Wednesday, 22 October 2014

BIME a Bullet to Bite on: Videography, Volunteering, Making Mistakes and Maintaining Momentum

There are countless 'aspiring filmmakers' out there and that's all they are - aspirers. Dreamers who never actually do any filmmaking. They watch films, they talk about making their own, but that's it.

However, I do understand because I have been guilty of this myself. While I was flattered that my filmmaking tutor encouraged me to continue filmmaking, if I am being honest, I should not have waited for someone else to tell me that I should be a filmmaker, because I waited an awful long time to be given that 'permission'.

I have already wasted years of my life in which I could have been filmmaking, opposed to film-dreaming, but it's never too late to start and/or get back into the habit of doing it, which is exactly what happened to me, as I exited my penultimate year of university and headed into my summer break of videography, volunteering, making mistakes and maintaining momentum...

A screencast overview of this post (4:14).

This post has an emphasis on:

  • motivating yourself to get out of your comfort zone in order to start making films (or whatever it is you really want to do).
  • providing my freelance videography experiences as testimony of pushing and challenging yourself, regardless of the cost.
  • reconfiguring failure into a positive incentive. 
  • dealing with doubt and just getting on with something anyway.
  • getting over perfection and just delivering regardless.
  • learning from your mistakes while discussing what I have learned from mine.
  • the importance of consistent filmmaking practice and maintaining momentum, as demonstrated by the filmmaking practice I have conducted over the past couple of years.

Filmmaking outside of the box greatly nourished my overall skillset and this is why I have presented my good and bad experiences of being the videographer for the Bath Institute of Medical Engineering, as testimony to encourage other filmmakers/videographers who are starting out to exercise themselves likewise - be a film-doer, not just a film-dreamer!

In many ways the summer of 2012 proved to be a hugely significant period in my life and key among the occurrences of that summer was the further development of my videography skills. I have already discussed the filmmaking practice of my academic studies in a number of posts, so here I will focus on a period where I developed my videography practice independant to my BA (Hons) degree. 

In this post and three additional posts I reflect upon the four months - sandwiched between the penultimate and final year of my BA (Hons) studies - that I volunteered my filmmaking skills to the Bath Institute of Medical Engineering a.k.a. BIME (pronounced "buy me") and the four videos I produced to help promote their cause.

Filmmaking outside of my comfort zone: Just Getting on with It at the Bath Institute of Medical Engineering

After completing my penultimate year of university in which there had been a very strong focus on filmmaking, I decided that, if I wanted to experience ongoing success, I needed to keep in shape: 

"Ultimately, after I had finished the module and received my monumental marks and feedback, I found myself with a new incentive to revitalise my filmmaking focus and to start taking my potential a little more seriously." 

Basically, if I did not do any filmmaking throughout the summer months, I knew my skills would become stale and would remain underdeveloped by the time I started my final year. I wanted to get ahead of the game so as to make the absolute most out of my final year. 

There are countless 'aspiring filmmakers' out there and that's all they are - aspirers. Dreamers who never actually do any filmmaking. They watch films, they talk about making their own, but that's it. The actual process of filmmaking is always something that gets swept very sheepishly under the carpet. The majority of aspiring filmmakers are very good at sabotaging their potential.

However, I do understand because I have been guilty of this myself. 

Just giving up and lounging around all day doesn't half make you miserable and it will turn you into an absolute misery guts to be around! From 2009 - my year of largely nothing. 

While I was flattered that my filmmaking tutor encouraged me to continue filmmaking, if I am being honest, I should not have waited for someone else to tell me that I should be a filmmaker, because I waited an awful long time to be given that 'permission'.

I have already wasted years of my life in which I could have been filmmaking, opposed to film-dreaming, but it's never too late to start and/or get back into the habit of doing it, which is exactly what happened to me, as I exited my penultimate year and headed into my summer break of videography, volunteering, making mistakes and maintaining momentum.

I took my filmmaking tutor's advice and did some more filmmaking. I did not have a film idea that was ready to go, so I got busy with being a freelance videographer. 

Get busy filmmaking or get busy dying. 

Any kind of filmmaking, it does not matter. 

Actually conducting the making of films or video content was the only way my skillset was going to be developed, opposed to wasting away in the clouds.

