Of all the studios I’ve done so far, Translating Observation has actually been the most similar to what I had pictured doing in this degree back when I applied. I applied for the degree because I wanted to learn practical skills and apply them in a creative environment. This studio has provided a host of useful practical film making skills, and allowed us to apply them to creative ideas of our own making. I enjoyed the process of translating my observations into film ideas and I feel that I have learned a lot from it. The final product that my group and I created is a realisation of these skills and ideas, and I’m proud of the outcome.
I’ve learned a lot of things in this studio, both practical and conceptual. On the practical side, we were given a ground up explanation of how to use various production equipment including cameras, tripods, sound mixers and lights. I found these explanations extremely valuable because in previous studios we had used cameras such as the Sony EX3 but had not been given the instruction required to get the best out of the camera. Also, working in a group on our final assessment was a rich learning experience in terms of effective collaboration. We learned vital communication and collaboration skills that we will be able to apply to future projects. On the more conceptual side, I was able to hone my skills in observational writing, and I learned to view my observations as potential film ideas. I learnt to extract film ideas from observations that would not have been immediately obvious. The process of ‘translation’ involved in this was key, and is reflected in the final film project I helped create. It is satisfying now to have a finished short film and view it alongside the observation that inspired it.
My experience of this studio was very positive, and I found the way it was taught to be logical, clear and easy to follow. The workload was not small, but not unreasonable. Perhaps what I liked about it the most was the focus on our own personal ideas, and the lack of focus on the ideas, theories and research of others. I’ve found in previous studios that we’re required to research and cite the works of film scholars, which can be valuable but also gets tiresome when you’re really interested in creating something of your own. I liked that this course centred on ideas we create ourselves (observations) and didn’t require us to back up our ideas through copious research. In terms of my own performance, I felt that the design of the studio allowed me to do everything I needed to do by breaking some sweat but not breaking my back. As always, time management was my worst enemy, but I found the work load manageable, and my level of interest was such that I didn’t need to force myself to engage with the course. I surprised myself by enjoying the collaboration aspect of the final assessment, because I have worked alone on the vast majority of my big assessments. In the past I have felt more comfortable working alone because the whole thing is under my control, but surprisingly it was not difficult for me to invite the contributions of others, even though the original idea was mine.
The final product of the studio, the short film called “Merlot with Mates”, is something that I’m happy with when all is said and done. There was a time during the process that I feared that my original idea had been lost in ‘translation’. It was probably when I watched the first rough cut, I started to worry that the substance of the film wasn’t coming across as I’d hoped. I felt that the continuity issues and occasionally jarring line delivery might get in the way of the audience actually getting in touch with the characters and understanding their relationship. My biggest object of anguish was the ending of the film. I was dismayed to find that I didn’t like any of the takes we had of the final shot, so I had to settle for a cut to black on the last line. However, after we started to make some more refined drafts that included music and sound effects, I realised that the issues I had been so concerned about were not as prominent as I’d thought. From my own experience of watching the film, I like to think that the idea I came up with in the original observation does come across. I wanted to convey the concept of coming of age, and encountering the new and interesting possibilities of adulthood. I believe that the film achieves this, if not as smooth and seamlessly as I’d hoped. If the criterion for this studio was to successfully translate an observation into film form, then I view our film as a success. The film itself isn’t Scorsese, but i do believe that it achieves what we set out to do, and I’m proud of that.
Overall, I’m satisfied with my work in this studio, and of the work of my group. I have gained and honed a number of useful skills for future projects, and would recommend this studio to others for that reason alone. On top of that, the studio encouraged us to nurture our ideas and create something from them, which I enjoyed immensely.