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Akkas: Cinematography Workshop Blog

Feb 13, 2013

By Ben Robinson

2013 is the year that Doha Film Institute takes its education and training initiatives to the next level, with a packed schedule of workshops, labs and film productions coming up.

Between 27th January – 3rd February, we held our first Cinematography workshop of the year. Taking place over 8 intensive days in Katara Cultural Village, DFI’s resident Cinematographer Thomas Hines and myself (I worked as a Lighting Cameraman and Director for 10 years in the UK) introduced 18 filmmaking students to the fundamental techniques of Lighting and Camerawork. 191 people applied for this workshop when we advertised it in November 2012, so selecting the most enthusiastic participants was a real challenge. Ultimately we picked those people whose genuine interest and passion for Cinema shone through in their applications.

Tom and I had spent several weeks prior to these workshops creating a comprehensive lesson plan, with a strong emphasis on practical exercises and assignments, which would get participants out of their seats and working with cameras and lights to create cinematic compositions and lighting designs.

I was immediately impressed and pleased to see the keenness and enthusiasm of the students: always wanting to learn, and constantly asking more and more questions. It was an exhausting experience trying to keep up with the speed at which they wanted to learn, and to include as much information into a week long course. I approached the workshops thinking: what did I not learn in film school that I wished I had been taught? Balancing between a beginners course, and delving into more advanced techniques I would like to think the workshop was a success in providing a great start into this fine art form. — Tom Hines, Director of Photography, DFI

Tom and I divided our students into 4 smaller groups, and assigned them the different (but closely interlinked) crew positions needed to form a camera crew: Director of Photography, Operator, Focus Puller, Gaffer and Grip. We had also built a small wooden film set that we could use to demonstrate lighting techniques and camera moves.

To bring our practical exercises to life, we hired two talented local actors – Mohammed Al-Melhem and Rania Fawzy – previous participants in DFI’s acting workshops in 2010 and 2011. Using scenes from Stanley Kubrick’s classic movie THE SHINING, Mohammed and Rania would enact scenes for our students to light and shoot. Their performances provided a much needed dramatic focus to what is otherwise a very technical process, and it was fascinating to see how each group would light the same scene in a completely different way, changing the tone and atmosphere of the actor’s performances. One group decided to light a key scene from Kubrick’s 1980 masterpiece in homage to the aesthetics of Nicholas Winding Refn’s DRIVE (2011) which was an unusual experiment.

As with our forthcoming 7 Day Filmmaking Challenge, the emphasis with CINEMATOGRAPHY WORKSHOP is not on perfection, but on aspiring filmmakers getting practical, technical experience that can be improved upon with further effort and dedication.

Cinematography workshop was great experience. I Learned about professional camera operating and the film set; and how roles are divided between everyone on location. We had the chance to learn more about different type of lights and know more about safety procedure. I like how we worked in teams and tried to copy different looks from well-known movies. — Jaber Al Mansour, student

One of the things I have always really enjoyed about working on DFI workshops since 2009 is the sense of friendship and camaraderie that develops between the students. Filmmaking is such a high-pressure activity, that it’s vital to get along with and trust the people you work with. DFI will be providing regular opportunities this year for Qatar’s next generation of writers, directors and technicians to establish the creative collaborations and networks essential to building Qatar’s film industry.

As an aspiring director I took this workshop to understand more about cinematography and to provide me with more information to become a successful director in the future. I would like to thank Doha film for this amazing workshop and there is no doubt I will be signing up for more in my journey to become a director to help grow the film industry in Qatar and the MENA region, and to produce movies for the world to see. — AJ Al-Thani, student

If you are serious about getting involved in filmmaking and potentially building a career in the industry, please get in touch with us today and join our education mailing list:

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