Through this portfolio I will be documenting my three-year journey at the University of Greenwich, I will be reflecting on moments that have aided my career path choices across my Digital Film Production degree, throughout external work experience and during creative enterprise week.
Before coming to university, I created short films for fun and for school projects. The crew would be made up of my friends at the time that I could persuade to be a part of it and this would result in small crews with everyone taking on multiple roles. Starting at university I was looking forward to working with other keen individuals who had their own skills and preferences for roles in a crew. During a warmup assignment we had to create a short film in 1 hour. This was incredibly challenging as we were all new students and didn’t know our fellow group members well at all. Sadly, most people in my group weren’t very motivated or forthcoming, resulting in a similar situation, a reluctant and uncreative crew.
However, in a later assignment this changed. We were given a monolog or script to adapt in a creative way and were put into groups making sure that each person in the group was happy with their role, this worked much better. From the beginning I knew I wanted to get into camera or editing as these were the parts of making films I enjoyed the most and had the most experience with cameras and editing software. So for this project I was the camera operator and editor. However due to the style of the film being ‘mockumentary’ I had to mimic documentary style camera work so wasn’t able to be as creative as I would have liked to be. Through working on our 1 minute documentary I came to the conclusion that it wasn’t for me. I respect the art of documentary, as an opportunity to understand and connect with the world, however the element of filmmaking I really enjoy is the careful crafting and engineering of images to tell a visual story and I couldn’t find that in documentary. This was a good moment in narrowing down my future career choices.
A key moment in my development was through the live TV studio module taught by Chris Bould. Chris had high standards and expectations of us and this was incredibly effective in driving me personally to develop my skills. In the second term we had to create live music shows. I stepped up to direct link which was a real jump out of my comfort zone but I loved the feeling of knowing we were going live, even though it wasn’t being broadcast anywhere, you couldn’t make mistakes and the thrill and relief once you completed a take was enormous. Although I'd decided by choosing Digital Film Production, that I didn't actually want to pursue the TV broadcast side, it was nevertheless a great experience and this feeling of achievement and standard of quality positively affected my work approach on future projects.
In the second year for another short film this would be my last chance to try a different role, so I was the director of ‘Joyride’. With hindsight I should have played on my strengths and chosen to make a visual storytelling led film but the idea we ended up making focused more on good script writing. After this I decided to keep pursuing and developing the part of the filmmaking process I love best, the camera work and editing. I was also the editor for 'Joyride' as we didn’t have a dedicated editor. For our next short film 'Route Runner', I was Director of Photography and Editor. This was useful for me as I could gain double the experience doing two roles, however the work load was too much really and meant the production didn't have the advantages of the conventional workflow of having a dedicated editor.
In the summer of first year, a group of us went to Portugal for FEST New Directors New Films Festival. This festival had panels with industry professionals, short films and feature films. It was a beneficial time to gain insight into how a festival runs, bond further with my course mates and watch unique films. This led on more recently to a two day workshop by cinematographer Manuel Alberto Claro known for his long-term collaboration with director Lars Von Trier. I was fortunate enough to get free tickets to this FEST event workshop, through the university. This was an inspirational opportunity to learn about his career journey, filmmaking approach and his personal visual style.
Through the university I was able to get a day's work as a production runner for ‘Belgravia’ a new ITV 1880s period drama from the creators of Downton Abbey. We reported to the location department as our main responsibility was to lock off location to the public. I made sure to be stationed close to where they were filming, so I could get the most out of observing different departments and be ready to help. It was an amazing experience that opened my eyes to the real world of filmmaking and how a large scale set runs. There were over 140 extras in period dress as well as horses. I had the pleasure of holding an umbrella for Tamsin Greig as she got out of a car, as well as the more tedious jobs like picking up left-over confetti after a wedding scene, moving the mats that were down for a horse and carriage to ride over and putting up and taking down ‘easy ups’, which are tents for actors, equipment and crew. I also got first hand experience of the unconventional working hours, the shift started at 2pm and I was offered breakfast as we were wrapping at 2am. This helped me consider the conditions of working on large scale productions. During the night shoots, they had a massive light on a huge crane simulating moonlight, I was responsible for moving barriers as the whole middle area of the naval college was locked off as they had 10 horses with actors riding them, and fire goblets as part of the set. Although only short it was an extremely beneficial experience.
Camera Assistant, Editor
I was put in contact with David Gilbert, the creative director of Screen Story. I was his camera assistant on a documentary about healthcare for Gibraltarians in the UK. I offered to take some editing work off his hands while he worked on the documentary, this gave me the opportunity to edit a ‘sizzle reel’ for Formula E. Formula E is essentially Formula 1 but with electric cars. During this process I would exchange messages with the Broadcast Account Executive at Formula E, who granted me access to their archive and library of footage. My task was to locate and scrub through interviews and race footage to find exciting clips and soundbites to create a trailer style video. This video would only be for internal use so I had the advantage of working with copyrighted music, reducing the time spent searching for fitting music. Making changes from client feedback taught me when to set a limit on how many iterations they asked for. I enjoyed editing for a client and was happy with the end result.
For three days I worked as a workshop facilitator for SMASHfestUK, a film festival aimed at children and families. Our team was managing two classes of 30 Year 5 pupils with the aim to teach and create a TV news report. This was challenging keeping them engaged and cultivating their extreme ideas into possible videos, but very worth while as Linsey Keith, my lecturer and coordinator of SMASHfestUK, put me in contact with the Production Secretary for ‘The Crown’ Season 4.
