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The Start of my Film Making Hobby

Had it not been for such a miserable weather forecast last August, my film hobby would probably never have started.

Our 9 year old granddaughter, was due to stay a couple of days. In anticipation of bad weather, I had sent for some spinning plates from the internet, in the hope that this could provide some novel entertainment and keep her amused for a few hours. I suggested to her that IF we got good enough, then we could record our activities and perhaps even make a film. She was SO excited! I had absolutely no idea how this promised film would be made, and didn't even know if I had any software to create such a thing, but there was no going back now! Anne spinning plates.

Once a few stills and a little film footage had been taken, I looked on my PC and found something called Windows Movie Maker. I learned to crop, slow bits down, speed other bits up, and add music. My first film!

By the next morning the weather had improved and we hired a boat and cruised from Windsor to Maidenhead....... taking the cameras of course. Within a few days, I had made my first 2 films.

I made a further 2 films, before becoming frustrated with Windows Movie Maker, particularly with the lack of flexibility when mixing music and film audio. I did a little research on the internet, and decided to download a 30 day trial of Sony Vegas Platinum Edition editing software. What a huge learning curve........... I had no idea how to start. I spent every spare hour on Youtube, searching for tutorials on my new software.

In mid September, I was in the London Camera Exchange in Reading shopping for a monopod for our new HD Camcorder.

Whilst chatting to the sales assistant about my new hobby of film making, he handed me a leaflet for The Reading Film and Video Makers (RFVM). He told me that he had recently joined and that they were currently running a beginners course.

Fantastic! Help would be at hand. I had already missed out on the first four weeks of the six week course, and went along very tentatively to the first meeting, where I was made to feel very welcome, although was a very lonely female amongst a sea of male faces.

Course leaflet.
It was announced at my first meeting that there was to be a competition the following week for a one minute film. I remember emailing Laurie, the club chairman that first week, and asking how can it possibly take me a WEEK to make this one minute film. He offered words of encouragement in that it is always an uphill struggle when working with any new software, and that I should persevere.

I took part in the club competition for best "Holiday" film in October, which was well received, but the next competition in January was to be a documentary. It was made clear that the documentary entries should be informative, and had to include commentary..... what!.... how on earth do you do that?

I decided that maybe I could use some of the 1000s of photos I have taken of our garden over the past 12 years, and put together some kind of documentary film telling the story of our garden, which we also open for charity. I included some video I had taken in the garden in September with the grasses swaying in the breeze, which became the opening of my film. As my film developed I decided it needed a bit more depth to the story, so I found myself including the fact that my parents had been great gardeners, and backtracked to my childhood to enable me to include photos and videos of their gardens too.

I decided too to include an excerpt of a TV programme we had taken part in. I had started to chose some music, but the commentary was yet to be tackled. For my first attempt at recording I even had the music track playing! Playback was a disaster. I had several attempts and relaxed a little more each time, but was not happy with the sound quality.

With advice from another club member, Geoff, who had spent 40 years as a sound engineer, and with further help from my son, I managed to tweak the audio using my software, until I was happy with the sound quality.

Advice from Geoff.
My film, called A Garden for Sharing, came second in the documentary competition! I even beat the Chairman! I was astonished.

I realised that the success of my garden documentary, was probably the variety of content, as well as the addition of the commentary to explain everything.

This got me thinking about a film I was part way through making, of my Mum's life. I had set out to produce a slide show, but now thought of something in more documentary terms.

My film, called Mum's Story, has been shared on Youtube with many family members around the world, as well as old school friends of mine who knew my Mum, who died in 2006. A mixture of laughter and tears has been the feedback, including from people who had never even met her. I take that as a compliment, that the combination of film and music creates the emotion that I naturally felt whilst I was making it.

I have made 27 short films this past 6 months, and I am so grateful to the RFVM for insisting that commentary must be added to our documentary entries. It pushed me way outside my comfort zone, but now that I know how to do it, I have used commentary on several short films. The film of which I am most proud has to be the one of my Mum's life. It's 40 minutes, so not one for the club, but such a lovely film for the family - incorporating photos, old cine film, and video, and all set to music which my Mum loved, running behind the commentary. Without the commentary, it would not be half the film it turned out to be.

So many ideas for films for future............. not enough hours in the day!

Anne Massey
April 2012

Stills taken from Anne's film - Thanks RFVM.
Anne is a member of the Reading Film and Video Makers committee.

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Page updated on 23 July 2012
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