In January, I received word from our friends at Fresh Film Festival that Give + Take was back, and yes, I was invited. This was good news. Last year was highly enjoyable and educative, and I definitely got a lot out of the experience.
The basic idea is that youth filmmakers come together, meet each other and exchange ideas. The youth filmmaking scene is sparse, so any chance to meet with peers is eagerly exploited. Sometimes it’s nice to take a break from all the self-learning and learn from someone else, who in turn can learn from you.
This year, Fresh pulled out all the stops. We had participants from all over the world, passionate about film. Quick introductions with our group, and we got right into it. The goal was to make a short film within a group, and then swap footage with another group to edit. We also had to work inside a brief which included a certain phrase, object, name and place. These stipulations made for some intriguing plot lines. Each group hashed out some ideas, and vowed to make the best short film ever. Or at least… make a short film.
The next day, we regrouped bright and early. Location scouting, (an important part of pre- production), lent more inspiration to our continuously developing scripts. We then sat down together to plan some more. My group decided to go for the eerie/ambiguously spooky style. A man is delivered a mysterious DVD, and goes into shock after watching it. Of course, this idea developed from having to include a DVD as a prop, and the phrase “It is what it is.” (The guy asks what is the DVD, on which is written, What it is. Bah-dum-dum.) So far, so good.
After lunch, we headed out into the streets of Limerick, to shoot our cutting-edge short film. The crew was collectively American, Irish and Welsh. We had a local filmmaker to support our crew and the use of a local actor, which was a great help. Filmmakers often don’t like being in front of the camera. We got down to business. We alternated our duties, taking turns on camera, or holding the lighting board. Everyone gave input. We were lucky the weather held out for most of it, although we later did have to record pick-up audio in an alleyway, sheltered from the wind and rain.
That night, the whole Give and Take came together for dinner. It was a chance to relax and get to know everybody. It was great to meet so many people from all over the world, sharing interests and passions. Discussions on movies ruled the day, although Game of Thrones and Breaking Bad did come into play.
Come morning, we were all ready to begin editing. No one likes to lose control of their precious work, so it was a good exercise in learning to let go. Needless to say, some groups proffered their opinions on how their movie should be edited, which was usually helpful, to be fair. In any case, every movie was finished in time for screening.
Everyone waited in anticipation for the results of the last few creative, hard-working days. The lights went down, and the films began. They were actually very good, for being shot and edited in a few hours. Everyone watched appreciatively, laughed and applauded. There were no prize-winning films, but that wasn’t the point of the exercise.
The objective was to gather together as creatives, and learn from the best teacher – experience. I think this was achieved very nicely. I’ve made new friends, got together with old ones and experienced cooperation in limiting circumstances. It was a very worthwhile event, and I’d go back anytime.
I’ve been lucky enough to be invited to two Give + Take workshops, and I consider them to be a huge help and influence in my filmmaking. The diversity and depth of experience of the different participants in the workshop is the key element. People from countries like Hungary, Greece, Norway, the Netherlands, the US and more- and they are all passionate about the same thing you are- filmmaking! It is very refreshing and stimulating to be surrounded by such a creative, exciting and energetic atmosphere. A simple affair like lunch in the canteen can be an intensive intercontinental artistic discussion!
The exchange aspect of the workshop is also very helpful. Making a film with virtual strangers, with time, budget, and locations constraints is surprisingly very conducive to creativity. While the output is obviously not a masterpiece, the experience, and the friendships, you take away with you make it all worthwhile.
The international exchange model is very simple (of course taking many hours of hard work and preparation on the part of the planners!). At its most basic, you are thrust into a group of total strangers, all of whom are interested in filmmaking. You talk about your experiences; you discover new techniques, form new ideas, are exposed to new concepts. In Fresh’s version you also make a micro-short film, written and filmed in a matter of hours. And the language barriers just make it more interesting!
I have made contacts and friendships across the world through Give + Take, and watching these talented filmmakers inspires me to improve my own craft. The giving and taking does not cease when the festival is over for the year, and all the participants go home to their respective countries. Everyone keeps in contact on the marvellous interwebs machine, exchanging photos from the event, sharing new projects they are working on, giving advice, constructive criticism and support.
Another big part of the Give + Take education, is that you have to give the short film you wrote and shot to another group of young filmmakers for them to edit. Meanwhile, your group edits another film. For independent filmmakers, (most of them used to doing everything themselves), this handing over of creative control is very hard, and is an education in itself. The Give + Take model gives us a taste of the film industry where everything is collaborative.
The Give + Take experience is one that I would not trade for anything.