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Snowy mountain star landscape photograph taken in Grand Teton National Park


Wildlife & Documentary Filmmaker


Filmmaker | Storyteller | Conservationist
Tessa Barlin - wildlife and documentary filmmaker

I am a 27 year old environmental documentary filmmaker, photographer, Divemaster, and National Geographic Explorer from Cape Town, South Africa.


Growing up, I had only one goal - to become a wildlife cinematographer like the ones I grew up watching on TV. As I grew older, I realised that my work needed to have purpose. My art has power, and I have a responsibility to change the landscape of wildlife filmmaking to make it more inclusive and accessible. Now, I strive to create films that combine science and art in order to inspire the public to feel connected to the natural world, and to want to protect it. I aim to help amplify the voices of indigenous communities in conservation spaces. I believe in creating links between social justice issues and conservation in order to shift the narrative of natural history storytelling into one that demonstrates a sense of local pride and identity surrounding the natural world.


I have a post-graduate degree in documentary filmmaking from the University of Cape Town, and I have been freelancing in the film industry for 4 years. I have worked on everything from commercials and music videos to feature documentaries, but my main focus is on environmental films. I have also worked as a camera assistant on high-end Blue Chip productions with companies such as Silverback Films and the BBC Studios. I began my career as a camera assistant and camera operator, but am now moving towards directing as well. I have experience in all main areas of production, including producing and editing. I am also a certified PADI Divemaster and a certified DAN First Aid Provider.


I balance my time between working on external productions, and heading up my own independent films.


In 2018, my Honours documentary, The Water Dancers, received a SAFTA Award for "Best Student Film". In the same year, I received a grant from the Nature, Environment & Wildlife Filmmakers Congress (NEWF) to produce and direct my next film, Beyond The Fence, which premiered in 2019 and won numerous awards including an Honourable Mention at the United Nations Headquarters in New York.


In 2021, I was awarded a Storytelling Grant from National Geographic Society to produce and direct my latest film, The Star Project. The film encapsulates science and traditional knowledge systems to explore our human relationship with the stars. Working with a South African astrophysicist and the San community of the Kalahari, we will set out to depict how we, as humans, understand our place in the cosmos.

Tessa Barlin - wildlife and documentary filmmaker on location with a RED Digital Camera
Tessa Barlin - wildlife and documentary filmmaker and scuba diver
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