Making a difference at his dream job
He could have climbed his way up the reinsurance ladder but Alex Godfrey knew it wasn’t his path.
So, he quit his job as a catastrophe modeller at Chubb and went off to China.
He intended that the yearlong post in marketing at Dulwich International High School would help grow his portfolio as a wildlife photographer and open him up to freelance work.
It didn’t quite work out that way. “But it helped me get on to the master’s programme at the University of the West of England in Bristol,” the 26-year-old said. “Bristol is the heart of wildlife film-making in the world.
“Thirty per cent of the world’s wildlife films are produced in Bristol.”
For his dissertation he made a documentary, Requiem, and now works for a leading film production company in the UK.
Mr Godfrey got interested in wildlife as a teenager, frequently taking photos “of longtails or landscapes of beaches”.
After Saltus Grammar School, he headed to Loughborough University in Leicestershire and then to Chubb for three years.
“It was a great job out of university and I really enjoyed the people I worked with but I kind of was sitting there and thinking, ‘Why don’t I chase my dream job?’
“‘I’m still young and being behind a desk and having 15 holiday days a year ...’ I like to travel and I like photography and I wanted to get into filming.”
As such, a degree in wildlife film-making was appealing. Partnered with the BBC’s world-renowned Natural History Unit, the programme at the University of the West of England accepts roughly 16 students.
“You meet amazing people, make great contacts and it’s just an amazing course,” Mr Godfrey said. “It’s very competitive but the course gives you a step up so you can get your foot in the door.”
Requiem won the BerMovie Shorts category in the Bermuda International Film Festival this year.
Also accepted into other festivals, it screened at the British Documentary Film Festival this month.
In 15 minutes, it explores the disappearance of sharks around the island. “I produced it as part of my Master of Arts in wildlife film-making,” Mr Godfrey said. “I wanted to produce a film that was about a topic that I cared about; something that was close to my heart.”
He found a book that talked of the large number of sharks once here, and started investigating. “I have been lucky enough to see sharks on dives around the world but it got me thinking: how come I’ve never seen a shark while diving at home?
“I wanted to know why there were fewer than there used to be in Bermuda and wanted to speak to people who experienced sharks in our waters, people who swam with them, who used to catch them, and people who study them now.”
Choy Aming, a marine conservationist who has spent a decade researching sharks, became a part of Requiem as did William McCallan, a fisherman for 70 years. “He started fishing when he was 13 and he’s such a wealth of knowledge about fish in Bermuda’s waters.
“He used to look for shipwrecks and anytime he was down scuba diving, a shark would swim by.
“He provided such an experienced voice to the film and he had questions, too. He didn’t know why they’d disappeared but he guessed that we’ve been overfishing our waters.
“I think he said that back when he started there used to be about 50 fishermen and now there’s 250 to 300.”
His first film, Mr Godfrey is pleased with the feedback he’s received. “I was surrounded by 15 incredible film-makers on my course.
“It makes you doubt your own work because you see incredible things, with my own work I spot the flaws.
“ I watched and didn’t think it was that good so to be accepted into all these film festivals is a really nice surprise.
“It’s definitely given me more confidence and it’s nice to get that feedback and that recognition.”
At the moment he’s honing his skills through his work on a wildlife series. “I started off logging for them,” said the film-maker, who had to sign a confidentiality agreement before his hire. “As shoots came in, I would watch the footage and help organise them for the editors.
“And then I moved on to researching. So what I’ve been doing is fact-checking the programme as it’s being edited; making sure everything said in the narration is factually correct.
“It’s definitely a foot in the door and a chance to prove myself. I get to speak to producers and editors and other researchers and the company I’m working for is producing other programmes so I meet people from other shows.
“Hopefully, I will move onto another programme at the end of it.”
Eventually, he’d like to make more of his own.
“I would love to do something that makes a difference in some way, whether it’s to do with climate change or an endangered species. I just want to make a film that starts a conversation or something that helps fight some sort of issue.”
For others with an interest, he offers advice from his lecturers: “Produce your own content. You don’t need a fancy camera. Message people you admire, speak about your work and just practice.
“Produce as many small videos as you can and study the industry. It all builds your skills but talking to people is key to getting into the industry, just making as many contacts as you can.”
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