Alasdair Unshaven


Alasdair Satchel

Isle of Mull

The Understanding Cinema Project offers its participants something quite unique. It explores the skills of a film maker based around a specific topic each year. Last year it was mise en scene, this year it’s the long take. What is particularly brilliant about the project is the way in which the skills overlap over the course of the years, reinforcing previous learning and advancing the participant further in the ways of the new skill. For instance, you can’t look at the long take with any depth without going in to mise en scene and camera movement in quite some detail, both of which are previous topics. It reinforces the skills learnt previously and takes you forward.

This is the second year that we’ve run the project. The first year took place with a limited number of schools in Edinburgh and Dundee. The feedback from the teachers was that they thought that the project really worked but they felt that they would really benefit from regular contact with film makers as they went through the exercises. Nicola listened to their ideas and built the project that we’re currently running around their desires. It functions both as an educational project for the participants and as a continuing professional development programme for the teachers. How many times would a teacher get regular access to a top notch film maker in their classroom on a weekly basis outside of a project such as this? Not often, I think it safe to say.

As well as functioning as a CPD programme for the teachers, the film makers themselves also benefit from the nature of the long term approach to the project. It’s very rarely that a jobbing film maker gets to spend such a long time to look at a specific skill in the cannon of their work. We also benefit from contact with each other, meeting every couple of weeks on Google Hangouts, where we discuss the project, what’s working, what’s not working, and provide a resource for each other of knowledge and professional craft. Originally a theatre maker by trade, I’m what I’d consider an emerging film maker, and the opportunities that I’ve had to learn from our considerable cast of film makers is completely unique, and one I doubt I would have had outside of the project. Each of us contributes perspective pieces and work to the our blog, which makes superb reading. It’s a unique learning resource that’s growing all the time with the project.  Our knowledge and skill set across the project compliments each other very nicely, and I look forward with eagerness to each of our hangouts.

Enabling the participants to establish and explore new skills is a wonderful opportunity. They have reacted brilliantly to the project across the country, so much so that one participant was heard to have said “I’m so excited I’ve got bubbles in my tummy!”.

What particularly appeals to me about this project is the linguistic spread that it offers. The training for the project is delivered in French in Paris, then the project co-ordinators go back to their respective nations and deliver the project in their own languages. Here in Scotland we’ve got schools working through Gaelic and English. I’m sure there will be some participants working on it through Scots as well. As I work here on the Isle of Mull, I know that Kate will be working away in Glasgow, Sandie and Steve in Dundee, Anne and Jamie over in Edinburgh, Yasmin will be on the way up to Aberdeen to work with her groups, Graeme will be whizzing around Moray and Inverness listening to some bangin’ techno on his way from group to group, and Sandra and Jo in Lewis will be off having adventures with their groups in Stornoway and South Lochs. It’s a fine group to be a part of, I’m delighted to work with them all, right
throughout our nation.

I will update the blog with more posts as we progress through the exercises. We have a deadline for the end of this month for our Lumiere Minutes, so I will be back with more, then.