It's a hard climb, but nobody else is going to do it for you, so just do it!

Reaching the summit of Round Hill, Bath, that hill sat between my house and the university. An hour long walk, there and back. I never had enough money to get the bus to and from university during the holidays, so (unless I had a working bike) I walked. Over 4 years, I walked a great deal of those walks! Everyday when I was editing the BIME videos, I would have to walk from my house into university and back again. 

Fortunately, I do actually like walking, plug in some headphones and listen to some podcasts or audio plays - lovely jubbly (and the views were great), but I know a lot of people who would not even bother. 

In my mind it was simple: I could stay at home and watch some films or actually go into university and make my own ones - there's no competition. Photo: Day 111 of my 366 Project 2012.

While laziness is a major detriment, lack of self-esteem, fear-limited vision and the perfection plague are the primary reasons the world possesses so many aspiring filmmakers. In fact, these are the primary reasons why the world possess so much unfulfilled potential in any field of human endeavour!

You will only develop yourself by exercising yourself, making mistakes, learning from those mistakes, adjusting your approach and then exercising yourself some more. That's it. I'm sorry if that does not sound appealing to you, but that is the only way talent is developed and, guess what, the more you do it, the more you become accustomed to it and the more you will learn to take failures in your stride.

When you have developed the aptitude to embrace failures positively and integrate their teaching into your next approach, you will realise that NOTHING is perfect and never will be, so stop trying to make it so.

Filmmaking is a hugely messy process, there is nothing perfect about it.

One Door Opened, the submission film I helped make as part of my penultimate year filmmaking module. The making of this film and the end product were far from perfect, so much so that we had to film some pick-up shots during postproduction to insure that we made the logic of the story visually apparent. Do not even get me started on those little DV tapes - they are all kinds of imperfect! Photo: Day 103 of my 366 Project 2012.

That film idea jangling around inside your head will NEVER be perfect, no matter how long you spend thinking about it. Get it out of your head, put it down onto paper and start developing it into something you can actually make happen in the real world. 

Additionally, if you do not have any ideas and are expecting the perfect idea to jump into your head at the perfect time. Stop right now. Get a pen, a pad of paper and start  getting into the habit of generating ideas on paper.

"This is a powerful belief in beginning film students, who assume that professional film equipment will make a professional-level film" from Directing the Documentary by Michael Rabiger, the book is big, but really is worth its weight in gold! 

Lack of 'professional equipment' is not an excuse; a smartphone can be used to make a short film and basic consumer filming products are cheaper and more accessible now than they have ever been, you can upgrade later. Photo: Day 217 of my 366 Project 2012.

As I did, maybe you want to develop your technical and organisational skills a bit more before you embark on your 'masterwork'. Fair enough -  you can still keep developing your ideas while you go out and exercise your skillset in an area that is completely outside your comfort zone. 

You won't be perfect, but you'll become proficient, and that's good enough - that will elevate you from being an 'aspirer' to being a 'doer' and, ultimately, a strong self-esteem will naturally grow out of all of this exertion.

Film-dreamers specialise in making excuses.

Filmmakers specialise in making films. 

Setting the lighting levels for one of the shots in One Door Opened. Even though this film ended up being a really terrible mess, my taste for filmmaking was completely revitalised as a result of being involved in the making of it.

"Sometimes the first way you tell a story isn’t always the best way; sometimes you have to go back and retell it a different way. This understanding of how the filmmaking process evolves a story is something which builds greatly on the knowledge I have already gained from the other parts of my degree, Creative Writing with Film and Screen Studies; as well as my previous filmmaking experiences. Therefore, I believe that the module has contributed greatly to my skills as a storyteller, both in script form and in visual form. Skills that I plan to put to good use!" 
- from the conclusion of my final reflection on my filmmaking module

Going into the summer, I was set on the idea of filmmaking being a major component of my final year. I had already signed up to the Short Form Documentary Making module and planned to do some form of short film as part of the Creative Enterprise Project module - so I wanted to prepare as best I could for both of those pursuits. No excuses!

Designability - the Bath Institute of Medical Engineering, or BIME (as it was formerly known), is a charity that specialises in researching and building life-assisting technologies to improve the quality of living for as many people as possible.

