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Posted 15.06.16

Graduate Q&A: Talking DIY film with Russell Cleave

By Sarah Packer

Russell Cleave, BA (Hons) Film graduate taking part in an Arri Workshop following his award win at Nahemi: Eat Your Shorts 2015

Throughout our Graduate Shows 2016 we'll be publishing conversations with our most recent graduates about their work and their top tips for aspiring artists.

We sat down with BA (Hons) Film graduate Russell Cleave to talk about his short film ‘Kowel’ and what it’s like studying at the college...

Hi Russell, so tell us about your work in the Graduate Shows.

Well, I've worked on a number of graduate films this year as well as my own. I worked on the the cinematography, lighting design and score for Lucy Highet’s contemporary dance film.

I had lighting duties on narrative films for Alex Stephens and Mike Howard and I’ve also helped shoot and light a six minute long take for Molly Lane's ‘Bloom’ installation.

Film still from Russell's narrative film 'Kowel'

It’s really exciting helping out on fellow student’s films, you can learn so much about your own way of working and you get a lot of transferable skills as a result.

My main focus though was on my own ten minute narrative film ‘Kowel. Kowel is a narrative drama that plays on regional stereotypes, with a deep insight into the culture of the South West of England.

"I've been lucky enough to work with some amazing talent in my year and even bagged a couple of awards along the way."

The film reveals the harsh reality of the area and it’s inhabitants, a contrast to the ‘dime a dozen’ films that depict overly-dramatised, stereotypical West Country characters.

There is a strong pull to DIY art and music in the South West, which is something that I have been involved in since a young teen so I really wanted to use that as a backdrop throughout the film.

I set myself a manifesto to use only affordable equipment to make the film, using my own seven-year-old DSLR and lenses I've picked up along the way from charity shops for less than a tenner.

"I've learned everything on this course including undoing some real bad habits, my approach to filmmaking is totally different for the better."

I made this film with a real creative DIY spirit and my prefered role as Director of Photography on ‘Kowel’ expanded into directing and editing, due to a change in circumstances part way through the project – so the challenges were in place from the very beginning!

Russell and fellow student Tarig Elmakki discussing their film 'Je Ne Suis Pas Charlie' at the Culture and Conflict conference in Luton.

What’s it been like studying at the college?

I started the BA (Hons) Film programme with the idea of just filling in the gaps within my practice that I was unsure about and sort of bodging through.

I was so so wrong, even though I thought I knew what I was doing it became very apparent that I had no idea.

"Stick to your idea,  I've seen so many cool ideas disappear because people think they are not going to fit in."

I've learned everything on this course including undoing some real bad habits, my approach to filmmaking is totally different for the better.

Lucy, Dan and the team are super supportive in whatever field of filmmaking you want to go into, it feels great knowing that you can show up with any idea and they’ll be there to help guide you towards work that can help inform your project.

Film still from Russell's narrative film 'Kowel'

The Equipment Resource Centre at the college has also been a great confidence builder, all of those big scary cinema cameras and cranes become second nature by the end of the degree.

I've been lucky enough to work with some amazing talent in my year and even bagged a couple of awards along the way. Who would have thought!

"There is a strong pull to DIY art and music in the South West...so I really wanted to use that as a backdrop throughout the film."

What are your plans when you graduate?

I've never been the kind of person who's drawn to working for a huge company – I think a grounding in punk and metal culture tore that out of me early on!

So my intentions are to find work in a creative environment that keeps money coming in so that I can have the freedom to continue doing what I love most, which is creating independent low budget film and music.

Russell and fellow classmates speaking with 'Under the Skin' creative Walter Campbell, following his visit earlier this year.

What advice would you give aspiring artists?

I guess this will be different for everyone, but for me it would be to immerse yourself in whatever you have chosen to do.

I don't think art in any capacity should be dipped in and out of – you either become obsessed with projects and think about ideas constantly until they are finished, or it's probably not the right medium or project for you.

Also don't worry about what your peers are making, stick to your idea, I've seen so many cool ideas disappear because people think they are not going to fit in.


Keep up to date with Russell as he takes on his next creative project:
vimeo.com/southofdevonfilms
southofdevon.portfoliobox.net
www.facebook.com/southofdevon
www.instagram.com/southofdevonfilms

You can watch the work of our film students at our Film & Animation Screening on Thursday 18th June, 5.30-8pm. Book your place now.


See all of the fantastic work from our 500+ talented students across all levels at our Graduate Shows 2016, 11-24 June, free and open to all. See our event page for opening times.

The public can get involved too, with artwork available to purchase, film screenings and live presentations running throughout the duration of the show – including our unmissable Graduate Fashion Show, which takes place at The Red House (Plymouth School of Creative Arts), on June 21 and 22.

Join the conversation on Twitter and Instagram, with #NowYouSeeUs16.

Press? Contact pbuchan@pca.ac.uk for high-res images, artist statements, press releases and more.

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