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BFI Film Academy 7: William Aloul

William Aloul is one of the participants on our seventh BFI Film Academy (2018). Having almost completed the short film, we asked William how he has found the academy… 

Right from the outset, the experiences had on the BFI Academy have been amazing. The chance to work with and learn from industry professionals has been an invaluable opportunity, and I’ve both had a great time and learned a lot of useful information and new skills that will help me with my career in the future. It was very interesting to actually imitate real industry practices of ideas generation to come up with a concept for our film and then develop it into a script. This then came to a pinnacle when we went to shoot it over a week in half term, which was a truly unforgettable experience.

As a part of the shoot, I was able to try out a variety of different roles that are required on a film set, including directing, sound mixing and director of photography. Being able to try out multiple roles was something I found really useful as it allowed me to get a better sense of how a film set operates as a whole, rather than just working on one area. It also made it possible for me to try working in areas that I was previously unfamiliar with and improve my abilities there. For example, sound recording had always been a challenge for me, but I was taught about how to properly use the mixing equipment and monitor audio levels, which helped me to record much higher quality audio than I had ever been able to before. Making sure to only adjust the levels in the brief gaps between dialogue to create consistent sound was tricky and I made a few mistakes to begin with, but I did get better at it with practice. As a result, I now feel more confident working in this area as although I still find it difficult, I do feel like I have significantly improved and will be able to take these skills with me moving forward with my own work.

Another area I had a chance to work with was camera operation, which was a lot more sophisticated than I was used to, as the camera was enormous, not to mention super awesome to work with! This was something I really enjoyed more than I expected, as when you’re looking through the camera, you don’t see all the lights and equipment, so it feels as though you are getting a sneak preview of the final look of the film, and to be able to guide that look is a unique and rewarding feeling. That’s not to say it didn’t present its challenges, as the operator is completely unable to observe their surroundings properly when looking through the camera’s view. However, everyone in the camera team got on really well and worked to assist each other with using equipment (and making sure the operator didn’t fall off the edge of a stage with the camera), which was a really big help for everyone involved.

I also was able to direct a part of the film as well, which is something I have done a little of before, but this felt quite different when working with a full crew of talented individuals, rather than working alone or just with a couple of friends. It was a little nerve-racking as it feels like quite a lot of responsibility to make the calls on what to shoot and how to go about it. However, I’m really glad that I was able to try this role for a bit as it was very insightful into what directing is really like at an industry level, working with a crew and talking to actors about how to do a scene. I enjoyed it a lot, as well as working with the other directors to ensure that the different parts filmed with different directors still had a consistent feel to them. After having tried directing, I would like to do more of it as I feel that it is very different to all the other roles and is a quintessential role in making films, so it would be a valuable area to gain more experience in.

All around though, the shoot was an incredible experience as even in between takes there was always something to do to keep busy and prepare for the next shot. However, what really made the experience what it was, is the opportunity to work with a group of other like-minded people, which creates a great, collaborative and creative atmosphere when on set. Everyone has their own style and it results in varied and interesting footage, in which you can see where each person has made their own mark on the film. When we came across difficulties, it meant that we were able to work together to find the best solution that would help us to realise our film idea in the best way possible. What I’ve mentioned here is just a sample of what we were working, but genuinely, there was nothing that I didn’t have a good time taking part in; even if the role of boom operator does become very painful very fast. If nothing else, the course has helped me to develop a much greater respect for that role as it is by far the most physically demanding and certainly not for the faint-hearted (or in my case, the weak armed!)

As you can probably tell, I had a fantastic time during the shoot week and I look forward to moving into the edit and working to turn our footage into a finished film. The whole of the BFI Academy has been brilliant so far as it covers so much and really does help you to improve as a film maker, so I would fully recommend it to anyone considering a career in film, as there is something for everyone and like me, you’ll most likely find new areas that you want to explore more in future as well.

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