I have been working in television for over ten years and I’ve never made my own film – that is, until last week. I just came back from Ottawa where I participated in the first ever videojournalism course at SIFT (the Summer Institute of Film and Television), put on by the Canadian Screen Training Centre, and taught by veteran CBC videojournalist Saša Petricic.
Our assignment was modest but useful – how to tell a story in ten static shots. We were allowed to take 20-30 shots but had to chose ten that told the story best. I like my film, although as Saša pointed out, it lacks shot sequences – something I wanted to do, but the story wooed me over… instead of cutting the story down, I sacrificed shot variation. That’s not always going to be the best choice. I apologize for the clunky editing (and shaky camera work and loud sound) – it is much easier to direct an editor! However I am happy to be learning the editing process. Mostly though, I am happy to be making films.
Since this was my first time attending SIFT, I can only speak to the course I took, but I can honestly say that it was the single most important training and learning I have ever recieved. I grew more in five days both personally and professionally than I ever have. Saša was incredibly generous and forthcoming and his talent and creativity inspired us all. My fellow classmates contributions to our discussions about shooting, editing, interviewing, and the craft of documentary film-making were invaluable.
I admire the way that Saša aseembled the course from beginning to end. He provided detailed deconstruction of his news docs, provided different approaches through guest speakers (“Iraq in Fragments” directory James Longley spoke to us from Iran, and “Prom Night in Mississipi” director Paul Saltzman visited us in person), encouraged participation with our projects, and always allowed room for a free-flow of discussion. I don’t think any training could have been more appropriate for me at this particular time in my life.
If you are interested in learning more about SIFT, the program offers training in all kinds of television and film disciplines. The program is suffering from funding cuts, so I do hope it remains alive. (Click here for more on SIFT)