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Jan 4, 2015

How teaching film has made me better at what I do

A year ago I was offered a part-time position to teach Film at a local Art&Design college. It came at the perfect time. I was near-broke, was about to start shooting a feature film I didn’t feel I would be able to make, I was anxious, stressed, and losing any sense of hope. When I first started I was out of my comfort zone. I’d not been in a situation where public speaking had been expected since school (a few times at uni, but mostly informal ‘pitch’ scenarios), but by walking in with complete self-confidence (because I really knew what I was talking about) I realised it came quite naturally. After introducing myself, and all I’d accomplished since leaving university (at the time: four feature films, RTS awards, world travel) I had their attention…
After a while I realised I was leaving the college, even more inspired to make my own projects as a result of discussing what I loved most – Film. How it got better was when I realised – what I put in is what I get out, as much as what they do. Occasionally there will be a day where there is less to discuss than others (usually around the mid-term mark where they are stuck in to the work). But when introducing a new topic, filmic element, or inspiring the formulation of new ideas, that’s when we’re at our best. There’s freedom to explore. And every now and then, a student will surprise you with something really great!
This academic year I was offered more hours, more year groups, covering broader topics (interactive media / design / radio). Again it was a challenge, but I realised they all fed in to what I knew best – Film. Radio = Sound. A huge, often-overlooked part of a Film. What they learnt in Radio could be used when later making films (and so on). My work got better, not just because I was more focused and had a (flexible) routine, but because I started to break down the elements of what I was creating more. When teaching the subject it obviously fractures, and you offer the information in bitesize chunks. Film > Pre / Production / Post > Theme / Character / Narrative (you get the idea). As a result I’ve become more analytical of what I’m writing. In the past when I wrote, I simply wrote – it got messy. This time I’ve done that at the earlier stages when forming ideas, but approached the process in a more organised fashion. I wrote and stuck index cards (see: Alexander Mackendrick – On Filmmaking) on my bedroom wall to pick apart weaker parts of the structure, where I needed to adjust pacing, what was unnecessary, etc. When teaching lighting, it influenced how I shot our Web Series ‘THIS IS GOOD’ because I was thinking differently. When editing ‘TIME AND PLACE’ I’d constantly be judging my work as if I was assessing someone else’s work – can this be better / how can it be improved? And now I’m teaching writing, whilst writing my fourth draft of our next feature film (to be shot in the Summer)…
Tomorrow I start back with renewed vigour, and a desire to give the best experience imaginable. Although I get a great deal from teaching on the course, it’s what I can give, and what they can learn from it, that is most important. And with more, better quality, work under my belt since I first started, there’s more to teach, and more, better quality, projects to create, as a result.

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