Unit 1 - Language (Image, Meaning, Style)
FIRST TERM EXERCISE:
Three and a half minute, 16mm, black and white, mute films are shot on location. All students are expected to produce a script. The first term gives students a thorough grounding in the basics of filmmaking. The centre of the term is the film exercise, which provides the platform for basic teaching in camera skills, exposure control, and editing. The assumption is that students all start from a similar background and all need a full, fast introduction to professional procedures.
The term is dedicated to the principle of learning how to tell a story in pictures. Scripts are subject to detailed scrutiny and discussion. Students have to practise basic production management skills: organising location permissions, securing props and costumes. They have to cast and work with professional actors. In parallel, all through the term, courses run in film history and in the close analysis of directors’ strategies, showing and discussing work from Hitchcock to Lang via, say, Spike Lee and Kiarostami.
There are classes on photo theory, directing syntax, producing, production management, production design, camera practicals, use of light meters, and editing.
SECOND TERM EXERCISE:
Each student scripts and directs their own film: 1-3 minutes long, 16mm colour shot on location, with post-synchronised sound. They edit and design soundtracks for their film. Re-recording/mixing of soundtracks is carried out in outside professional studios. The Second Term is intense and exciting. This term introduces students to lighting skills and to sound recording and digital editing. Students work in units of six , directing their own films and camera operating, lighting and fulfilling other supporting roles on the films of their colleagues so that they are intimately involved in all their unit’s projects.
LFS is currently collaborating with The National Gallery during this term in a project which involves 2nd term students producing films inspired by the Gallery's collection. Students make two visits to the Gallery for an artist-led workshop in front of the paintings and a slide show lecture illustrating the way directors have drawn inspiration from painting from the early days of film making. They then choose a painting from the National Gallery's Collection to work from.
An exciting element of this collaboration is that the students may respond to any aspect of the painting, following in the tradition embraced by the many directors, cinematographers and set designers who have been influenced by artists from Rembrandt, Vermeer and Caravaggio to Turner and Renoir.
Unit 2 - Practice (Non-Fiction and Fiction)
THIRD TERM EXERCISE:
A twelve to fifteen minute, HD colour documentary film. Students work in units of five, with each student taking on at least one of the major roles - Producer, Director, DoP/Operator, Sound Recordist and Editor. Re-recording/mixing of soundtracks is carried out at professional sound studios. Editing is done on Avid Composer.
The remit of the term is wider than that of the 'classical' documentary, and students are encouraged to think of the expressive functions of images of the real world and their use in new forms. Britain has a long and rich documentary tradition, going back to Grierson, and kept alive by television. Today this tradition informs feature filmmaking as much as television reportage and current affairs.
The school recruits a 'resident Documentarist' each term who will show their work, consult units on their films and provide support. There is a wide range of classes supporting the non-fiction production: lectures on documentary history, showings of contemporary non-fiction, classes in research techniques, interviewing, music in documentary, recording synch systems, use of synch sound on location, synchronising rushes and editing synch material, camera practicals, practical demonstrations of location lighting, a practice shoot with synch sound. Throughout the term, script workshops are developing drama scripts for the later terms.
Resident Documentarists, Documentary lecturers and panellists include Peter Gordon, Michael Houldey, Elizabeth McIntyre, Cassie Braban, Nicola Gibson, and Alexandra Briscoe.
FOURTH TERM EXERCISE:
In the fourth term, students make a ten-minute B&W film shot in the studio and on location. In Term Four the requirements and expectations from students are very high. Units consist of five students, each taking at least one major role. Scripts have been developed, discussed and criticised during the previous term. Students choose scripts and crews. Student producers are then required to develop a set of production forms detailing all the film’s requirements, and these, together with the scripts are presented to production conferences with all heads of department to initiate the process. Students design, build and dress their own sets, and there are classes and consultation sessions taking them through this. Studio lighting is at the heart of the exercise, and for many students, this is the major excitement of the term. By this stage, students are expected to manage their lighting in a highly professional way. There is currently an option to shoot on a digital film camera, Arri Alexa. The unit attend a grade at a professional post-house to learn about the B&W 'look'. Recording and laying post-synchronised tracks are also an important part of the exercise. Rerecording/ mixing of soundtracks is carried out at professional sound studios.
Over this and the next term there are an important series of directing workshops, and working with actors is a major component of these. Classes are given in production design, art direction, set building, production management, continuity, studio lighting theory/practicals, studio sound recording, camera practicals, laying multiple soundtracks, demonstration at external sound studios of ADR techniques, demonstrations and workshops on non-linear editing and grading.
Unit 3 - Synthesis (Industry and Independents)
FIFTH TERM EXERCISE:
In the fifth term, students make a drama up to fifteen minutes long, on the Arriflex Alexa, on location and in the studio. This continues the form of the fourth term but at a higher level. Scripts written and developed over the previous year are chosen by the students. Crews are built around the scripts. Scripts are broken down by producers and presented to production conferences with heads of the various departments. Sets are designed; models built and discussed.
The excitement - and successes - of lighting are at an even higher level than the previous term. The programme of directing workshops continues. As in the fourth term, the number of films scheduled is high given the number of students. This means that students work on more than one film and that students from the lower terms are drawn in as assistants in all departments. The integral learning process of each film is shared widely. Classes and workshops include directing actors, stereo sound and preparation for the Sixth Term graduation project.
THE GRADUATION FILM:
Students are assigned a production allowance by the school to build a project. They can work individually or pool their production allowances and efforts. They can shoot on any format and at any length, they can budget and schedule. Students are strongly encouraged to raise funds and build coproduction deals, with production companies and/or other graduate film schools, either here in the UK or abroad. Each project’s script, schedule and budget will be examined and discussed with the Term Tutors. The Development Process is supported through specialist workshops in production, directing, camera & lighting, and postproduction led by LFS faculty in collaboration with industry specialists. Pre-production is monitored by the Term Tutors and relevant Heads of Department. Delivery requirements match those of the major international festivals. Students can have up to three terms to complete complex projects.
In addition to advising on the festival strategy for each graduation film, the school supports the transition from student to professional in a variety of ways. The School's Director takes graduating filmmakers through pitching workshops and this is supported by workshops from industry professionals covering topics including exhibition, distribution, crowdfunding, festival selection and the international film business. In addition to this core curriculum, industry guests meet with graduating filmmakers to discuss presentation techniques, preparing CVs and showreels, and networking. Finally, there is the mentoring programme: students are invited to select a mentor and put together a mentoring plan in consultation with the Term Tutors. This programme is currently supported by Screenskills (Creative Skillset).
LFS is committed to supporting its graduates in developing a strategy for their entry into the expanding and fast-changing media industries. Through the growing network of associates, LFS maintains and develops contacts throughout the world to support this work.