"We conduct original research and develop commercial products that meet real needs. 
We advocate better technology for everyone. And believe inclusive design is the only way forward. So we work with end-users, carers and health professionals to help us understand the problem, find a solution and test it in real life situations. 
We create great looking, easy-to-use designs that go beyond basic functionality. And we partner with industry to help as many people as we can – we’ve transformed over 250,000 lives in the last 46 years." 

You can find out much more on Designability's website and you can even make a donation towards their cause.

Designability/BIME is based at the Royal United Hospital in Bath. Photo: Day 171 of my 366 Project 2012.

The position with BIME came about almost completely by chance. I was searching for a part-time job on one of the job listing websites and under the media category (the ghost town category), I could not believe it, there was a position advertised - a volunteer video producer position.

The Video Producer role was exactly what it said on the tin:  producing videos about BIME, its mission, its history and its products.

I was invited in the following week for an interview in which BIME basically said they did not have a clue about video production and that this was a very new thing for them (it was all part of a larger rebranding plan, hence why BIME is now called Designability).

Ultimately, my reply was much the same: while I did know how to make an engaging video, producing videos for a client from predetermined briefs was a completely new experience for me. However, I assured BIME that this should not worry them, because I was very actively using this summer and its opportunities to develop my filmmaking skillset.

Furthermore, I reminded them that:

  • I lived in Bath full-time, so they did not have to worry about me suddenly disappearing in the summer.
  • I held some of the highest marks of my year's filmmaking module and had been endorsed by my tutors.
  • I had access to the university's equipment (a great resource to exploit).
  • I was looking for a position in which I would actually benefit flesh and blood 'people', opposed to some faceless corporation.

Admittedly, a bit of an income would have been a benefit that summer, but I decided to devote the whole summer break to developing my filmmaking. I knew that while I might not immediately experience the benefits, the knowledge gained from the BIME position would reap its rewards further down the line.

Sometimes you just have to bite the bullet and starve!

It's not official, until you put it on facebook. Photo: Day 183 of my 366 Project 2012.

I was with BIME from 24th June to 25th October 2012 and, through good and bad, my skillset flourished while I was operating outside of my comfort zone.

I discuss this overall process and the ups-and-downs of the four videos I produced in the following three blog posts and then I conclude this current post shortly after these outlines...

The First Two BIME Videos: Wizzybug @ the Bath Pageant of Motoring

In which I discuss all of the scathing mistakes I made while producing the first videos and, ultimately, how that experience has gone on to greatly benefit my overall filmmaking practice. 

This post has an emphasis on:

  • how to go about finding your observant eye and working with uncertainty.
  • advice for making yourself and your filming subjects feel comfortable. 
  • being vigilant with your time management.
  • using the right equipment.
  • not cutting corners.

A screencast overview of The First Two BIME Videos blog post (3:38).

Find out more

The Third BIME Video: The Nightlight Tray

In which I discuss how I took all the knowledge and frustration I had accumulated from the many mistakes in the first two videos and produced a third video of an exceptionally high quality.

The emphasis of this post is on:

  • lighting.
  • the importance of lighting.
  • the relative ease of implementing a lighting configuration.

Additionally, the posts offers solid endorsement for:

  • implementing effective time management.
  • planning and visualising a blueprint for a video in advance.
  • being clear on what your videographer terms are from the start.

A screencast overview of The Third BIME Video blog post (4:13).

The Fourth and Final BIME Video: A Profile of the Institute

In which I reflect upon my decision to move on from BIME and instead focus on the concerns of my final year of undergraduate university. Additionally, I detail the filming and interviewing I did for the final video and briefly touch on my transition from standard/low definition into using high definition.

The emphasis of this post is on:

  • effective interviewing techniques and advice, as illustrated by what I did.
  • decision making.
  • forecasting a schedule in regards to deciding upon your obligations.
  • investing in what really interests you.
  • investing in digital high definition.

A screencast overview of The Fourth and Final BIME Video blog post (3:02).

Filmmaking my uncomfortable comfort zone: a testimony of momentum's importance

Developing your skillset is one thing, but not stopping and consistently developing your skillset - that is equally important. 

