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For our final Tanzanian filmmaker case study, we meet wildlife photographer and camera assistant Lilian Anold.

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Lilian Anold is a Tanzanian wildlife photographer and camera assistant who began her career with a mentorship through AFRISOS (African School of Storytelling). She has since completed training with BBC Studios Natural History Unit on location for National Geographic’s ‘HOME’ series in Kenya and Uganda and continues to work as a wildlife photographer in her home country. 

Lilian’s journey into wildlife photography and cinematography began not outdoors, but in fact, in her living room. “As a young child, my dad used to watch National Geographic films on our little TV at home. We would all pile in beside him to see them, and that’s where I got my introduction to wildlife films.” 

Growing up in northern Tanzania, close to the Serengeti National Park, a career in wildlife filmmaking isn’t something Lilian initially thought was within her reach. “As a young Tanzanian woman, it wasn’t presented to me as an option.  

“Outside of tourism, it’s quite expensive for Tanzanians to even get access to national parks and wildlife, let alone have the funds to buy the necessary equipment to film them professionally.” 

Lilian’s opportunity, like so many other young Tanzanian photographers, came from abroad. “I’d done quite a few solo trips, photographing the natural world for myself, to places like China, Austria, Finland, Poland, Switzerland, Estonia, Ethiopia etc.” 

Mentorship with AFRISOS 

In 2021, an opportunity arose with AFRISOS to undertake a two-month mentorship programme under the tutelage of the NGO’s founder, award-winning wildlife filmmaker Jigar Ganatra.  

It involved photographing wildlife in the Serengeti – the selfsame land that stood in her eyeline her entire life, that she had seen portrayed on screen all those years ago – only this time she would be the one wielding the camera and telling the stories.  

The programme partnered with one of the leading balloon companies, Serengeti Balloon Safaris, a company that helped tourist groups explore the region by air.  

She filmed and photographed tourist trips in their early morning flights and for the rest of the day she was able to observe the animals and capture the footage she longed to create since those days watching National Geographic as a child.  

In addition, she spent two years working with AFRISOS coordinating wildlife photography and filmmaking mentorship programmes to help others.  

 “My journey would not have been possible without AFRISOS and that experience with Serengeti Balloon Safari. It was during my time with them that I really picked up the tools and skills to become a wildlife photographer. It was fantastic to have people who believe in me, investing in my skills and really developing me as a creative”.

International filmmaking opportunities 

This led to a spate of contracts from companies all over the world, including the US, Italy, Spain, Uganda, Kenya, Australia, Rwanda and Denmark, who wanted to capture the beauty and uniqueness of African nature through her eyes in places like Kruger National park in South Africa, and many more. 

This year, she successfully secured a training opportunity on location in a camera assistant role, supported by Project Songbird with BBC Studios Natural History Unit, who were filming a series in Mara, Kenya and Uganda for National Geographic’s ambitious new series ‘HOME’. 

 “Apart from the obvious enjoyment of observing these amazing animals, what was really special about this time was working with a talented cinematographer and all the amazing BBC Studios crew. In assisting them on set, I learned so much about how these shots are composed and how the story unfolds. It’s something I’ll treasure forever.” 

(The training was funded as part of Project Songbird – the BBC Studios Natural History Unit’s £1m initiative to nurture, diversify and support new production talent in countries where the world-renowned unit frequently films, in order to help create a more equitable industry). 

As part of her role on location, Lilian assisted with DIT, ensuring the footage was properly offloaded to be sent back to the UK for editing. “That part is quite scary because if you mess up, months of work could be jeopardized. Thankfully, it all went to plan, and I received great mentoring and support to make sure the job was done well.” 

Setting African creatives up for success 

Lilian’s future in the field looks bright, but it’s not lost on her that she’s had to seek outside support to make it happen. “Education, infrastructure, society – none of it is set up to make a Tanzanian female in this field succeed.  

“They say you can’t be what you can’t see and it’s true. If you only see men or people from abroad doing this job, you might not realize this is something you can do. This is a barrier that young women in Tanzania are facing.”   

Her photography and films – her success – is something she hopes will inspire more Tanzanian women to take up the mantle.  

“I want to see more of us in the field. We need more Africans, more Tanzanians, more women,  telling our stories internationally. We should be the ambassadors for our environment, for the natural beauty we have here. We have a light that shines brightly and it’s time we shone it outwards for the world to see.”  

Wildscreen Festival Tanzania takes place from 6 – 7 June in Arusha, Tanzania. Find out more and buy tickets online here.