Film Workshop - Theme : Water


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Nine students spent a week with filmmaker Justin Owen learning the techniques of conceiving, storyboarding, shooting and editing a short film on the theme of water. Their responses varied from a commercial to music videos to a documentary. A lot of time was spent grappling with technical issues such as video captures, sound recording etc and it would have been easy to lose sight of the main idea, but they didn’t. Poppy, in particular stayed on track, producing a documentary style piece using interviews with the general public, asking them how much water does a western person use each day and do we take water for granted? This film leaves the viewer with much to think about.

I think the week highlighted how complex the film process is and, equally importantly, raised awareness of international water issues during the early research and discussion sessions.

Brian Neesam

Should you have taken a pleasant early morning stroll around Lyme Regis, as dawn was breaking on Thursday 19th June, you would have come across a rather peculiar scene. Four young 6 form students silhouetted against the sun’s initial rays. You may have asked yourself, "What are these young hoodlums up to at three in the morning on a school night, in our pleasant seaside town, and what do their parents think?" Had this been the case, I would have swiftly reassured you that in fact, this group of teenagers were not leading a life of debauchery, nor reeking havoc on the unsuspecting townspeople of Lyme Regis as so often accused of in the press, (we save that for the weekend!) but were in actuality working very hard on a school project alongside an artist in residence, local film maker and director Justin Owen.

From the 16th to the 20th June, a group of 9 students from the Lower Sixth Art and Photography classes embarked on a week of tuition from Justin, after having to "bid" for their places, demonstrating the dedication to the project and illustrating their ideas to the rest of the group. The week started with the group being shown some of Justin's previous work, opening our eyes to New Orleans and Marrakesh, along with the dangers of filming from helicopters over electricity pylons. The first two days saw the group getting to grips with the expensive equipment kindly borrowed from Justin for the week, and some of the basic shots with advice on how to keep the audience interested in our films visually.

We also used these two days to explore and expand on our ideas for the final film based on the theme of water. The group seemed daunted by this subject for a while, perhaps because there are so many different paths to follow within this title. However once the technical side had been tackled, the group had a better understanding of their limitations and possibilities, beginning to storyboard shots and plan shoots on location.

By Thursday, many plans had been scuppered by bad weather and tide times misinterpreted (or misread!); however this may have been a good character building experience as it taught us to think on our feet under the stress of a deadline and plan according to unexpected situations. The process of editing began for most on Thursday, three of the group fatigued but undeterred by their dawn break escapades. Two entered the Digital Arts Suite on Friday morning claiming that sleep had not been on their agendas the night before as they had prioritised editing their films. These two impressive night time feats demonstrate the determination, motivation and

Slight madness brought on by the film making process.

Justin began Friday morning with an informative and entertaining talk to the whole year group about his career in the film industry, giving advice to any aspiring young filmmakers. Later in the day, the Digital Arts Suite was rife with discussion between groups of two or three, deciding where to place this shot and that sound effect, everyone beavering away with the desire to have a film to show at the end of the day which they could be proud of. In the end, none of the groups managed to completely finish their films, possibly as the time it takes to edit in particular was hugely underestimated, however most felt that only two or three more hours was needed to create a final, polished, inspiring film which they would be happy to show to the public.

Mrs Wood was extremely impressed with the works in progress, announcing that she was setting a deadline of the forthcoming Water exhibition at the Town Mill Gallery on the 15th of July. She was also surprised by the diversity of the films, in terms of subject matter and style, as we had all taken the theme in totally different directions.

The main feeling from the group was that they had found the week enjoyable but challenging, proud with what they had achieved so far and eager to complete the work. They are also very appreciative of the time and expertise offered from Justin Owen and Brian Neesam throughout the week.

Tamsin Cook

Before I pledged to take this week out, I was slightly anxious about the accumulating work load that would be likely to pile up from my other subjects, as it does in the sixth form at A2-level. After considering how useful this week could be however, in terms of working with an experienced film maker, Justin Owen, having the time to really commit to a project, and gaining countless skills and experience in film making, I decided to take the plunge. I’m so glad I did.

