In 2020, Ben Albert spent his summer floating around wetlands in southwest Wisconsin in a canoe.
Ben’s grandfather, Cal DeWitt, is a wetland scientist who has lived on and studied the Waubesa Wetlands for over fifty years. The area is one of the highest quality and most diverse wetlands remaining in the state of Wisconsin. Eager to share the story of this less-appreciated ecosystem, DeWitt called up Ben in the spring of 2020 and asked him if he would be interested in making a film about the wetlands and the wildlife who call it home.
Just a few weeks after dropping out of film school, Ben agreed and made his way to the area, spending months exploring the wetlands on foot and in the water. Using a telephoto lens, he captured footage of creatures great and small, while also sharing the human perspective of what it’s like to be in a wetland.
“As I explored the wetland and learned more from my grandpa, my own perspective changed. I began to see the deeper value and beauty of this ecosystem. Whether it’s a wetland, a local park, or our own backyard, we are surrounded by the hidden wonders of the natural world if only we take a closer look.”
Ben Albert is a wildlife filmmaker and member of the Jackson Wild Collective. Now based in Maine as an intern for Compass Light Productions, Ben grew up on a small farm in Wisconsin, immersed in nature. “It was an incredible place to grow up,” he said. “When I was at school in the city, I realized I was missing that part of my life.”
He got his start young, picking up a camera and filming his friends when they went skiing. His interest turned towards narrative filmmaking, which allowed him to hone some technical skills and become a better editor and cinematographer.
Film school was a logical next step, but after a couple of years, it became clear that he wasn’t on a path toward what he was most passionate about.
“I don’t regret it at all,” Ben said about his choice to leave film school. “It was one of the best decisions I’ve made in terms of my career.”
Ben was raised on nature documentaries, seeing the wonder of the planet as narrated by Sir David Attenborough. “The natural world is really a magical place that you can lose yourself in. It’s all around us, but these films bring it out in a new light,” he said.
He knew he wanted to get more into nature and documentary filmmaking instead of narrative film, so he left school, headed to the Waubesa Wetlands, and never looked back.
Ben is still early on in his career, but he shared advice for emerging filmmakers: “Make opportunities for yourself. Especially when you’re just starting out, projects won’t just fall into your lap. A lot of the time, the only thing stopping you is yourself – learn skills online and think about what you can do right now to get yourself where you want to be.”
He also shared something he wished he could tell his younger self: “If I were to give myself advice two years ago, it would be to not try and do everything by yourself. Everything you do will be ten times better if you bring in others.”
The Jackson Wild Collective has helped Ben put that advice into practice. “I think the map feature is one of the best parts; I’ve connected with people all over the world,” he said. Ben joined the Collective after the 2021 Jackson Wild Summit.
“When I first thought about making this my career, I felt like there was a huge gap between where I was and where I wanted to be, between emerging and established filmmakers. The Collective bridges that divide, connecting people with different skill levels and experiences into one space together. It breaks down barriers and reminds us that we’re all people, we can all support each other.”
Ben continues to work on Waubesa Wetlands - An Invitation to Wonder; you can view the trailer HERE. Follow Ben on Instagram to keep up with his latest work, and check out his website to learn more about his projects.
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