BFI Film Academy 7: Victor James

Victor James is one of the participants on our seventh BFI Film Academy (2018). Having almost completed the project, we asked Victor how he found the shoot for their short film…

When I found out about the BFI Academy from my film teacher and the opportunity to produce a film I instantly applied. My career goal is to become a film director/filmmaker and I believe starting early would increase my chances of reaching this goal. So I applied and was shocked and excited to find out that I was one of the people to have got a place out of 66 people. The first session we had was film theory which I am very interested in since I am studying film in college and enjoy films in general. As well as making a film we were taught the process of actually producing the film which I very much enjoyed because the sessions were practical so it was easy to learn and I could use the skills I learnt to improve the short films I’ll make in the future.

Shoot Day 1:

The day started with everyone receiving their roles, I was the boom operator. Bart (sound designer) recapped how to use the sound mixer and then told me what I had to do to get the most efficient sound. I then talked to the director and cinematographer about the frame and shot type they wanted so that I knew where to place the boom so  that I could be as close as I could to the actors without getting into the shot.

After finishing the first scene we got lunch and moved outside to where we would be capturing our actor street-dancing. I was the runner for this and to be completely honest I found this role to not be for me as I am more of a creative person. I wanted to help contribute ideas to the dance scene but I couldn’t because I was doing minor jobs like holding an umbrella over the monitor screen so that it didn’t get wet since it was raining.

For the last scene of the day, I got to direct and I really enjoyed it. Out of all the roles I did, directing was my favourite. Although I was nervous to be the person making the decisions, I also felt good knowing that I got to make a big contribution to the short film in the way that I wanted to. Directing made me aware of the things I needed to improve on. Communicating was the biggest one as I didn’t feel like my ideas had been fully fulfilled at times due to my communication skills. John and Judith helped me throughout.

Shoot Day 2:

This was the last film shoot for the short film and we shot it in an office space on Deansgate. I was the boom operator for the majority of the day. On the previous day, the sound was split between me and another person; I operated the boom while they worked with the sound mixer. But on day two I had to do both. Bart had already taught me what to do beforehand so I didn’t take long to get the hang of it. I communicated with the director to see what would be happening with the actors so that I knew whether to follow them or stay stationary.

Since the roles were different from the previous day, someone else was the director. They made me realise my flaws that I need to improve on such as being more affirmative, communicating with everyone and also being capable of voicing my opinions when I don’t agree with a suggestion or a take. Additionally, the office space and Judith also made me realise that there were limitations that were against me when I had been directing. First of all, we were filming outside in the rain and the cold so it made communicating with everyone hard and since it was the last scene, I was working against the clock so I had to rush. I also hadn’t known I would be directing that day so I didn’t have a plan for how I wanted the scene to go.

I found working on the film shoot to be an eye-opening experience as it has given me insight into how to professionally make a film and has also given me the foundations for which I can build upon when making my own films. Directing was my favourite part; I loved being able to see the idea I had envisioned come to life in the form of a scene. The shoot has increased my self-confidence and  taught me that I have the ability to work in the film industry as I have the creative mindset, but to become a film director I need to increase my self-confidence as well as my communication skills further.

Find out more about our BFI Film Academy, head here.