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BFI Film Academy 7: Michael Jarkowski

Michael Jarkowski is one of the participants on our seventh BFI Film Academy (2018). Having almost completed the academy, we asked him about his experience on the course…

I applied to join the BFI Film Academy at HOME because I was interested in working in the film industry and the course looked like a fantastic opportunity to learn many beneficial skills and gain experience. After watching the short film produced the previous year, I knew that it would be something I would love to participate in and meet others who have similar interests to myself. Over the past few months in the academy, I have massively expanded my knowledge surrounding filmmaking and film theory. During our weekly film history lessons, I have loved learning about the beginnings of film, as well as the movements and people that have had a significant influence on cinema. In addition, we have had fascinating talks from the BBFC about film classification and film exhibition from the Artistic Director of Film at HOME. In our short film development sessions it has been great to utilise our creativity to create stories and screenplays for our film. As a group we definitely found some roadblocks on the way to creating our screenplay, unable to settle on an idea. However, after lots of thoughts and suggestions, we pushed forward and developed a story that everyone could get behind.

At the beginning of our shoot week we were taught how to use various pieces of equipment including lighting, camera and sound. Therefore, when I arrived at the shoot I was familiar with and prepared to use the equipment. The first role I had was with the clapper board which is used so editors can identify scenes and synchronise the sound with the footage. I enjoyed this role because it was an important part of the setup despite the awkward positions I had to get into when placing the clapperboard in front of the camera. Not soon after I switched roles to the camera department and operated the camera itself. I enjoyed filming these scenes because we communicated well as a team making the process enjoyable and creating some great footage. After lunch, we moved our equipment outside onto streets surrounding HOME. My role changed to an assistant director which was quite difficult at first considering half of our crew were on the opposite side of a busy road. After filming our actor across the street we moved to film some more intimate shots using a handheld camera that required a lot of support from the crew. Despite the cold weather and rain we persevered and moved to our final location for filming. My last role of the day was shot logging where I noted down the type of shot that had been used for each piece of footage and importantly recommending whether it should be used in the film. Although communication between everyone began to slow down we managed to get everything that we needed and wrapped after a hard day of work.

On the second day of the shoot we moved ourselves and the equipment to an office space to begin filming. My role for the day was in the lighting department, one which I was surprised to like. The lighting predominately came from natural sunlight so I provided fill lights which added more depth to characters. I enjoyed adding gels to the fill lights so that the right balance for the shot could be found, discovering what an impact a small change in lighting can make. Artificial lighting was most prominent during the close-up shots in the first half of the day, so for the second half my focus was on being an extra in the film. The role of an extra might seem simple but it does require a lot of concentration and energy, as well as collaboration with the director. The second day went at a slower pace but the impressive dance sequences were worth the time. In retrospect, I really enjoyed the shoot days as it was great to experience being on a film set and find out which role I gravitate towards most.

The past few months have been fantastic since I have been able to learn about and work in something I love. Previously, I haven’t had the confidence to make my own films but now I feel excited and prepared to do so. After the Academy I intend to apply for other BFI Filmmaking courses and film opportunities, all of which will provide me with more experience and skills to study the subject in higher education. Through the BFI Film Academy I have been able to gain a beneficial filmmaking and life experience, which I hope will help me enter the film industry in the future.