Film masterclass source of valuable techniques for film makers

German filmmaker Tony Schreiber conducts a masterclass during the Amakula International Film Festival held at the Kampala Film School on Wednesday.

German filmmaker Tom Schreiber conducts a masterclass during the Amakula International Film Festival held at the Kampala Film School on Wednesday.

By Collins Kakwezi

The film masterclass, the opening activity of the 11th edition of the Amakula International Film Festival today, proved a valuable source of technical information for participants, most of whom were filmmakers.

The masterclass, which was facilitated by German film maker Tom Schreiber, was conducted in the lecture room of the Kampala Film School, which will play host to this year’s festival for the first two days, before it moves to the Uganda Museum in Kamwokya.

Schreiber, a film teacher at Frankfurt University for the past five years, eased the participants into the session by requesting a quick self-introduction by all in attendance, which helped build rapport between the facilitator and the audience.

He then embarked on a tutoring session where he taught participants about the creative steps in film production and the need for powerful scenes which should speak for themselves even before the dialogue tells the story.

“People underestimate the gap between screenplay and the storyboard, which includes the actual shooting and organisation of scenes,” Schreiber told the more than twenty film stakeholders in attendance, most of whom were short film directors.

He talked about a wide range of technical aspects of film production like blocking and staging, visual script breakdown, improvisation and camera staging, which some of the film makers in attendance admitted they had never heard of before.

Maxine Ajak, a documentary maker and aspiring feature film director, admitted most of the things she learnt today were relatively new to her.

“Everything I learned today was new because I have never learned much about film. It was good to learn about how to prepare a scene, and this will help me in my future projects.” Ajak revealed shortly after the masterclass.

Schreiber also used clips from various movies, including Hollywood’s The good, the bad and the ugly and No country for old men, Japan’s Akira Kurosawa’s High and Low as well as Denmark’s Lars Von Trier’s Breaking the waves to illustrate the different aspects of production he taught about.

Schreiber plays a scene from Lars Von Trier’s "Breaking the waves".

Schreiber plays a scene from Lars Von Trier’s “Breaking the waves”.

He also taught them about the different techniques and film shooting methodology, clearly outlining the importance plus the pros and cons of each, stressing the purpose of each. For instance, he explained the difference between the panorama and close-up shots, explaining the role and purpose of each.

“The panorama shot helps in enlightening the viewer about the physical background and surroundings of the scene, whereas the close up shot helps to clearly show the emotion on the face of the actor because it’s hard to conceal the expression on one’s face from a close up shot.” Schreiber told a clearly awed audience.

He also talked about the importance of rehearsals after some of the filmmakers admitted they did not put as much effort as required in doing rehearsals for the different scenes, rather relying more on the performance of the actors during auditions.

This prompted him to hold an interactive session with the audience, where he handed each of them a copy of a script, then divided them into three groups, to see how each would approach shooting the said scene. The audience seemed to enjoy this particular session, as it got them scratching their heads for ideas.

They later staged the scenes in front of the rest of the participants, each group taking its turn to present their part.

Schreiber interacting with Maxine Ajak, one of the participants in the masterclass.

Schreiber interacting with Maxine Ajak, one of the participants in the masterclass.

On the whole, the masterclass was an interactive session, which Schreiber conducted rather expertly, lecturing the participants, without necessarily spoon feeding them, as he engaged them through listening to their views, and correcting them whenever required.

By involving them in the discussion, Schreiber allowed the participants to think through most of the ideas on their own, only guiding them whenever necessary. This prevented them from going off track, but also helped them learn more in the process.

Sessions such as Schreiber’s masterclass are a valuable addition to film makers’ human resource, as most of the local film makers have little, if any formal film training, and only rely on their passion for film. It therefore comes as an invaluable source of film expertise for our film makers, helping to acquaint them with basic knowledge about making film.

Tom Schreiber went to school at the Academy of Media Arts in Cologne, Germany, graduating in 1989. Soon after graduation, he went to Cuba to pursue a course in film at the Cuba film school, shooting his first short film in 2001. The film did well at festivals, which encouraged him to venture into writing scripts for feature films, including Dr. Aleman, which will feature at the Amakula International Film Festival, and was the subject of the film masterclass.

He is currently in the country on the invitation of the Kampala Film School, where he is teaching film, and was requested to present the masterclass, on the strength of his film expertise.

Email the writer: zikcol@yahoo.com

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The Amakula International Film Festival is presented by
Bayimba Cultural Foundation in partnership with The DOEN Foundation, Africalia, Kampala Film School and the Uganda Museum.