Lights Film School Student Interview
Hello Marty. Congratulations on the productions you’ve worked on recently. You’ve had your hands in commercials, music videos and documentaries all within the course of 1 year. At this point in your career your focus is fairly broad. Do you plan on narrowing down your area of interest or are you happy to adapt your skills wherever they are needed most?
I wanted to get involved in as many productions as possible this year to show how flexible I can be and to also refine my skills as a filmmaker. My ultimate goal one day is to become a successful British filmmaker in narrative film. I have a passion for storytelling and clearly evident in most of my work so far. My target is to Direct 3 short films by the end of 2011, which is very ambitious I know!
When did you enroll in Lights Film School and how long has it taken you to work through the course?
I enrolled in the Lights Film School in November 2009 after a long time searching for suitable online film schools. I run a Video Production company in Northern Ireland and leaving that behind to physically attend a film school was not an option for me. This was the perfect choice and one that I do not regret making. It has taken me just over 8 months to complete the course due to other work commitments. The important thing for me was to take my time on the assignments in order for each piece to be a true reflection of what I could do.
What do you feel are the biggest advantages to the Lights Film School program? What has been the biggest highlight of the program for you?
The biggest advantage in following the Lights Films School programme is the fact that there is no deadline for completion. This meant that I could fit the course in and around my work. To have my films positively and constructively reviewed has been a major highlight for me during the program. It is important to get your work out there and into the public domain. It’s a scary process but one which is crucial in order for you to move forward as a filmmaker. Lately, I have witnessed many filmmakers become so defensive about their work once they start receiving constructive criticism. Remember, you are never going to make a film which is adored by everyone.
You recently shot a documentary in Africa. How did you get that job?
The Africa documentary came about through a friend that I knew in the Television Industry. He needed a camera operator with experience in the field and I was his natural port of call. I used to work as a freelance camera operator and editor for his Television Company in Belfast. He was and still is a great mentor to me.
What were some of the biggest technical difficulties shooting within Sudan?
The biggest technical difficulty for me in Sudan was exposure control. We were filming in such extreme colourful, bright and contrasting environments. I have always been trained to shoot video manually and I had to be quick to adjust the Iris control on the camera. Although, technically difficult at first, I soon became confident and I returned to the UK a much more skilled camera operator.
Is video activism something you’d be interested in exploring in the future?
I always like to keep my options open and if it is the right story to tell then I would commit myself to the project.
You’ve recently shot a music video on the Canon 5D Mark II. Can you tell us a bit about that experience? How long did it take you to plan / shoot / edit?
It was about 2 years ago when I was sat in my office drooling over 35mm adapters for my main camera. I was also contemplating applying for a loan to buy the gear when my good friend, Rick Trainor from Red Sky Photography brought his new DSLR camera round to show me. It was the Canon 5D Mark II and I had no knowledge of what the camera could do. Rick showed me a video that Vincent Laforet had done for Canon called ‘Reverie’. I, like many, was totally blown away by the ‘film like’ quality and knew that this was the start of something exciting. I had always wanted to Direct a Music Video and I was contacted by a local rock band who liked my previous short film work. They had a rough storyline but I took the idea away and wrote up the ‘Face The Future’ script over a weekend. In my initial meeting with the band, I produced the script and a list of props that was required. This was a big production but the band was extremely keen to get all the bases covered before shooting began. Most of the scenes were either shot outside in the dark or inside dimly lit rooms. It was then that we started to become more impressed with the Canon 5D Mark II and its low light capabilities. A lot of my friends helped me out on the production and I couldn’t have done it without them. We filmed over 3 days, in the rain for most of the shoot, keeping up motivation in the crew and cast was so important for me as well as Directing the Music Video at the same time. I love editing, just as much as I love Directing and I am very protective during the post production phases of my work. I like to tell a story through colour and I take a lot of time and effort in my colour grading. As a result, the final edit of the Music Video took me about 2 weeks to finish. I know that in the future and on large productions, I’m going to have to sit on the shoulder of the editor which I am happy to do so, I’m just not ready to let it go yet!
You’ve used very high design in the “Good Girl” music video. Was experimenting with elaborate design something you planned or was it the decision of the musicians? Did you need to do a lot of the set design yourself or were the environments “design friendly”?
When the girl band ‘Voodoo’ approached me with an idea that they had for a video, I was keen to take it away and develop the story further. We only had one day to shoot the ‘Good Girl’ Music Video, so pre production had to be squared away. The band had strong connections with the club scene in Belfast so responsibility was given to them in finding potential locations for the shoot. After a location recce, two locations were chosen that were perfect and covered most of the scenes. We did no set design which was an added bonus too!
You’ve incorporated a lot of strong compositions in your music video. Did you storyboard for this video?
Although I have an A Level Qualification in Art and Design, I still find storyboarding a difficult task to undertake as a Director. When writing or reading a script, I can see every scene in my head and know how it is going to be shot, even down to the slightest detail. I am very fortunate to have a Camera Operator and Director of Photography who can transfer my thoughts and produce the results for me on every occasion. We have a strong friendship and partnership which has been crucial during this filmmaking process. I do see the true value of storyboarding and I will be on the hunt soon for a local illustrator to join the production team.
Can you give us a little insight into what your next project will be?
Rick Trainor and I are currently in the middle of an extreme sports shoot based in Northern Ireland. The project is profiling gifted, local extreme sports athletes whose ambitions are an inspiration to young people and sports enthusiasts alike. The main aim of this project is to gain a little exposure for recognising the individual efforts and talents of the few selected athletes whilst providing them with video/photography for future sponsorship and also raising their status in the local community. The disciplines we are covering are: Surfing, Skating, BMX, Downhill MTB, Free Running and Wakeboarding. It has been a challenging project but we are happy with the shots collected so far. We should have the project finished in a few months and will be online via the website and the Lights Film School Blog. Watch this space!
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