Talking Shop, 2011

A Conference by Nahemi members

National Film Theatre 3, BFI Southbank

To reserve seats go to:

the abstracts

Monday 4 July. Session 1: 10 – 11.15

Dialogues with the Outside World. Chair: Jim Hornsby

Producing for Real.

Brian Hall

University of Lincoln

This paper will examine the teaching and learning issues that arise when involving students in commercial work as part of, or not part of the curriculum.

As a School of Media, we are often asked if our students could produce work for outside organisations and individuals. This is often presented as a ‘fantastic opportunity’ for students to gain work experience, add to their showreels, enhance their CVs etc., etc.

Unfortunately many of these requests are simply looking for free or cheap labour and would do nothing to enhance the students work experience or knowledge.  On the other hand, we have found that some useful opportunities do occur and that, if handled in a way that ensures students are supervised and supported, can provide an experience that sits well alongside the curriculum.

In this paper I will look at the rationale that enables us, via an in-house production facility, to take on this kind of ‘professional’ work with support from academics within the School and reward the students for their labour.

The Producers Panel: Enhancing Formative Feedback

Liam Wellls

Norwich University College of the Arts

In education, the group critique is widely recognised as an aid that enhances all sorts of students’ learning from debating skills to theory/practice relationships.

In industry the story-pitch provides an opportunity for filmmakers to ‘sell’ their ideas to producers and commissioners.

Can the educational benefits of the group critique inform story-pitching and can the industry practice of story-pitching add value in education?

The Producers Panel is an on-going project that has been developed with funding from ADM-HEA, to explore models of student engagement with industry within the group-learning environment of a formative critique.  The panel has enabled students to engage directly with producers, film festival staff, and screen agencies and given the students a chance to explore their own practices in relation to such ‘real world’ considerations as audience, economics and format through the feedback from industry professionals.

Monday 4 July. Session 2: 11.45 – 1.00

How do we Frame it? Teaching Camera & Production Design.  Chair: Claire Barwell

The Phenomenon of Digital SLR Cameras in Student Filmmaking.

Daniel Hopkins

Staffordshire University

Since 2009 the availability of the Canon 5D Mark II has revolutionized filmmaking and student filmmaking. The quality of the work produced has taken the problem of shooting format/quality out of the equation for student filmmakers.

Though film is not just a visual medium, our first impressions as audiences are through what we see and hear. The higher resolution of these new digital SLR cameras has given my students opportunities to create cinematography that puts their ideas on a level playing field with other more established institutions.

This presentation will look at how students have used this equipment to develop pro‐active research and independent study that has helped them create visually stunning films.

Story Development in Cinematography.

Larra Anderson

Northern Film School

First off, I’ve got to argue for the use of the word “cinematography” over “camera”.  One is to utilize a word I would like to further unpack.  Another is to utilize a word that simply implies a relationship to another art form entirely – photography.  I often say to my students that some cinematographers initially come from the lighting point of view and some come from the camera, but ultimately what great cinematographers do is understand a story (not just a moment that tells a story – there is a significant difference) – and tell it.

If I say that storytelling is the most and primary function of a cinematographer, then how do we teach storytelling to our students in a classroom?  Obviously it is possible to teach them tools of “photography” – lenses/optics, composition, chemistry, sensitometry etc. and lighting – this is an HMI, this is flicker, memorize WAV, etc.  However, how do we teach them how to tell a story with these tools?  I have been working the last few years on teaching my students story development tools that are appropriate for cinematographers.  Tools which as they go forward into their own practice have begun to give real results in terms of not only storytelling, but in the students creating their own relevant visual styles.  For them to utilize these tools they need to engage not only in pre-production time, but in story development time – which is a period rarely engaged in at the student level, but is crucial if we want them to become anything other than the takers of pretty pictures.

Tuesday 5 July. Session 3: 10 – 11.15

Personal Creativity and Reflective Practice.  Chair: Steve Brookes

The Other Cinema: Personal Filmmaking and the Reflective Journal

Claire Barwell & Simon Aeppli

University for the Creative Arts: Farnham

The Other Cinema is a unit on the BA Film Production course that challenges students to make a film on their own based on personal experience.