As a Photography student, I have already learnt much in the world of lens based media, using a digital camera and Photoshop to produce still images. This was definitely an advantage, as I had a certain degree of confidence beforehand in the technological side of editing images.

During the week there were nine of us who took part in filming and editing of short 3-5 minute movies that followed the theme of ‘water’. Before diving straight into making our own movies though, the first day was spent being taught about filming by Justin Owen, practising basic techniques, and just in general getting more confident at controlling a camcorder with a tripod.

I thoroughly enjoyed the next four days. With our developing short film ideas, we set out on location around Lyme Regis and further a field to shoot some material. I captured some long stationary shots along the marine parade and on Broad street of people walking, with the aim to speed up these shots to four times their original speed. I also took relatively long stationary shots of water flowing. My constant inspiration for the final short film was from the feature length ‘koyaanisqatsi’

(Life out of balance). The film consists of slow motion and time-lapse photography of cities and natural landscapes across the United States. The juxtaposition of various images in the film emphasises that the world we live in is chaotic, and this general tone is increased by the soundtrack. My idea was to demonstrate how crowds and living was not dissimilar to a slowing river or tides coming and going. I placed sped up crowd movement and water flowing sequences alongside each other, with a number of frames blending into each other-a range of montages.

Apart from gaining skills using a camera and a computer to make movies, I soon learnt that filming is as much about planning. Brainstorming, storyboarding, discussing ideas, and actually getting ideal conditions for filming were very important. Each day we experienced a great variety of weather conditions, from sunny clear skies to wind and rain. Checking the met office proved useful in planning, and much of my filming relied on the weather reports.

It was beneficial also working with other students doing A2 art. Daniel Munro and myself were the only photography students, which is a shame as I think others doing photography would have enjoyed this extremly open, creative and exciting project. It has motivated me to pursue film work further, and I’m presuming my holiday films will from now on be far more ambitious. I also hope to use the skills I have recently acquired throughout my A2 course, and will probably experiment with this further in my free time.

I would definitely recommend jumping at the chance of doing something like this if it’s given to you. I have learnt loads, and feel I am building a foundation in working with moving image, an increasingly powerful media, and perhaps in the modern day the best way to influence other people, in a world where it is so difficult to make change.

Liz Gear

The weeklong film making course taught by filmmaker, Justin Owen, proved to be a hugely inspiring and beneficial experience that managed to introduce me to the extremely exciting and creative industry that was previously a rather alien world to me.

I was really keen to be involved with this unique experience, not only for the opportunity to explore new ways of expressing and portraying creative ideas, but also as a means of facing up to certain aspects of technology that I find particularly daunting; for example, techniques concerning cameras (and related equipment) and, indeed, imacs!

Our task was to produce a short film reflecting the theme of water, doing all processes within this, for example, shooting, sound, music, and editing. We also had to show a committed and disciplined approach towards the making of the film as a means of actually keeping up with the fast schedule; resulting in a 4am start on one occasion!

The skills we have begun to learn are vast and diverse and I feel particularly pleased that I have become more confident with the technical side, using final cut express to edit.

However, the most enjoyable aspect of the process for me was to be out in the atmosphere filming and capturing intense and exciting images/scenes.

The week has left me with a thirst to explore the medium of film further and develop upon the new skills I have begun to learn.

George Finbar Ward

This experience has really opened my eyes to filmmaking, before this week I didn’t spare much thought to the process involved in creating a film, but know I have some valuable insight.

The thing I have found most enjoyable and worthwhile has been the learning of new skills such as the filming, editing and sound recording. I have learnt planning skills; taken part in challenging but very beneficial tasks (Getting up to film at three thirty in the morning!) and I have acquired the ability to express myself in a whole new medium.

I have found Justin’s teaching has been very inspiring, I am glad to have taken part in such an enjoyable workshop.  

Rowan Reddington