This short course (10 weeks) was an excellent introduction to digital filmmaking. It began with a detailed analysis of film techniques and finished off with us making a short, edited scene. The final session was given over to the all-important screening of our work.
What succeeded was the way our understanding of filmmaking was built up in the first few weeks and then put into practice in the shoot and the editing sessions. Most important was how everything we learned related in some way to the notion of storytelling.
The mechanics of storytelling were drilled into us from the outset. Decisions about camera position, movement, focus, composition, lighting and so on will have an effect on how the viewer ‘reads’ the film. The job of the director is to control how these elements combine to produce the meaning intended in the script.
For the most part the sessions were delivered by David Pope, who has directed a full length feature film. His observations were insightful and humorous. He pointed out the many ways a director may need to improvise, such as in Citizen Kane, when Orson Welles ordered the cameras to be lowered into holes dug into the studio floor. Having achieved a superior camera angle he then found the cameras would no longer track the action. One workaround involved having a character stare fixedly into the camera long enough to distract the audience from seeing the other characters shuffle into their correct positions!
Our own shoots emphasised the problem-solving nature of filmmaking. We took it in turns to direct our own scenes and operate equipment on other people’s scenes.
The course ended with the editing sessions – using in Final Cut Pro. These were run under the expert guidance of Marco Granese. Again, storytelling was a central feature. It was surprising how easy it was to go wrong here. One of the challenges of editing is to produce exactly the meaning intended by the director and scriptwriter. Marginal differences in how long shots are held or the ordering of shots can profoundly affect what the viewer sees and understands. In fact I had to produce two versions of the scene, one being embarrassingly poor and the other a more accurate depiction of what I had in my head. The process was much more challenging than I had thought.
Taken as a whole, the course was an excellent introduction to filmmaking, combining both practical and theoretical elements. It encouraged creativity but always within the bounds of what can be achieved. If you are interested, Digital Filmmaking: A Practical Introduction can be found on the City website. It is currently priced at £495.
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