Script Writing for Wildlife Documentaries – May 13th-15th

The Wildlife Film School

Script Writing for Wildlife Documentaries Workshop with Damien Enright

May 13th, 14th & 15th 2011

Writing scripts for wildlife documentaries is about passion, getting behind the subject matter and using imagination to develop new ideas to make your script unique and inspiring. Poor script or commentary will ruin good wildlife documentary footage but outstanding documentary script can save mediocre footage and make it suitable for broadcast. Good script writers are worth their weight in gold!

The Script Writing for Wildlife Documentaries Workshop with Damien Enright will look at all the aspects of creating a world class script or commentary whatever the footage you are working with. It will answer questions such as which comes first, the script or the footage, how to establish the storyline, when are words not required, how do we convey emotion, what emotion do we want to convey, the use of humour, what needs to be said and what can be left to the viewers imagination. We will look at the different styles employed for “blue chip” programmes versus the so called “fang TV” reality wildlife commentary. During this workshop there will be practical opportunities to write pre-shoot treatments/shooting scripts and full post-shoot recordable scripts.

Join one of Ireland’s most experienced writers Damien Enright. Damien has written scripts for his own TV nature documentaries shown on RTE 1 and is a well known author in his own right having published a number of books and scripts on natural and human history. Damien’s weekly outdoor column in The Irish Examiner is now in its 20th year! Join Damien for what promises to be an enjoyable and possibly career changing weekend of tuition and practical with the zoologist Nic Slocum.

See below for more details on The Script Writing for Wildlife Documentaries Workshop…






Workshop Details


Friday May 13th 2011

Arrival at the old O’Donovan estate of Liss Ard just outside Skibbereen in West Cork between 6pm and 7pm. Don’t worry if you can’t arrive until later. Earlier arrival is not a problem either – you can spend a while wandering around the woods and grounds of this fabulous old estate fuelling your inspiration!

7pm – Introduction. Who we all are, what we want out of the workshop and the structure of the weekend’s activities, where we will go, what we will do and what we will achieve during the workshop.

7.30pm – Evening meal served

8.30pm – “Real Life” or “Reel Life”. Damien Enright and Nic Slocum will look at how the script writer fits into the making of a wildlife or nature documentary. How does the script writer relate to the researcher, the cameraman, the sound recording engineer and the editor? Using detailed examples and broadcast quality footage Nic will discuss the different styles of script writing from RTE/BBC blue chip through National Geographic style to the red in tooth and claw styles and so called reality nature documentaries or “Fang TV”.

9.30pm – Relaxation time, study some great footage in the viewing room or discuss personal script writing projects and prepare for the next day’s practical sessions.

Saturday May 14th 2011

8am – Breakfast

9am – “Less is More”. Using selected wildlife documentary footage as examples Damien Enright will review the script writing process, what should be written pre-shoot in the treatment, what can go in the shooting script and what must be written post-shoot. Damien will look at establishing the storyline, creating mood, using emotion, when not to say anything, what must be said, what should not be said and left to the viewer’simagination!

11am – Workshop attendees will split up into pairs to prepare for a “post-shoot” script writing practical. You will be supplied with a 10 minute wildlife video clip for which you will write your own script.

1pm – Lunch

2pm – Critique of your scripts. Each pair will have the opportunity to present their script alongside the footage and receive feedback from the group and the tutors.

4.30pm – “Do you have a Script in Mind?” – The Super Swallow! Using the migration of the swallow as the basis of a proposed storyline and script Damien Enright will talk us through the way we come up with an idea from scratch, how we develop a gripping storyline, the development of drama in the piece, creating emotion, exposing the mystery of the story, the triumph, the sadness and bringing the storyline full circle to a conclusion.

5.30pm – “Research – There is no alternative!” Nic Slocum will review the techniques and issues behind researching for a wildlife documentary, an integral part of writing a treatment or pre shoot script/shooting script or full script. Nic will look at EU wildlife law (protected species and areas, permissions and licenses required), logistics of organising fieldwork (project management and planning, critical assessment), professional ethics and planning a short documentary based on The Super Swallow!

6.30pm – Evening meal served

7.30pm – After dinner we will head out to a local barn to conduct some practical assessments for a wildlife documentary looking at the annual migration of swallows to Ireland – with a view to writing a treatment and shooting script followed by a full script.

9.30pm – Relaxation time.

Sunday May 15th 2011

8am – Breakfast

9am – “The Work in Progress”. Damien Enright will look at the way we develop the ideas of a script for a TV wildlife documentary on The Super Swallow – Sophie’s Story. During the dynamic and interactive session we will work together to work up a treatment from the notes we made the previous evening, create a pre shoot script, a shooting script and a shoot list to accompany a shooting script.

