SCAN Computers and Intel are proud to have worked with the award-winning filmmaker Philip Bloom in selecting the talented winners of Velocity 2014 Film & Video category.
Top industry sponsors Adobe, Atomos, Blackmagic Design, Canon, Dedolight, EditorsKeys, Framestore, Focal Press,
F-Stop Academy, GenArts, Kino Flo, Lightworks, Manfrotto, PNY, Red Digital Cinema, Red Giant, RedShark News, Reflecmedia, RODE, SoHo Editors & Tascam celebrate the success of this new competition.
“Short filmmaking has always been something I just can’t stop doing; with 50+ films and counting, I guess I just love it as a creative outlet.”
Joining forces to create a competition with a unique approach that leveled the playing field for both established creatives and those at the start of their career, SCAN Computers and Intel are proud to have worked with the inspirational DP and filmmaker Philip Bloom in selecting the winners of the Film & Video category for Velocity 2014. The innovative approach in this competition has paid dividends with both professionals and beginners winning prizes.
On hearing the news that he’d won the Grand Prize, Mat said, “It was a great surprise. I was filming over in the Philippines when I got the email, and with a massive grin turned to one of the production crew, one of the Thresher Shark volunteers, and said, ‘You know that Scorpions film I was telling you about? It’s won the Grand Prize!’”
You can watch Mat’s winning entry ‘A Sting in the Tale’ on the Scan Pro Video YouTube channel.
“I heard about this competition about two weeks before the deadline. I bought some computer bits from you guys to build an editing PC and saw a flyer in the box and so I thought, ‘well I leave for the Philippines in two weeks so I’ll pull my finger out, find a good idea and I should have just enough time to knock a film out’.”
The rest, as they say, is history.
Mat continues, “I love making films and just entering competitions like Velocity helps to facilitate that. A deadline gives you something concrete to aim for. To actually win is incredible and helps to get your work seen by a wider audience, but it’s always good to have creative work critiqued by other people because I think that’s the way we progress and learn.”
At home in the Kent countryside Mat has access to everything he needs. It’s the perfect place to be if you want instant access to the natural landscape but not too far away from London and the work it provides him as a freelance cameraman, mainly on wildlife documentaries.
Working life for Mat began in creative marketing and design. Frustrated by supporting big brands in their attempt to sell us more stuff that we don’t really need, he began to dream of a more fulfilling outlet for his creative juices. So six years ago, Mat followed his passion and began a career in what many of us see as a dream job; a wildlife cameraman. Since then he has worked for the BBC, Discovery and Channel 4 to name a few and visited over 20 countries filming for some of the shows that only very recently as a viewer he had both marveled at and been inspired by. The vogue for behind the scenes wildlife documentaries clearly shows that reality is never as exotic as the romantic ideal. When I spoke to Mat for this interview he was still aching from sitting in a South London storm drain on a kingfisher stake out for the One Show. The crew were forced to abandon the shoot sharpish when rather predictably the British weather happened and water levels started to rise alarmingly. I asked Mat if that represented a normal working day?
“Some of the situations you find yourself in are ridiculous. You can be insanely uncomfortable getting bitten to shreds in a hot jungle or carrying half a ton of kit for four miles across rocks in a desert. I’ve crossed a river on a swimming elephant, hung out of a helicopter over a coral reef and had a wild bearded pig run off with my camera into a Bornean rainforest, certainly not most people’s usual workplace anecdotes. But do you know what, fundamentally it’s a privilege to be working in this field. So while it can be insanely frustrating, hard and uncomfortable it is always highly stimulating and generally a very good laugh! My core love is wildlife documentary but I have worked on features and drama. I’m working on a short film script at the moment and I’m hoping to hook up with a few other people to knock up some shorts, so I’ve got other things as well, but wildlife is my love. It’s just brilliant. “
In 2010 Mat won BBC Newcomer at the worlds biggest Wildlife film festival, Wildscreen. He agrees that competitions like Wildscreen and Velocity 2014 are important tools for filmmakers.
“Competitions like these give you a defined deadline, peer review and a great platform to get your work out there and meet other like-minded folk. They really are like a free ticket to film school and when you finish each film you realise how much you have to learn and how much you want to make the next one! All you have to do is be open to critique of your work and then watch and analyse as many other films as possible. What’s good, what’s bad, what people seem to gravitate to, what makes them go ‘wow’! Filmmaking is also intrinsically a very social activity. After all, you’re a storyteller and you need to talk to people to dig up new stories to tell. That research is often a lot of fun in itself and you tend to learn a lot along the way and make lots of useful and interesting contacts, which feed directly into future film ideas.”