I have already touched on the fact that the reason I volunteered as a videographer throughout the summer of 2012 was so that I would not fall into a rut during the summer break and then have to claw my way back to normality in the first couple of months of my final year

Imagine how much time and opportunity that would have wasted? 

I did not stop after completing my penultimate year, I kept going, kept working right into the beginning of my final year and because of this - getting started on my final year was not even an issue.

My momentum had remained consistent and it had become fully pumped as a result of working my way through the summer.

I really got into the swing of timetabling and exercising effective time management in my final year; precisely because I had got into the habit of doing it throughout the summer. That Wednesday was a good day! Photo: Day 304 of my 366 Project 2012.

This is the point - I did not actually start my final year, I just carried on doing what I had been doing throughout the whole of 2012.

That's the secret.

Consistently stick with doing what you are passionate about and that passion will take over; the rest of your world will fall into a system of support and your passion will become the primary focus of your life.

If you give up, it's gone.

If you live what you love, maintaining momentum becomes as easy as breathing...

Filming and photographing at Freshers Fair 2012. Project duration: October, 2012.

Helping Tom (co-creator of Fencing), film his Violence in Bath documentary project. Project duration: November, 2012. Photo: Day 324 of my 366 Project 2012.

Doing some more freelance filming at a number of events for SpaLife, my university's student media network. Project duration: January to April, 2013.

Remember This, the short film practical dissertation of my peer Matt Coot, a short film I also co-produced and exercised many of the organisational and administration skills I nurtured throughout the summer of 2012. Project duration: October, 2012 to May, 2013

Fencing, a final year documentary project about, well... Project duration: October, 2012 to April, 2013.

Filming A Machine to Listen to the Sky, the final year creative project of my peer Dan Tapper. It was an amazing inventive project and an absolutely brilliant filming subject. Project duration: July, 2013. 

EYES - my web series concept proposal practical dissertation. There is additional footage from this project that has yet to see the light of day. During my final year of university, I had an iPad Mini so I  was constantly filming left, right and centre (and I still am). Project duration: September, 2012 - September, 2013.

After EYES I took a break from filmmaking to focus on developing my writing aptitude and my blogs (and to do a lot of research). Project duration: October, 2013 - present. 

I even wrote an accidental book, I RUN NO MORE, a book that is all about finding your focus and how I found mine. There was nothing perfect about this one, I just went with the flow and wrote a huge mess. One day I may even go back, polish it up and do something with it. Project duration: February, 2014 - April, 2014. 

For the time being, I am working on my second book which has a very definite end game planned. Project duration: September, 2014 - present.

However, the filmmaking itch became too much and after nearly a whole year of being out of action, I spent the summer of 2014 filming a new documentary project on a digital SLR, which was completely outside my comfort zone. 

You can not really tell from the image above, but we filmed some of it on Round Hill, Bath. I mentioned this earlier in this post as the hill I had to climb over when walking into university. Every time I climbed over it, I used to always think, "this would make a great filming location," but I could never think up a good enough use for it, until now. 

That hill and that grass is integral to the message of the project! Project duration: May, 2014 to present.

There is another documentary idea I have developing with a projected filming start date of January/February, 2015 and I have also been developing a web series project since I first hit upon the idea in my final year of university, I am looking to film some of that in 2015 as well. 

While it does serve it's own purpose, the documentary project I filmed during the summer of 2014 has also served as a practice run for my other planned projects. 

Momentum is made up tiny pieces hammered out day-after-day, year-after-year, project-after-project. Fancy a piece?

There's a reason I have been increasingly exploring and presenting my prior filmmaking experience on this blog, I am doing on this blog what I did at BIME during the summer of 2012. I am very intentionally forcing myself to build up my momentum and using that momentum to push me out of my comfort zone.

Life is so very fleeting, so grab it with all of your passion and live it to its absolute fullest potential. It's not always comfortable, but comfort is complacency and that is just boring!

Through good and bad.

Bite the bullet.

Make many mistakes (while making some films).

Embrace your failures. 

And just keep going! 

Why not start by giving yourself a massive head start by getting the full lowdown on all the mistakes and triumphs I experienced as a budding student freelance videographer. 

To hell with maybe, just do it...

The First Two Videos: Wizzybug @ the Bath Pageant of Motoring
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