For those who do not know you, who is Jimmy Cape? Tell us a bit about your background.
I grew up in Kentish Town, London and moved to Bristol almost 10 years ago when I started studying Zoology at University here. After graduating I went on to complete a Masters in Documentary Filmmaking at UWE. I now work as a freelance documentary and wildlife cameraperson and UAV/drone operator, mostly for the TV industry in Bristol. I also regularly self-produce and edit content for businesses, events and charities.
What is your most vivid childhood memory?
Memory can be misleading but my earliest memory is dropping sticks off the little bridge in St. Werburgh’s Park, then running over to the other side to see it appeared first. I should mention my memory does stretch past moving out west. We were up visiting my aunt and uncle who’ve lived in Bristol since I can remember. As I grew up my interests moved across the road to the St. Werburgh’s church climbing centre where I would religiously climb every time we visited.
What sparked your passion for cinematography and how did the transition from Zoology to observational documentary come about?
I’ve always been into photography, probably due to the exposure from my parents. My Dad had a photographic darkroom in the house I grew up in and my Mum still hosts castings there for actors. But the thing that first really captured my imagination in a big way was watching ‘Tribe’ with Bruce Parry on TV. Seeing Bruce immerse himself and be accepted by people that were tougher and more innovative than I could ever believe was a feeling that stayed with me. That kicked off my fascination with anthropology but only years later, while studying Zoology and watching ‘Human Planet’ made the decision to focus completely on working as a documentary filmmaker. For the last three years I’ve been working as a camera assistant on a program about the survival techniques of indigenous people for National Geographic Channel, ‘Primal Survivor’. I feel very fortunate to have the opportunity to continue learning about such fascinating cultures and proud to be treading in similar footsteps to the people that inspired me years ago.
What are some of the highlights of this project and what is the most valuable lesson that you have learned about yourself throughout this journey?
Living with tribes like the Mentewi in Indonesia was a humbling experience. They have no electricity or modern possessions but are one of the happiest communities I’ve ever met. They take only what they need from the jungle to sustain themselves and waste nothing. Although I can’t quite keep up the hunter-gatherer existence in Bristol, I try to be more grateful and not become easily swept up with the wants of consumerism.
There is a harsher reality of tribal life which is visible to different degrees everywhere I’ve been. When modernisation comes too quickly to indigenous communities it can be very destructive. It’s made me aware that your actions have an impact, even if you can’t see it straight away, and that if wild places are not protected they will be lost forever.
What is your approach to documentary filmmaking and what do you aim to convey through this medium?
My aim is to make ‘cinematic’ documentaries because I think films like Chef’s Table or Jago have a greater impact on the audience because they look stunning. But what’s more important is being able to convey your story clearly and in a way that connects with the audience. The best ideas are usually the most simple and if you can’t sum it up in one sentence then it probably needs distilling down until the core message is revealed.
What would your dream project be?
I’m really fascinated by the relationship between people and the natural world. Most of the films I’ve worked on deal with this subject in some way and they have shown me how much more there is to explore. Living with self-sufficient Animistic people that can read the signals in nature to find food or predict distant events as easily as I check my watch or buy groceries has made me question how much understanding of the natural world Western science is missing by thinking in numbers and statistics. As well as filming a series on tribal spirituality and Animism my dream is to make films that raise awareness of the threats facing conservation efforts. One idea for this would be documenting the Poacher Hunters that risk their lives to protect wildlife in Africa and around the world.
How do you fit in the wider bristolian community of creatives?
I heard recently that around 70% of the wildlife film content globally is produced by Bristol based companies, so for what I do this really is the place to be. As well as the BBC Natural History Unit (producers of Planet Earth, Blue Planet etc...) there are a number for independent TV productions companies dotted around the city. I’ve been working for one of Bristol largest Indies Icon Films, for the last few years which has been a great place to learn and develop my skills.
What do you do, or where do you go to unwind and get inspired?
I keep pretty busy between filming and then catching up with friends and family when I’m home. But on location there are often long travel days which can be a great chance to unwind, read and do things like answer these questions! When I am free back home and the sun is shining I like to take the van and go wild camping along the coast of Wales, Cornwall and Devon with my partner Emily.
If you could live anywhere in the world, where would that be and why?
I love to travel and have thought about relocating before but actually where I want to be most is On The Road, ideally cruising around in a self-sufficient solar-powered camper.
What does a regular day look like for you?
5.30 wake up
5.45 sunrise time-lapse
7.45 drive/boat/hike/fly to filming location
20.00 sunset time-lapse
21.00 backup footage and prep kit
What are you currently working on?
I’m currently writing this on a plane flying into Anchorage, Alaska and will be here for the next 5 weeks, any more details are under wraps for now...
What are your dreams and ambitions for the future?
Freelance work is really unpredictable so I try and focus on what I’m doing rather than imagining what the future holds. I’m up for working on all kinds of projects but continuing to work as a natural history cameraperson and to keep making documentaries is my aim for now.
Thank you, Jimmy for sharing your story with us.