Renee graduated from Swansea University in 2003 with a BA in Anthropology. She is a celebrated surfer, and a presenter and documentary filmmaker.
Choosing a university can be hard. What made Swansea University stand out?
Swansea University is situated so close to the coast, and its location was certainly a big deciding factor for where I went to University – being near the sea and to beaches I can surf at has influenced many of my decisions in life.
You‘ve worked on programmes like the BBC’s Human Planet, so you must have seen some amazing things. What sticks in your mind most and why?
I have been lucky enough to travel to some of the most remote places on earth and spend time filming and telling stories. Human Planet was a real treat to make - filming elephants by moonlight in Kenya, for example, was a wonderful experience. The camera man and I would sit silently for hours all night under the stars, waiting for the elephants to come to drink. Despite their size, elephants move fairly silently across the land, so you always feel really lucky to suddenly see them arrive.
On my latest series, Hostile Planet which goes out on National Geographic, we filmed Hamadryas baboons in Awash National Park, Ethiopia. We filmed them from the ground, and also from the air, to give an amazing new perspective.
How important would you say the role of the documentary filmmaker is in highlighting the impact of humans on the planet?
Over the years I have seen many ways people interact with their environment. The BBC’s Human Planet series was based on highlighting our connection with nature all over the world - be it fishermen on the Mekong River reliant on the catfish migrations, or the training of fig tree roots to make living root bridges to combat monsoon floods in Meghalaya. There are some astonishing relationships that we have with nature - but not all are in far flung places- it’s important to remember here in Wales, many people live with and are reliant on the seasons, like the hill farmers in Snowdonia, or the crab fishermen off the Cardigan coast - ultimately, we all have a connection with the natural world - something worth us all respecting and understanding, especially as our environment shifts.
You’ve set up your own production company with James Honeyborne who created the BBC’s Blue Planet series. Can you tell us about some of the projects you are working on together?
James and I set up Freeborne Media as a joint venture to bring together the best of our skills and experience. It is a really exciting and fresh collaboration where we plan to continue to make films that share important messages across the planet. The ‘Blue Planet 2 effect’ has been so powerful and far reaching, its impact still goes on today with our awareness of plastics and the health of our oceans. Freeborne is now in creative partnership with Netflix, and together, we intend to continue to tell powerful stories in captivating ways.
Is there any advice you’d like to give to our current students and recent graduates?
Always try and choose a path in life where you are following a passion. If you believe in what you are doing, and love it, you will do it to the best of your ability.