How do you choose a team to accompany you on a ten-week journey, flying 7,000km in freezing conditions? The answer is carefully.
Feeling the pressure
Our selection weekend at Humble by Nature, Kate Humble’s Farm in Wales, was tough but fun. Twelve volunteers joined us to be pushed to their limits. Kate put us up at her lovely farm and made us all feel at home.
Choosing the team to support Sacha from the ground was always going to be a big part of the preparation for Flight of the Swans. So we were feeling the pressure as we headed to Wales to meet everyone.
Thankfully we didn’t have to do it all ourselves. Expedition experts, Steve Holland and Mac MacKenney were there to help. Having put together teams for Flight of the Swans’ patron, Sir Ranulph Fiennes, we knew we were in good hands.
By the end of the weekend the media roles in our ground crew would be filled and our team almost complete. It was an exciting thought but our volunteers had a lot to get through first.
Being tested on communication and team building skills might sound like any old job interview but a mock-up of a road traffic accident and a late-night navigation through the woods added a taste of the extreme pressure the team could be facing on the trip.
Just like Sacha, our ground crew will face extreme weather and freezing conditions. They’ll meet wild animals and different communities along the way - in short they need to be prepared for almost anything.
The media volunteers will be filming along the route, everything from the people we meet to the swans as they land to rest and feed. Plus they will be bringing back valuable footage of their habitats for our conservation team.
Not only will the expedition provide valuable scientific data from remote areas (more on that in a later post), our volunteers will play a major part in revealing to the world – through photo and film - the dangers that the swans face as they make their way from the Russian tundra to their over-wintering grounds back at Slimbridge.
To get their footage our media volunteers will have to master filming from vehicles, they will have to get used to working their equipment in freezing conditions and filming in wilderness that has seen little human presence. It’s not a job for the faint hearted.
Selecting our team
By the end of the weekend we realised that the hardest part was going to be making our choice. If only we could take everyone, but we had to narrow it down to five.
There were some skills it was essential our volunteers had, such as well-honed media skills that clearly showed they could function and support each other under pressure.
Our living conditions will be basic to say the least so we need to be sure our team can handle living in basic conditions for 10 weeks, during which time we can never be sure what might happen next.
Although much of our selection criteria was based on our volunteers demonstrating their skills, we knew we needed to pick people that not only knew when to pick up a camera and showed genuine passion for the cause, but also knew when it was time to stop filming and muck in with the general camp chores, or even deal with an emergency.
In short our volunteers need to be able to handle anything that gets thrown at them – which to be honest could be almost anything.
Among our volunteers we had so much talent but it was these five that we were super-impressed with.
- Matt Harris, a filmmaker from Caerphilly.
- Sam Vadas, an Australian TV news journalist, currently living in the UK.
- Steve Flanagan, a cameraman from Bristol specialising in digital multimedia.
- Ben Cherry, a photographer from Warwick.
- Ben Sadd, a filmmaker from Blandford Forum in Dorset.
You will hear more from our new recruits over the coming months.
P.S. If you haven’t signed the petition yet or shared it through your networks, do it here. More on why in blogs to follow…