can capture things that happened to be there. I think it also relies on people that are extremely experienced. Where there is budget to go to an extreme place and film something that you know happens in that month and you have got the budget to sit there and picture it.

I think amateur filmmaking is also going to be really important because there isn't the budget to have people around the world all the time. There are amateur photographers that are around the world all the time who can capture things because they happen to be there at the right time.

Do you feel it's important for everyone to explore the world around them, not just these amateur film makers?

I think it's really important for people to stay connected to their environment but I think an awful lot of people are disconnected these days. I feel it's unhealthy and I don't think it makes people into happy adults. People who spend a lot of time behind screens tend to be very stressed end up not terribly happy individuals and I think it's very bad for their health. I believe we have an intrinsic thing inside us that needs to be connected to wildlife and the outdoors. It's really important that we keep that- in particular with kids.

For anyone who is not in touch with or appreciative of the world around them, do you have any tips to get them to sit up and pay attention to the natural world more?

You can be inspired by wildlife programmes and I really hope that things like Springwatch inspire people to get out and enjoy wildlife- not just sit in front of the TV and watch it. I am very passionate about getting children back into nature. I feel sorry for kids because I think lot of them spend so much time behind screens that you take them in wood and they don't know what to do. They don't know how to play in a wood anymore. I think it does rely on parents to reintroduce children to nature and the outdoors and reconnect them with wildlife.

It can be quite tough on parents because it can be hard to get children away from Minecraft or the I-Pad and get them to do something outdoors.

You will find once you have introduced a child to the outdoors and help them understand what they are supposed to do when they are out there- they will enjoy it equally as much as sitting behind a screen playing a game.

If you had to capture one of your experiences from your career in just a minute which would you pick and why?

I think it's really challenging to capture a minute of something and make it spectacular, interesting and attention grabbing. I know one of my most memorable filming things that could be edited down to a minute is when I hand fed sharks in a chainmail suit in the Bahamas. I am sure there is a minute of footage there that would entertain people quite a lot, be informative and be different.

What's next for you?

The next television thing I am doing is Autumnwatch. Next week I am doing a little show where I tour around wildlife season parks and festivals called 'Michaela Strachan's Really Wild Adventures'. It's all based on book that I wrote which is full of poems about adventures I had while filming animals. We have made that book into a little show for kids with music and it's very interactive. The poems are things like 'Polar Bear Dentist' and 'Never Try to Outspit a Spitting Cobra'. It's all good fun- it's not sitting down and reading poems- it's a lot of fun and very interactive and informative about wildlife for kids.

Entries are now open for Eden Shorts: Filmmaking of the year edentv.co.uk/shorts

by for www.femalefirst.co.uk
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