11am – After a short coffee break we will split into pairs again and you will write your full script for a wildlife documentary based on “Sophie’s Story” having completed your treatment and shooting script earlier.

1pm – Lunch

2pm – Critique of our scripts that you have written in the morning. Each pair will present their script and receive feedback from the tutors and the group.

3.30pm – Unusual Scripting challenges and how they were overcome.


4.30pm – Final questions to the tutors and announcements of script writing competition winners and prize giving. Course ends following group photograph.

Course Tutors


Damien Enright

Damien Enright’s weekly outdoor column in The Irish Examiner is now in its twentieth year. Meanwhile, he has written many books and has scripted and presented RTE documentaries on West Cork, its natural and human history, as well as addressing national issues of public walking access under the umbrella title of Enright’s Way. He is author of A Place Near Heaven: A Year in West Cork (Gill & Macmillan) and eight walking guides to the area, all still in strong demand after many years. The Kindness of Place, a sequel to A Place Near Heaven, will appear this year and, in spring 2011, Collins Press will publish Scenic Walks of West Cork, written and photographed by Damien Enright.

During his twenty years of writing a weekly column about the flora and fauna of the area, few phenomena have escaped Damien’s attention, and there are few places in West Cork which he hasn’t visited. His enthusiastic personality, combined with his intimate knowledge of the natural history of the region and his experience as a documentary film-writer and presenter make him an ideal tutor and mentor for The Script Writing for Wildlife Documentaries workshop.

Nic Slocum

As an experienced naturalist and wildlife guide Nic Slocum is best known for his escorted tours taking enthusiasts out, both in Ireland and overseas, to view and photograph whales and dolphins. Nic has maintained a lifelong passion for using photography and film to promote the conservation of our wildlife and wild places. A zoologist by training, Nic has published articles on conservation related issues in both regional and national newspapers and is working on a book – Field Craft in Wildlife Photography and Film Making. Nic Slocum lives and works in West Cork and is a director of The Wildlife Film School which runs courses in photography and all aspects of wildlife film making – from script writing to camera techniques from editing to sound recording – at home and abroad.

Booking Information:


Cost: €425. This INCLUDES expert tuition, accommodation and all meals. To secure a place a deposit of €100 will be needed with the balance of €295 payable four weeks before the scheduled course. If you book four weeks or less from the workshop then the full amount is due on booking your place. If The Wildlife Film School cancels a course for any reason all monies paid are refunded in full. (Non residential option available for those who require it)

Course Dates: May 13th, 14th & 15th 2011.

NB. If you are interested in a course which is fully booked please put your name on the waiting list as places occasionally become available and are allocated on a first come first served basis. To book contact or phone on 00 353 86 153 1663. Course numbers are restricted.



We stay on the stunningly beautiful estate of Liss Ard, near Skibbereen in West Cork. With fabulous woodland walks, lake views, superb cuisine prepared by the Liss Ard chef and SINGLE OCCUPANCY rooms with all facilities within the Garden Mews on the estate our comfort is assured. All presentations will take place in the lecture room at Liss Ard and we will travel a short distance from there for field assignments.

What people say about our workshops…

“…well I tell you, I haven’t laughed that much in a long while. A great bunch…”

“…also thanks a mill’ again for sharing with us your wealth of knowledge. I’m officially hooked!!! I’ll be recommending these courses to all my friends!”

“…just some words to thank everybody again for the brilliant atmosphere. It was a fantastic week end…”

“…thanks everyone for making it a great weekend…”

“…thank you for a great weekend and for sending on the group photo. I learnt a lot over the weekend and I look forward to putting it into practice…”

“…thanks again for a great weekend, I will be doing a workshop in the club on the weekend and let the members know what I covered over the course of the 2 days…”

“…thank you and the guys very much for a very enjoyable weekend. Not only for the great workshop but for the great craic we had too…”

“…we had a great weekend and it was a pleasure to meet you all. We will be in touch about future courses and will be recommending you…”

“…thank you for the most enjoyable and easygoing weekend. The venue was delightful, the food was delicious and the tuition and help were given enthusiastically and your hospitality was much appreciated. I look forward to the next weekend I can attend…”

“…I would like to say that I thoroughly enjoyed the weekend and found it most instructive…it was perfect…”

“…thanks again for a wonderful weekend – learnt a lot and enjoyed meeting everybody…”

“…organization very good. Looks like you are very committed to your craft and presentations were given with enthusiasm. I will have no problem in recommending your course to anyone I meet…”



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