Wildlife Filmmaking Scholarships Launch at UWE Bristol


BBC Studios Productions has launched a program of fully funded wildlife filmmaking scholarships for international students at the University of West England’s Bristol campus (UWE Bristol).

The scholarships, which were open to applicants from Kenya and bordering countries for the 2023-24 academic year, build on the Natural History Unit’s 12-year collaboration with UWE Bristol to deliver the BBC Studios-accredited M.A. in wildlife filmmaking. Kenyan talents Pauline Kyalo and Jeff Njuguna were selected.

Kyalo, a graduate of environmental science from Kenyatta University and assistant producer at Kenya’s WildlifeDirect, and Njuguna, a professional photographer with a diploma in wildlife management from Kenya’s Wildlife Service Training Institute, will experience the same learning process as all M.A. students in the UWE Bristol wildlife filmmaking course. They will have the additional support of an NHU production staff mentor throughout the one-year program, as well as full coverage of academic course fees and additional expenses, including student accommodation in Bristol city center, a U.K. living allowance and travel costs.

The scholarships form part of Project Songbird, the Natural History Unit’s £1 million investment over three years to nurture, diversify and attract new production talent in countries where the world-renowned unit frequently films.

“I’m so excited to have received a full scholarship to the BBC UWE Master’s in wildlife filmmaking,” Kyalo said. “This is an incredible opportunity because it means I finally get a shot at building the career I have only ever dreamt of in impact filmmaking. It’s also so special that the course is set up in Bristol, which is the Hollywood of nature films, and it means I’ll have access to people and resources that I otherwise wouldn’t have. I can’t wait to start.”

“I have loved and been fascinated by natural history documentaries since a very young age, so to be awarded this scholarship to the BBC UWE Master’s in wildlife filmmaking is a dream,” said Njuguna. “I look forward to a year of learning, adventure and networking to build a successful career in nature and conservation filmmaking. This is a really exciting opportunity. See you in Bristol!”

Jonny Keeling, head of BBC Studios’s Natural History Unit, added, “For 12 years the NHU has partnered with the UWE wildlife filmmaking M.A.—a course that has developed some of the industry’s most skilled individuals. Fully funded scholarships will now extend that opportunity to emerging filmmakers based in the countries where we work. That is a hugely exciting prospect. Pauline and Jeff are exceptional talents. I can’t wait to see how they hone their skills as storytellers during their year at UWE Bristol.”

“We’re delighted to be further strengthening our long-standing partnership with BBC Studios’ Natural History Unit, in the city that leads the world in this genre,” said Lynn Barlow, UWE Bristol’s assistant vice-chancellor of creative and cultural industries engagement. “These scholarships offer an outstanding opportunity for talented filmmakers to engage with and to learn from the very best. We look forward to welcoming Pauline and Jeff to Bristol and, in years to come, seeing their work and local storytelling featured in wildlife filmmaking productions around the world.”

Other initiatives funded by Project Songbird so far include training opportunities for locally based production talent in-country, which has already provided training for locally based filmmakers across a number of NHU productions on location, including in Zambia, Madagascar and Kenya. The fund has also enabled local talent to attend U.K.-based training courses.

Songbird also aims to make local-language versions of NHU productions available for local viewings in communities who would otherwise have no means of access. Recently, the program funded a screening of Bears About the House, which highlights the illegal wildlife trade in Southeast Asia and the mission to build a pioneering new bear sanctuary in Laos, to the community living there.

Further placements and initiatives are planned internationally and in the U.K. over the coming months.