Digital film-making thoughts

I just finished reading a book titled Digital Film-Making, by Mike Figgis. Some inspiring stuff, if you are studying, or (as me) has studied Video Production, this is essential literature.

Mike Figgis originally studied music, then worked his way up to become a Hollywood director, although his whole point is that you don’t have to aspire to reach Hollywood to be successful, creative and especially if you sincerely love film-making. As he points out, the digital revolution is here to revamp the whole film sector, and it is gonna do exactly the same to what it did to the music industry, shake its foundations big time. It is only a matter of time now. He also talks about the importance of scoring music properly and logging all your footage before you start editing.

I learned the latter one the hard way, when I recently filmed and edited a documentary about the Earagail Arts Festival 2008 in Letterkenny, Ireland. Me and my colleague ended up with over 10 hours of footage, which we painstakingly had to watch and log before being able to start the editing of the final documentary, which is just over 15 minutes. We were lucky enough that most of it was filmed to a hard drive installed on the Sony HD camera we were using, but it was still an incredibly time-consuming task. On the good side, those 4% of footage we used turned out to be pretty good quality and visually stimulating, and I can say I am quite pleased with the final result.

The book is crammed with very useful tips, and makes you want to go out and start shooting (video) away.

A particularly funny moment in the book was when he was asked to direct an episode of Sopranos and was giving direction to James Gandolfini (who plays Tony Soprano). Then Gandolfini turns to him and disagrees with it (“Why the **** would I do that? Tony Soprano wouldn’t do that!). So Gandolfini suggests an alternative,  Mike Figgis goes with it and it doesn’t work. Gandolfini suggests then another way, which is exactly what Figgis had suggested at the start. Turns out Gandolfini was just “testing” Figgis.

Digital cameras are cheap and the quality gets better and better. A laptop with Imovie installed (which comes free with any Mac) is enough to cut a broadcast-quality feature. And Youtube (and other online video distribution sites) has proven that there are alternative methods of distribution, although, having said that, there is a lot of rubbish out there too, and you must wonder how can a budding film-maker compete with Tay Zonday or zillions of clips about the Menthos-soft drink explosive combination…

More about that later…

A little bit about Letterkenny…

I am currently living in Letterkenny, a town in the northwest of Ireland. It is a hidden corner of Europe, with some beautiful scenery and isolated beaches. If you like big cities, it might not be your cup of tea, but it still has a good cultural scene, with loads of events, including the recent Earagail Arts Festival (www.eaf.ie). We had some good musicians turning up, including Grammy award-winning Toumani Diabate (kora player from Mali) and Flamenco Garcia, a spanish guitar virtuoso. A couple of months ago there was a Chuck Berry gig here, which I thought was quite a novelty (I didn’t attend), but just shows you that we are not THAT isolated.

We are just a 20 minute drive from Northern Ireland, and although you cross into a different country with a different currency there are no border checkpoints, and you can only tell that you are in a different country because the Irish road signs are now in kilometres per hour!

Most houses are very similar, and there are not many standout buildings or squares. The most prominent building is the Cathedral, which can be spotted from miles away and has a strategic location overlooking the rest of the town. The most unusual building is without doubt the ultramodern Regional Cultural Centre, which unfortunately is tucked away behind the less impressive (but culturally important) An Grianan Theatre. Usually people refer to the Cultural Centre as a “spaceship that has just landed”. A “cultural beacon” for Donegal, it is a busy arts hub with gigs, movies, art exhibitions and digital media facilities amongst the best in Ireland. Certainly worth a visit!