Camera Trainee Work Experience
I was given one day work experience which I spent with the AD department but also had a chance to observe and chat to the camera department. The second AC kindly helped set me up with two more days of experience during that week, this time with the camera department, where I assumed the role of the trainee, temporarily. This was a transformative experience, from only three days I learnt invaluable knowledge about the running of the camera department on huge scale productions. This time also confirmed my desire to work on large scale productions and gave me a tangible goal of a place to start, as a camera trainee. I made the most of learning from the experienced and talented individuals on the camera team, by watching, listening, asking questions at the appropriate time and seeking to build a good working relationship with them, to become a helpful member of the team. They were kind enough to answer my questions and even let me hit the slates for a couple of takes. Having spent one of the three days with the AD department I knew it wasn't the route I wanted to follow and chatting to the camera trainees opened my eyes further to the commitment and dedication required to persist in the film industry. This didn’t put me off but fuelled my drive and determination to work and purse this, starting by applying for camera trainee placement, through 'ScreenSkills'.
creative enterprise week
Creative Enterprise week was a brilliant opportunity for us to get work experience, learn from industry professionals and maybe even get employment once we graduate.
For the first sessions, three charities came in as potential clients for us to create videos for. They pitched their company and explained the type of video required. We then had till the afternoon of the next day to choose a client and give a 5 minute pitch. The clients would then choose the groups they wanted to work with based on their promotional video pitches.
The three charities consisted of OneLess; who push for Londoners to choose sustainable ways to drink water reducing our reliance on single-use plastic water bottles, The Young People's Trust for the Environment; encouraging young people’s understanding of the environment and Helping Rhinos; working to save the rhino from extinction.
I was the most excited about working with ‘Oneless’, as I felt they had the most informed research of their target audience and a strong message that got my mind racing with ideas. However, they were asking for more generic promotional videos and had no budget. The generic promotional videos that they desired didn’t excite me but their brand and ethos has huge potential for a fresh, stirring and visually appealing short video that I’d love to create, something I would learn from and be proud to put on my showreel. The style of video could be like cinema advertising, tending to be more narrative or product focused, and shot in a ‘cinematic’ style [Here are some examples]. These examples are massive companies with huge budgets but I believe even on a small budget, with a simple good enough idea a very effective video could be created. I spoke to the two people from OneLess after the presentation to gauge if they’d be open to a video like this and fortunately they were. Adam, George and I put our names down to pitch but sadly were the only ones so the clients couldn’t be asked to come back to Greenwich for just one pitch, however we have contacted them and after we have finished our graduation film, we will pitch to them.
This process was very useful in helping me get closer to working out what I want to pursue. I knew I wasn’t interested in creating low budget online content for businesses as this doesn’t allow me to engage very creatively, but I would love working on commercials that are well produced and are visually engaging using professional filmmaking techniques to create a professional result.
That same evening Michael Kelpie, an alumnus of University of Greenwich now Managing Director of Potato at ITV, hosted a talk about his journey and employability. He advised us to have a clear career plan, to focus our energy on that and be ruthless with contacting potential employers. He told us to call people up and explained how he wrote over 200 letters to production companies when he was looking for a job. He also gave some great advice on interviews: Research the company thoroughly and work out who will most likely be interviewing you and talk about their past work. I have made the decision that I don’t want to work in the broadcast side of TV however this approach to finding work is transferable.
Another session in Creative Enterprise Week was having a workshop with Steadicam operator Paul Hill. Paul has worked on shows including The IT Crowd, Derry Girls, The Trip and many more. He let those who were keen try on the full Steadicam rig and attempt a shot. I learnt that you don’t have to be well built to operate a Steadicam as, although the working of the rig does require strength, it is more about muscles in certain places. We also learnt about how he got where he is and the impact of owning your own a Steadicam. This allowed him to get more work, as they were hiring him and the kit, so productions save money on separate equipment hire.
A small corporate video company ‘Perspective Pictures’ came in to talk to us about what they do. They are a “digital-first” video agency and their selling point is that they are made up of young people who understand the current advertising platform. Funnily enough for my second year Digital Enterprise and the Creative Economy course in groups we created a business plan for a hypothetical company called ‘ViewsFinder’ which would be a competitor of Perspective Pictures. I would be willing to work for a company like this to support myself financially and stay in the video making sector, but it’s not my goal.
future career plans
The last event was an industry panel of filmmakers, this included Riyadh Haque, a cinematographer and assistant director, James Button, creator of comedy short films and Alex a female assistant director. This was a really interesting and useful time hearing from these filmmakers about how they got to be where they are today. After the panel I chatted to Riyadh about his approach to balancing working on short films and making a living. After connecting with him, he watched our short film ‘Rotten Luck’ which a group of us had made during the summer and praised it.
I really wanted to make a short film over the summer, so did Charlie and Adam so we decided to attempt the ‘Depict’ 90 second short film competition. We wanted to make the most ambitious short film in 90 seconds that we could. Charlie as producer, Adam as director and me as director of photography and editor. I had the idea of someone on the way to bury a body in a car, in the pouring rain, at night. These would all set exciting challenges, that we solved by creating a mobile rain machine, having a camera car and using a low loader. We shot over four nights and the runtime ended up being 2 min not 90 seconds as the pacing would have been too rushed, but it was the most enjoyable project I have been involved in, continuously finding creative ways to solve problems and applying all I’ve learnt so far.
After talking to Riyadh, I was reassured that it is possible to work on short films and make a living, which really encouraged me as this would be one of my dream future career paths. However, my other passion and ambition is to work my way up the ranks of the camera department on large scale productions, over many years and eventually become a director of photography. The workshop with Manuel Alberto Claro was a key moment that gave me confidence to develop my own personal visual style. So, for now I am probably going to focus on securing a role as a camera trainee, so I can build up my skills and experience.
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