The first day of global film school association CILECT’s conference on the challenge of digital is nearly over and is ending where cinema began – with the camera. Over the day we’ve heard from sound design, editing, producing and cinematography teachers on how digital technology has and hasn’t changed what they teach, what students learn and what students do. The eternal virtues of good storytelling, compelling images, sounds and montage have been in a dialogue with the exploration and resolution of unstable business models, fragmenting audiences, big data and audience interaction beyond the wildest imagination of Edison or Eisenstein. On the other hand many of the ‘new’ things are also reboots of early cinema, from the audience choice of peep show emporiums to the first crowd funded movie way back in 1938 ( see this post from 2012) and the early business model where film was rented by the foot. How to persuade people to risk their money on what can easily be an expensive hobby is an unchanging aspect of making films, whether its cast and crew deffering fees in the hope of being a ‘profit participant’ or the audience investing in a film before its made, technology cannot remove risk from the creative process even if it can make it easy to involve more people in the risky decisions.
Tomorrow it’s screenwriting, direction and production design’s turn. No doubt previsualisation, the virtualisation of design through cgi and many other aspects of the digital revolution in live action moviemaking will feature but sometimes it’s the simplest things which are the most eloquent – the cinematography tutor from a small Philippines film school who loves celluloid but loves the fact that shooting on a canon 5d DSLR means his students don’t need the expensive lots they don’t have to get rich images. “So if one of them wants to shoot in a prison isolation cell with a single actor, they can”.
In a rather cool and wet Buenos Aires delegates representing film schools in 37 countries (or rather 38 counting Scotland separately from the rest of the UK) are preparing for three days of presentations, workshops and debate on “The impact of the digital age in the CILECT schools curricula”. Cilect is the global association of film and television schools, formed in 1955 at the height of the Cold War in the spirit of cross-border, cross-ideology cooperation. Some 58 years on its numbers have swelled to over 160 audiovisual educational institutions in over 60 countries from Australia to Argentina and Canada to Cameroon. Its various regional chapters including the European GEECT, are sizeable entities in their own right.
With a global congress focussing on broader strategic, funding and organisational issues every even numbered year, this ‘odd’ year’s conference is more concerned with practical matters. The topics to be covered include ‘Producing, commercialisation and distribution curricula: new formats’; ‘technological changes to the cinematography curriculum and ‘new strategies in teaching screenwriting and directing’. CILECT has been at the forefront of the changing film school curriculum, helping members to navigate innovations in camera, sound and postproduction technologies well before they entered the mainstream of education or indeed consumer consciousness. Amongst the pioneering initiatives it has sponsored is The Global Rivers Project which back in 2008 brought film schools in South America, Europe, Asia and the USA together ‘virtually’ to explore HD workflows in a collaborative documentary project using online collaboration to co-produce a truly global film.
Between the talk sessions there is the prize ceremony and this year, in an unexpected coup the UK’s National Film and Television School (yes they haven’t yet caught up with there being four nations, currently) will be picking up all three top prizes – something that has never happened before. Check in later this week for more.