It may seem dramatic to entitle this blog post ‘Screening a Years Worth of Work’ but it has been the first piece of film, like this, that I have done for so long, and to such an extent. The idea of the ‘Dissertation’ has meant a lot of different things to me over the years, from my childhood perception of its definition, to my applying for it, til now: the eager wait for my marks.As a kid I was absolutely fascinated by the concept of University and, by extension, the concept of the dissertation. Even at my weirdest of messed-up-child days I always loved learning, so the whole idea of it all was so outer-worldly and grown up that it seemed the ultimate goal in my educational journey.
Fast forward to the moment I applied for it, after experiencing University in all it’s crazy-but-wonderfully-different-to-what-you-expected ways and while still excited, it was hugely scary as well. The fantasy feeling that still, admittedly, existed was brought slightly into reality by the horrific knowledge that it would make up a large part of my degree and quite substantially effect my grade.
Spending a year, alongside the usual University work, procrastination and nights of drinking, working on a research project in the form of a film and 5000 word essay was an odd experience. I first had to get used to writing and researching a topic that I was the only one writing on… and would be for the entire year, and so I had to get used to being a little lonely. It was, at many times, very lonely, but it teaches you a lot about studying, and how to self-motivate, and when it comes down to it, as long as you’ve picked an interesting topic, you’re still being given the chance to just look into something you’re passionate about. It was fun, it was enlightening and it was exhausting. TRULY exhausting.
I feel like this is one of those things that everyone should be aware of at the beginning, even though it may seem like it’s pretty obvious, a dissertation project can be inexplicably tiring and draining. As much as effort is a good thing, I think it’s also important to make sure at certain times there’s enough of a moderation between work and me-time, chilling.
Then comes the production of the film itself. I have a notably differing relationship to film, it is my major (don’t care if its just an american term, I’m saying it!) but dependent on crew and story, production can be a pain in the rear end. I cannot express how much easier this dissertation has been with a good crew. It was sort of one of those things that once we’d had the Skype auditions, and organised all the crew and finally got onto set, nothing felt like work. The cast and crew we’d been fortunate to gather, primarily made up of friends meant that I’d come onto set excited and ready to start. Again don’t get me wrong quite a lot of my experiences on the films I’ve worked on, all of which were student films, have been good, its such a social atmosphere, but when things go wrong if people aren’t ready to work it’s horrific. Sometimes it’s the simplest of things that can tip a production over the edge or the opposite.
Production was only three days, the film is 22 minutes. That’s not bad. It was a tight ship, and the we managed to get all shots we had planned for those three days done, and to the quality we wanted. It wasn’t all fairy tales and fantasies, obviously there were some difficulties, some unco-operative weather elements, and little random problems but, all-in-all, it was…not easy… but more simple than first expected. Post production… not so much. Which is of course how it all goes, something has to go wrong in the process in order for the balance to be restored. Even then it wasn’t a particular dramatic problem, there were just lots of fiddly bits that had to be worked out in order for the film to be at a better quality than it was at the start. Really, I just needed some time out on it. When I came back it became easier again.
Then came the nerve-racking bit, the screening. I had, as much as I could, been keeping the film relatively secretive. I showed some people to get a different opinion on it, but I tried not to show too many people so that people had less expectations for the screening, and so that the editing wasn’t too confusing with too many opinions. So when Thursday 12th May 2016 came around and it was time to screen my film, along with other student films, in a room full of friends, crew, teachers and other students, I was substantially bricking it. It went down well. It was a huge relief to finally screen it and get genuine feedback from peers, to see that they enjoyed it, and to also take on their honest criticisms. There’s something truly gratifying to be sitting in a room listening to people reacting the way you want them to, to hear their laughter at jokes or humour you were unsure of. It was also incredibly surreal to be sitting there and watching a project that I feel I have only just started, and realising that I had been working on it for a year and now it’s done. That, bar one exam, my Bachelor of Arts in Film and Creative Writing is over.
Bizarre and exciting, but best of all, there’s just that uncertain and yet thrilling thought that I have no idea what will have happen in the next year. I have no idea what things will occur, what people I will know, if I will have made more films, or if I will be closer to a stable life in my dream career. Either way Uni has made me learn to find excitement in uncertainty.