The Kendal Mountain Film Festival hosts its own 'Extreme Film School' (EFS) to teach would-be adventure film-makers their trade. We spoke to the professionals to find out what's involved ...
The Kendal Mountain Film Festival hosts its own 'Extreme Film School' (EFS) to teach would-be adventure film-makers their trade. Now in its fourth year, a number of EFS graduates have gone on to produce their own professional films - and those who haven't, still left Kendal with a two-minute short under their belt, and all the knowledge they'd need to make more. Not bad going for five days' work.
We decided it was time to call in on professional film-makers and EFS instructors, Brian Hall and Keith Partridge, to find out what the film school's all about. From the midst of a jungle of Macs, here's what they told us ...
Why run the Extreme Film School?
With the launch of websites like 'YouTube', it's increasingly easy to make and share amateur films. Co-director of the Kendal Mountain Festivals, Brian Hall, told us, "this democratises the process of film making but it doesn't mean we should share rubbish. If anyone who has a video camera squirts it at a bouldering problem and puts it on 'YouTube' it will get very very boring. We need to teach people how to shoot properly and make films that are enjoyable to watch."
Three days of workshops on technical film-making skills followed by the '48 hour film marathon'. This involves letting groups of two or three students loose with a camera to produce their own two-minute short. If it isn't finished by the cut off time on Friday afternoon then it has to be shown to the Kendal audience as it stands:-)
The most successful of last year's films was the competition winner, 'Bracken Sledging'. In case you missed it, the two film-makers ask each other whether they should try mountain biking or climbing for their extreme day out in the hills. Instead, they end up opting for a day's bracken sledging - naked - without a sledge. Most of the film was shot in a Kendal hotel bedroom, but the end result made it to the Banff Mountain Film Festival nonetheless - cue: great hilarity from the Banff audience. You can also watch it online.
Sounds good. So, do you need some experience before you can take part in the Extreme Film School?
No, anyone can buy a ticket for the three day-long workshops. For the 48 hour film marathon you have to apply via a form on the website because spaces are limited. This year's participants included some film directors and cameramen who wanted to learn more about making extreme films, but there were people from all walks of life, from students through to pensioners. If you're a climber, kayaker, or adventurer of any kind, but you have no experience of film making, then you're exactly what the Extreme Film School organisers are looking for.
Where do the participants come from?
All over - mostly the north west but one girl came all the way up to Kendal from Brighton.
What kinds of activities are involved in the workshops?
A lot of time is spent answering questions and inundating students with more technical information than they could ever hold in their brains - certainly enough to go away and make a two minute film:-)
There are also some planning exercises. For example, imagine you're skiing across a glacier on a long expedition and you want to film it. How are you going to do it? On the surface it sounds very simple but then you chuck in the fact that you'll be flying to your start-point and there's a limit to the amount of kit you can carry per person. The students are told the duration of the trip and the weight of all the equipment. At that point, they start to realise how complex the process is...
What about the 48 hour film marathon?
Before the marathon starts, each team has to present the idea for their film, to check it's feasible. If a group suggested waterskiing across Lake Windermere, bouldering on the crags at the far side, climbing ten pitches, then running up Scafell, standing on the top and saying 'uh hu', then that's not realistic. It hasn't happened yet, but it could.
Some people arrive with unrealistic expectations about what they're going to achieve, then?
No, most people arrive in a state of severe angst, thinking 'oh my God, am I good enough to do this?' The EFS organisers get a lot of feedback saying that the course empowers people psychologically as much as it does practically. It demystifies the whole process of film making.
And who are these de-mystifying instructors?
They're all professional extreme film makers - Mark Batey, Keith Partridge, Richard Else, Graham Hoyland and Brian Hall. Some have been working on mountain films for over a decade and have contributed to productions such as 'Touching the Void', the Leo Houlding episode of 'Top Gear', 'True North', 'The Descent', and 'Shackleton'. Josie Clyde, who produces women's snowboarding films, also helped out with the 48 hour film marathon.
And the winner is ...
This year's winning film is called 'Kendal's Dark Secret' - we don't know what the secret is yet but you can find out for yourself by watching the film. Last year's films are also available for download.
If you're interested in taking part yourself, this year's EFS has been and gone, but you can email email@example.com for more information. Alternatively, check the website.
Thanks to Keith Partridge, Josie Clyde, and Brian Hall for talking to us, and good luck to all this year's Extreme Film School participants with their future ventures into the world of extreme film.