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Posted 22.02.19

From Aardman to the Amazon: film students learn from the best with GTC

By Kat Peberdy

Students across our digital media programmes gained an insight into the world of television production from five industry specialists during a Guild of Television Camera Professionals Academy Day with representatives from the International Association of Wildlife Filmmakers.

Spending the day in our new state-of-the-art cinema space, the guests spoke about their careers and routes into the industry in a series of inspiring talks and presentations.

The Guild of Television Camera Professionals (GTC) was formed to uphold and and advance standards and expertise in the profession, and now has over 1,400 members in countries as far afield as Australia, South Africa, the USA, Russia and Singapore. The majority live in the UK, are freelance and work in all aspects of television from corporate production, news and current affairs to documentary and drama.

Matt Brandon speaks of his experience filming around the world for a variety of wildlife documentaries.

First to speak was freelance Director and experienced Showrunner Matt Brandon. In a career spanning more than 20 years, Matt has overseen a number of landmark shows, including, most recently, the blue-chip series Cities: Nature’s New Wild at the BBC’s Natural History Unit.

"There was so much inspirational stuff to learn! It reminded me that it's important to look not just at really interesting films, but to look at who made them interesting and how." – Alex Conabere, BA (Hons) Film student

Matt stressed the importance of making connections in the industry, and how to maximise the opportunities networking can bring. He said, “It’s so vital to learn to communicate with all of the people around you - it's really important that you can speak to all of your peers whether it's the director or the person there for a day of work experience."

"Creativity is all about collaboration. Working in TV has been a fantastic career for me, and I highly recommend it. After twenty years of working in the industry I still love that one day I can be making a wildlife documentary in the city and the next I'll be dropping a man in the rainforest with no clothes on."

Sarah Smither, camera operator, speaking to students during a day of presentations.

Next up was Sarah Smither, one of few prominent female camera operators in the UK. With over eighteen years experience, she’s worked on award-winning productions and was behind the camera for shows such as Project Catwalk, This Morning and The Culture Show.

Sarah highlighted the struggle for women working in the film and television industry, saying “Being a woman working in a mans world can be tough. The statistics are depressing, showing that women are seriously underrepresented in the camera department and the film and media world overall. I want other women to know this is a viable career choice.”

“A great place to start is to get involved in collaborative filmmaking. I would definitely encourage emerging filmmakers to take a look at one of the many 48 hour film competitions available.”

London-based Director of Photography Peter Sorg spoke to the students, recounting his experience of working on challenging productions such as Tim Burton’s Frankenweenie and The Corpse Bride, as well as the award-winning 3D stop motion animation Coraline. His most recent credit is as Cinematographer for the Aardman feature Early Man.

They were also joined by Robin Smith, whose impressive CV is full of credits on key wildlife documentaries, including Principle Cinematographer on the popular Animal Planet series Meerkat Manor. Jack Willis was the final speaker of the day, having recently graduated from his filmmaking degree he shared his perspective on breaking in to the industry, setting up as a freelancer and marketing yourself as a filmmaker across the various media sectors. 

BA (Hons) Film graduate Luke Curno attended the talks, he commented, "I asked Robin Smith, the wildlife filmmaker, about the emotional impact it has on him being behind the camera. I know, as a wildlife filmmaker myself, that you can become extremely emotionally attached to your subjects, because you're living the environment with them, so when you see things like predation for example, it can be really challenging emotionally. He had so many good tips, it was really useful."

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