I feel very lucky to live up North. Yes, it has it's blustery cold days, but the beautiful landscapes and friendly people often outweigh the bitter cold. Being a filmmaker, I am also very lucky to be surrounded by a wealth of creative people. I am always amazed by just how many writers, artists, filmmakers, musicians and web developers I meet. There are pockets of creative communities all over the North East, helping each other and spurring each other on in their artistic endeavours. Something else I feel very lucky to have nearby is Northern Film and Media, a creative agency, nurturing talent, supporting media businesses and driving commercial film and television production within the region.
Northern Film and Media often run courses and workshops aimed at filmmakers and their new "Directors and..." series has me hooked. Yesterday I attended the "Directors and DOPs" workshop, with Roger Simonsz (Director) and Sue Gibson (Cinematographer). The workshop ran from 12.30 until 5.30, throughout which we were flooded with a wealth of knowledge that only comes from years of experience and a real security in your craft. They covered the relationship between a director and his/her DoP, giving us a (much needed) explanation of the roles of a director and a cinematographer. Something which Sue impressed which I really liked, was the fact that the cinematographer (sometimes known as a DoP) is there to facilitate the director and to the best of their ability, give them the look and style that they want. In younger and more amatuer productions I often feel the cinematographer tries to put forward their own wants and thoughts. Although this happens in the industry too, I feel that the role of cinematographer has often been misunderstood, which results in directors having to fight for what they want when they shouldn't have to.
The day was packed full of useful information and discussions. I usually find long lectures hard to sit through but this was easy. I didn't want it to end. Attendees participated in questioning Roger and Sue and during the break it was lovely to be able to just chat to them. They were both incredibly approachable, happy to discuss topics of relevance and even give advice on your own projects.
We watched scenes they had worked on and together they explained how the looks were achieved in each scene and some of the difficulties they had to overcome.
I learned so much in those 5 hours, much more than I expected to. I have often thought that watching excerpts of film and listening to how it was achieved is one of the best ways to learn. I came away my head swimming with ideas, questioning my own methods and when I got home I promptly dived into a book I had on lighting, to further understand some of the concepts Sue Gibson had talked about. (I am not a cinematographer but that's how inspirational it was!)
That's what good teaching should do shouldn't it? Inspire you to change your opinions and methods and try out what you've learned in your own films?
Next Thursday the series continues with "Directors and...Producers" (Uh oh!) with director Gillies MacKinnon and producer Willy Wands. If you are involved in filmmaking in some capacity and are based in the North East, please do check it out. I can promise you it will be worth it and is a fantastic opportunity not to be missed.