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Kiwi filmmaker capturing the misunderstood members of the animal kingdom

A wildlife documentary maker is on a mission to change people's minds about the less appealing members of the wildlife family.

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Julz Braatvedt usually splits his time between NZ and Africa on his mission to get some of the less appealing members of the wildlife family some love. Source: Seven Sharp

Julz Braatvedt has wanted to be a wildlife filmmaker for as long as he can remember.

Starting off at AUT, he soon found himself in the grasslands of Africa, where he's been based for a decade.

Braatvedt's documentary series explores the secrets and struggles of the animal kingdom, in the hopes of revealing the other side of the often misunderstood creatures, starting with the much-maligned hyenas.

Braatvedt told Seven Sharp he came up with the idea to make a documentary series after reading a New Scientist article on the benefits of virtual nature while finding himself with "a bit more time on my hands and back in New Zealand for the whole year".

"I was really kind of struck by that and thought, 'Wow, maybe we could do something with virtual nature this year,'" he explained.

He then approached a company he has worked for many times in the past who were "really keen on the idea".

Braatvedt said while hyenas are "kind of an unloved species," he loves them, recalling an "amazing" experience several years ago while habituating a clan of the mammals to filming in Zimbabwe.

"Overnight, we would sleep at the back of the truck and just kind of spend time and when the hyenas were active, we'd jump up and start filming," he said.

"While I was sleeping, one of the hyenas climbed up the back of the vehicle and then started chewing on my boot so I woke up with this hyena munching on my foot."

"I was kind of struck by this unusual behaviour. You think hyenas are looking quite savage, but actually, they're really just intelligent and curious creatures, and when they're doing things like that, they're just checking you out."

Braatvedt, who divides his time between Africa and New Zealand, said while it's "not that easy" with his usual overseas jobs being postponed to next year, the digital series has been "really great".

"I'm really excited about what that's going to bring this year, over the next few months. Fingers crossed we'll be back out there next year."