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BFI Film Academy 8: Jessica Cande

Jessica Cande is one of the participants on our eighth BFI Film Academy (2019). Having almost completed the academy, we asked her about her experience on the course…

My BFI journey began in October, I learned about the opportunity through college and was really intrigued by the content of the course. However, since one of my main interests is in broadcast journalism I wasn’t sure whether to apply as I didn’t want to follow my film passions and leave journalism behind. So due to this thought at the back of my head I ended up sending in my application a few minutes before the deadline thinking, “it’s a 50/50 chance now, let’s just wait for the turnout”.  Happily, I got accepted and its been a joyful ride since then!

We started off with film history sessions with Maggie and we got to meet the other 17  members and most of the staff. We were all nicely introduced to each other and I felt really welcomed. I won’t even lie, I was quite nervous about the first day, however, one of the qualities I had written on my application was confidence so then I couldn’t show anything else besides that! I quickly realised that we were in an absorbing environment: we all had our strengths and weaknesses, plenty of opinions on the same movies, different ways of completing tasks but we were all learning from each other. During the following film sessions we had discussions regarding the history of films, how it began, how it evolved and how the audience perceived them. These sessions were my favourite, I didn’t feel guilty at all to be doing film -related things as Maggie would often give us thought-provoking handouts with interviews and articles. I was able to enjoy both of my passions surrounded by people that felt the same. Maggie particularly, she expressed herself through film and it was honestly so contagious! As the sessions went on and we advanced onto different topics I made sure to keep notes of the movies I had never heard of, most of them were Maggie’s suggestions from westerns to international films and I can’t wait to get my eyes on them!

When it came to the creation of Mrs. Rellik I was one of the unfortunate ones to miss the first session on the filmmaking idea due to an open day evening at a university. I was rather annoyed at this but I made sure to catch up with everything I missed and was filled in on some bizarre ideas, some of which I can’t even remember! I find it extremely fascinating how from those ideas we actually created a remarkable piece. John and Judith were beyond helpful for the whole phase of creation, they backed our ideas and gave us professional insight to keep us on track, all of this whilst keeping it fun and having plenty of laughs. The atmosphere was great to be creative in as we bounced off everyone’s ideas. Before this journey began, I wondered how in the world would 18 individuals create a short film together? I contemplated on the techniques I’m used to at college, but none seemed practical enough. It ended up being a lot less complex then what I had imagined. We sat down, discussed, made questions and noted them down. By the end of the day we would always have decision making to do which allowed us to move forward each week with a positive mindset.

The session where we first got our hands on the filming equipment was brilliant! We separated into teams and rotated through sound, lighting and camera. I was most excited about lighting as it is what I was familiar with, it was even put down as my first option for the shooting day, my last option was sound as I wasn’t keen on the field but surprisingly during the workshop these two exchanged; I was fascinated by how fun doing sound was! I started off by using the boom mic, which was hard work but entertaining, followed up by sound mixing which was also pleasurable but demanding as you had to capture the correct levels of sound to avoid complications during post-production. We also learned on set etiquette on how we should fasten the mics to the actors and how we should give them privacy by turning them off when off the set. Lighting was what I looked forward to the most too, but it wasn’t as fun as doing sound (sorry Judith). We learned about health & safety regarding the lights as they heat up to extremely high temperatures and learnt how to set them up with tripods and about the settings and temperature of light. I had never worked with such good quality cameras, in college I’m used to working with DSLR’s but the filming cameras we used were much heavier. The quality of the image was much greater and the screen was also very useful. We took turns in securely separating the camera from the tripod and then focusing in and out on individuals and backgrounds. By the end of the session we chose roles, I tried out directing. We then positioned each team in the correct place and practiced the famous, “turnover, sound rolling, camera, set, ACTION!” These words were so confusing at the time but became so familiar within two days.

This led us onto the shooting week which was an eventful one. We got to meet our actors and get familiarised with the set. I was extremely proud of myself for the outcome of the two shooting days. I experimented with everything from directing to being a runner for the lighting department. All experiences were good and I was able to get a taste of how professional sets are run. Adam and Betty (the actors) were absolutely great to work with as they provided their opinions and were patient with the team as we got accustomed to our roles. The staff during the shooting days were awfully understanding, they allowed us to make our own decisions and advised me on what role I should take next. They repeatedly reminded us that we should keep asking questions if we weren’t sure of our responsibilities. My favourite role during the two days was sound with the boom mic, it’s just so much fun to be in the action and observing everything that is happening, the actors, how the camera and lighting crew organise different shots, with the privilege of solely being preoccupied with capturing sound.  Those two days rushed through so quick and I had so  much fun experimenting and putting myself out there alongside the team. I kept picturing myself doing more of it in the future. I can’t wait to continue with the process and wrap it up with the showcase event where our friends and family can come and witness what I’ve been doing every Wednesday and Saturday!