The presentation will include a brief contextual introduction by Claire Barwell and a paper by Simon Aeppli examining the effectiveness of exercises that have been used to instigate the personal exploration of ideas and their translation into work for the screen.  The students are also required to record the process of their project work and to reflect on it in a journal. Examples of the students’ exercises and the journals will be shown in relation to the final projects and their evaluations.

We consider this unit to have enormous value to students who are otherwise engaged in group work on more substantial filmmaking projects. The challenge of working on personal subject matter can be problematic but the further development of their individual work in the third year testifies to the important place this has in developing a filmmaking voice and exploring alternative modes of representation.

Teaching Screenwriting and its Relationship to Practice

Ann Tobin

Northern Film School: Leeds Metropolitan University

My PhD is a practice based research project exploring the relationship between the actual process of developing an original screenplay against the way in which screenwriting is taught.  There are two key elements to my research: the screenplay itself and the development journal in which I attempt to record every single aspect of the creative process.

The journal was intended primarily as something that would provide the evidence for the 30,000 words required to contextualise my PhD screenplay.

Unexpectedly, my development journal has transformed from a record of process into a creative product that is as rewarding and exciting as the product whose creation it is recording.    The journal is becoming an exploration of the process of creativity and now demands my recognition that the actual process of making reveals something of and beyond the product itself; something that is as important – and as creative – as the completed artefact.

In this paper I want to explore both the relationship between the product and the process of its creation and its impact on the way in which I approach the teaching of screenwriting.

Tuesday 5 July. Session 4: 11.45 – 1.00

Creative Practice: Questions of Teaching and Research.  Chair: Joram ten Brink

Teaching And Making Films At The Same Time:

Research? Practice? Theorised Practice? Or none of the above.

Alistair Oldham

University of the West of England

I’ve made two short documentaries in the past two years: The Bristol Bike Project and Bonnington Square. Both have been well received. The Bike Project has shown at over 30 festivals internationally and been translated into nine languages.  Bonnington Square has recently been selected for the London Documentary Festival and the East End Film Festival.

In this paper I would like to explore some of the parameters of making films while working as a full time lecturer. I’d like to ask how practice is perceived within the HE Media Production/Film School environment: to what extent it is assumed and whether it is actively supported. In particular, I would like to use my own experience of these two short productions as a case study of the relationship between practice and pedagogy in the landscape of Higher Education in the Moving Image.

Our subject area – film making – does not seem to fit readily into the established culture of HE research. Research normally demands a question or hypothesis as its starting point but I would argue that this is a very unusual way to start the creative process of making a film. Research expects technological innovation but the best films are not defined by technology, they depend instead on more esoteric qualities of content and narrative treatment. It seems that film making might qualify more readily as research if we write up our findings in the form of publishable outcomes – a situation that suggests that critical reflection supercedes production as it partially discounts the enormous effort involved in the film making process.

Production, the process of film making, is the heartbeat of everything we teach and yet it seems to be mismatched with the privileged patterns of acknowledgement accorded to research.  In conclusion, this paper will contend that a more supportive framework should be proposed for working practice within the HE environment.

Re-Defining Creativity:  New Policy, New Approaches and Implications for Education.

Nigel Mairs and Alex Jukes

Edge Hill University

Not for the first time in history, artists and their function are being re-defined; this time shaped by austerity and governmental economic growth policy. The search to de-mystify, rationalise, and categorise the creative process seems to be a priority of modern British Government policy and for the last decade has been intrinsically linked to economic growth and GDP.

Simultaneously, fuelled by increased tuition fees, we are witnessing a shift in undergraduate animation courses where the focus on creative, individual expression is being undermined by supposed student expectation for ‘training’.

What impact will this have on a national economy that has previously built its strength on innovation, creativity and a uniquely British reflection on life and experience? More importantly how can we as educators respond to this within the HE Animation sector? How do we manage the balance between a training ethos and nurturing personal creativity? Will there be a further division between training and experimental approaches to animation?

This paper aims to open up this debate and identify possible solutions through collaboration between the animation industry and some of the new freedoms afforded to the HE sector.