How is the filming coming along?

All filming which had to take place at RAFT is finished and now comes the hard work of editing. For work that the students are doing, the ratio is quite high between shot raw material and finished, with about 15 minutes of raw material required for one minute of edited finished film.


Because the students doing the work are not MA students, their access to university computers is limited severely over the summer months. For right now, call it a work in progress.

Working with students: a win-win for all

I was looking at the clock. I was thinking.

What were the chances that somebody broke into RAFT, didn’t steal anything, but in the end decided to change all the clocks so they were 90 minutes fast? Yeah…that’s what I figured too, about a zero chance of that.

Could I be in a parallel universe where time did strange things? Doubtful. Or maybe, just maybe, could the four students I had coming in to RAFT just be very, very late? As much as I hated to admit it, that did seem the most logical explanation.

I’ve been working with university photography, film making and journalism students now for over 16-years. While time keeping has never been a positive feature with most of them, their enthusiasm, desire to do an outstanding job and lack of cynicism has more than made up for it.

It was in Hong Kong that I first started to use students. At the newspaper where I worked I was doing a feature story on Down’s syndrome adults and children. The editor wasn’t happy with my idea, preferring to put on the Sunday magazine cover instead the latest Cantonese female pop star.

To do the story right I needed a photographer who was willing to spend time with the subjects to understand them; to produce honest work. After the editor said I could have a staff shooter for around 20 minutes; I contacted Chinese University’s journalism department instead.

While a staff photographer would have taken up none of my time – I wouldn’t even had to have been there for the shoot - by spending time and working with a student in the end I got exactly the shot I wanted.

Now, a continent away from China, I’m still working with students. At RAFT we have four students from the University of West London who are filming basic laboratory procedures for The Knowledge Channel and who eventually be doing some work for the yet to be launched Young RAFT.

I would be lying if I said it wasn’t a bit frustrating at times. While with a professional film crew we would have had the finished product in about a week or so – paying professional prices – with the students it’s going to take longer. Their university has cut semester hours, which means they have less time to utilise equipment and have more competition from other students who also need the kit and computers.

Still, in the end we will have a product we can be proud of, plus we’ll have the satisfaction of knowing we provided these hard working students with a wonderful subject material for their portfolios.

The good:

·         Students can bring in a fresh set of eyes to any situation

·         ‘We’ve never done it that way before’ is a phrase they don’t know

·         Equipment is usually state-of-the-art

·         Being students, they have instructors who can guide and assist them

·         The price is right - free

 The bad:

·         Students have a sense of time not based on anything in this solar system

·         A simple obstacle can stop them in their tracks

·         Students don’t always have access to equipment, especially during summer months

·         Being students, they have classes, exams, etc. It’s next to impossible to get anything done quickly

·         Sometimes you’re much better off paying for a professional

To make it work:

·         Have a crystal clear idea what you want the students to do

·         Be specific with them; and then be even more specific

·         Have somebody assigned to assist the students at your work

·         Stay in contact with their instructors