Leica is delighted to have supported the making of ‘Skyward’ a short film directed by Jessica Bishopp about two young birdwatchers: Leica Ambassador Mya Bambrick and Arjun, as they manage the pressures they feel from the current climate breakdown and biodiversity crisis. The movie premiered at the Aspen Shortfest 2022, and you can now watch it on The Guardian website.

In this blog Mya gives us an insight into the making of this beautiful film.

Being featured in a documentary is something that I would never have expected to be involved in, especially during such a strange time of covid.

It all started when my good friend and fellow birder, Arjun Dutta, told me that he’d been asked to take part in a documentary about being a young birder, and that they were looking for a young woman who would take part too. Arjun recommended me and the talks began with director, Jessica Bishopp, and producer, Laura Shacham. Numerous zoom calls followed, talking about our passion, our lives, and plans for filming. Prior to filming, my mum and I met up with Jess at nearby nature reserve Pulborough Brooks. It was great to be able to show the many fantastic birds that visit the reserve in Winter.

Our first location for filming was another of my favourite nature reserves, RSPB Pagham Harbour. It was a cold Winters day, and the film crew followed me around as I looked through the waders and wildfowl. Brent Geese flew overhead, making for an atmospheric sequence. It was a strange feeling having a camera pointed at me as I went about birding as I usually would, although after a while I mostly forgot it was there.

For the documentary to really show who I was as a young person, along with being a birder, the crew came along to my school. I was giving a presentation to my friends and teachers on red-listed birds as part of an EPQ project alongside my A-levels. This was rather nerve-wracking as whilst being filmed I was also being marked by my supervisor on my presentation. A lot of the students did wonder what was going on, as not often is there a film crew at school! After lessons had ended, they followed my childhood friends, Enticha and Natasha, and I, as we visited our local park Tilgate. It was nice to be able to share the experience with them and allow the documentary to see a more laidback side of me.

Later on in the year, we had arranged to meet at Knepp Wildland for some filming of me bird ringing (licensed by the British Trust for Ornithology). It was an early start – 3am! The film crew met me outside my house and followed along as we made the twenty-minute journey to Knepp. It was an absolutely beautiful sunrise, and one of my favourite scenes in the documentary is ringing trainer Tony Davis and I setting up the mist nets whilst the dappled morning sunlight breaks through the scrub. The film excellently captured the tranquility and spectacular birdsong at Knepp.

Another highlight of the film for me was Arjun taking a group from his school out birding. Watching his enthusiasm and passion for the natural world and his ability to convey this in an exciting way to the group was heart-warming for me. The visuals of the documentary is joined by a voiceover by Arjun and I, both speaking about our lives, our experiences of birding, and development of ourselves as young people.

The experience of being involved in the creation of a documentary was unique, and captures a time in both Arjun and I’s lives where we were maturing as adults whilst continuing to pursue and share our passions. Admittedly, it’s strange to look back on some aspects, as a lot has changed in both our lives since it was filmed. I’m pleased that it captured that being young and having a niche interest like birding can often be lonely, until you meet like-minded people and join a community. This is why I hope other young birders will watch it, to show them that it’s important to continue an interest in the natural world, especially during the climate and biodiversity crisis. Also, it helps to combat those stereotypes of what someone interested in wildlife and birds looks like, and creates representation for those from different backgrounds.

I want to thank Arjun for his support and encouragement to take part, Jess, Laura, and the entire crew that made the documentary so brilliant, and those who were involved in being filmed. It was certainly an unforgettable experience.

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