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BFI Film Academy 8: Maeve McGovern

Maeve McGovern is one of the participants on our eighth BFI Film Academy (2019). Having come to the end of the academy, we asked her about her experience over the course… 

Applying for the BFI Film Academy 2019 was an absolute no brainer for me when my teacher sent me the application in late October. It was an opportunity I knew I couldn’t pass up trying for, even if previously I had no experience of making films of my own and I wasn’t sure of how much I’d end up being able to contribute, but there are 100% no regrets whatsoever. It has been the most exciting and beneficial two months for me in terms of pursuing a career in film and I couldn’t have asked for a better group of like-minded and fun individuals to get to do it with, including the staff and tutors!

From pre to post production this film has been a dream to make! We spent the first few weeks before the shoot week coming up with ideas and writing the script for our horror-comedy about our fierce killer granny Mrs Rellik (played by the equally as fierce but in a nicer way, Betty), and the comically divvy Detective Geff (played by the very lovely and not divvy Adam), with the help of our wonderful industry professionals John Grey and Judith Chan. I was a big fan of the writing process as I had always wanted to be an author from a young age before thinking maybe that the reading and the watching of the stories was more my forte than the of writing them, so being able to actually contribute to aspects of the story gave me more confidence to start writing again and has been so helpful in terms of the film course I’m studying at college.

Once we had our script, found our actors and had secured a set, it was shoot week! The structure of the week was organised so all 18 of us spent the Monday getting to be involved in masterclasses in the three main aspects of what was going to be on set, so camerawork, lighting and sound. This was great for me as it was the perfect introduction to the technological sides of the shoot and all the information was given clearly with the continued guidance of John and Judith alongside the addition of our sound legend Bart. Then, one half of the group shot some of the scenes over the next two days and the other half covered the rest of the scenes on the last two days of the week. This meant we were all able to switch roles on set to gain varied experiences as well as get to see which roles we found we liked the most! I was part of the group that shot scenes on the last two days of the week so for me it went like this:

Shoot Day 1: We got to our first set where the rest of the team had been working for the past couple of days and we continued on from what they had started, which was mainly dialogue scenes between our two main characters. For the first half of the day I joined the sound team, it wasn’t something I’d necessarily thought I’d enjoy but after the masterclass found pretty interesting. This meant we had to attach radio microphones to our actors, manage the frequencies during takes and my personal favourite part, operating the boom! Once that was complete there were some more dialogue scenes, however, this time it was less stationary. For this section, I joined the lighting group which again proved a lot more difficult than I was expecting. However, I love a challenge and once we’d managed to get the lighting right and not have the equipment being blatantly visible in the frame there was no feeling of success like it!

Shoot Day 2: Day two for us, final day of film shoot week for all! For this day we moved set to another homely location to shoot scenes for our montage opening, various kitchen endeavours and a brutal murder scene involving knitting needles! This was a particularly exciting day for me as I was going to try my hand at directing which isn’t something I’d been able to try before. I don’t think I’d really, truly realised just how much there was for me to do in what was also quite a short space of time, but again, the beautiful team around me and the gurus guiding us made it just as fun and grounded as I could have hoped, so I was so chuffed to have had that experience and we even managed to get it done with a mere minute over the allocated time! Dream. The last thing to shoot then was the knitting needle fatality where I became a camera operator. This was such a fun one to get to be behind the camera for, what with the gory prosthetics and Betty and co BFI academy participant Nadia’s tense struggle to the death! A typical day on set for the 8th Academy gang. And then that was a wrap on the whole film and by far one of the coolest weeks of my life so far.

Now we had our footage, it was time to edit! The editing process was so much more entertaining than I was first anticipating. Whether this was down to the content of the footage, my peers or the process itself is all relative! Everything worked together and came out just as we’d hoped, if not better. As much as the idea of tidying up and trimming the footage to work seems tedious at first, getting to have an idea of the different variations of the scenes we’d shot and the ways the different groups had edited those scenes was so interesting. It gave an insight into how working with a group of people can create so many great and different portrayals of the same idea that weren’t necessarily what I had in mind at first but adored as soon as I saw them. Once we had an assembly edit we got to sound effects and colour grading, the colour grading proving not to be my own area of expertise as it was the last thing I had ever thought being integral to the editing process and oh how wrong I was. Despite a rocky start with it though, I came out of the day with what I believe were pretty decent colour graded scenes and definitely very good scenes from the others at least!

Not only has being a part of HOME’s BFI Film Academy benefitted me by giving me experience in writing, making and editing films, it has also provided us with sessions learning about important and interesting aspects of film history lead by the divine Maggie Hoffgen, as well as talks from members of the industry such as Joe Ruocco from the BBFC Certification team and Jason Wood, who is Home’s own Artistic Director of Film. These sessions I can honestly say were eye-opening in term of options for a career and what those careers involved. As if there weren’t enough opportunities available on this course already we also completed a Silver Arts Award, which was such a handy way of keeping track of our own individual progress and ensuring those around us knew where we wanted to aim our focuses over the duration of the two month course, so big thanks to Ally Davies for organising and overseeing that for us!

In conclusion, if you’re thinking of applying for the BFI Film Academy, just do it! It has been such a rewarding experience with the loveliest and most passionate group of new friends and the opportunities involved so far are unlike anything that I have seen offered to young, aspiring filmmakers so far. Massive thank you to Rosie Stuart for accepting me onto the course and keeping us all organised and on track and another equally as massive thanks to all the others mentioned above. It has been an honour and privilege to have worked on this project with you all! Apply for the BFI Film Academy!