What advice would you give to the young Mat Thompson?
“The one thing that I’ve always found, and one I’d stand by, is that with anything like this competition, even when you are doing it and you feel that there’s no pay off or reward, you will always get something back from the time that you put in. I’m a big believer in that. Even if you don’t win it, the film that you’ve made or the footage you’ve shot, if you get it out there, something will happen. It will network and it will create a hook up with someone or lead in to something else, and that’s the way I’ve managed to change my career and get in to the world I’m in now, by doing exactly that, and it can happen in completely disjointed ways. If you surround yourself with people who have contacts and move in that kind of network it will pay dividends. So my advice is simple: look for competitions online and just make films. Use the deadlines to give you structure. I’ve made over fifty films of my own and I sometimes struggle to complete them. Every time you make a film you learn more about construction and packaging and just how to put something together coherently within the time frame you’ve got to work with.”
You mentioned that you conceived, filmed and edited ‘A Sting in the Tale’ ten days before the deadline?
“Yeah, yeah! It gets better actually. I only finished it sitting in Amsterdam airport waiting for a flight to the Philippines. I actually uploaded it from Schiphol airport! Some wildlife projects I’ve worked on can take over two years to complete and this can feel quite disjointed. It’s really nice to do something in that short period of time where there’s immediate gratification and you see the end result of your hard work. So with competitions like Velocity it’s perfect because it gives you a very defined goal.”
What would you say to someone thinking about entering the competition next year?
“There’s always an excuse you can trot out like I need a better camera or this sound kit to be able to make my film, but in reality the kit that’s out there is so easy to get hold of and affordable these days. Powerful editing applications are free and you could realistically shoot on the iPhone and still get great looking footage, so technologically speaking, and certainly with filmmaking, there are just no excuses anymore. So my advice would be don’t be put off thinking that you NEED to use professional kit. It’s far more about your idea and story telling and that can be achieved using the most basic of tools. Editing isn’t about the software package you use either. At it’s most basic level it’s about how you order the shots to craft your story and only practice and watching how others do this will make you a better filmmaker. So, don’t be afraid of tech. Make sure you have a strong story with character and look for quirky ideas and try to think outside the norm. Velocity and other competitions like it is exactly the right arena for this kind of creative filmmaking. Go for it.”
What’s next for you Mat?
“More short films. I have a number of short narrative drama scripts I’m writing and would love to get produced. My journey in film making so far has been amazing. I’ve met so many great people and visited so many great locations. So what’s next? In the long term I’m looking to get a commission through some London production companies from the big broadcasters. So my ambition is to get an hour-long film commissioned by the BBC or Channel 4, but that’s bloody hard. Watch this space!“
“I enjoyed feeding back to the talented winners, giving them pointers about what they might have done differently… We’re all always learning.”
Philip continued, “Any competition which lets people show what they are doing for real, rather than for a competition brief, has got to be a good thing. Mat’s entry was a really fascinating story that left me wanting more. I found it astonishing! Having never heard of it I had to look it up as I wasn’t sure if this was a mockumentary. Nicely constructed and shot. Really lovely job Mat”.
Mat is currently filming a delightful tale about an orphan Warthog out in South Africa. You can follow his exploits on Twitter @matthompsontv
When he returns you can read more about his Warthog story on RedShark News.
On behalf of Scan, Intel and the competition sponsors, congratulations to Mat, Ben, William and Daniel, and to everyone who took the time and effort to submit an example of their work. For everyone else who managed to talk themselves out of entering the competition, our last piece of advice, paraphrasing every pro we spoke to – Philip Bloom, Den Lenny, Trish Meyer, Maxim Jago, Russell Dodgson, Larry Jordan, Edmond Terakopian and Simon Blackledge – is simple: “JUST DO IT!”
See you next year? We hope so. <3 Scan Pro Video
Congratulations also to the short-listed finalists Bill Allum and Chris Johnson-Standley, whose work received a Highly Commended award from Philip Bloom. Both artists won first and second place respectively in the Velocity 2014 MoGraph & HDR category. Check out their work on the Scan Pro Video YouTube Channel. Keep an eye on the Velocity 2014 webpage
for updates on the Velocity music categories.
Velocity 2014 is proudly sponsored by
Adobe, Angelbird , Atomos, Blackmagic Design, Canon, Dedolight, Digieffects, EditorsKeys, Framestore, Focal Press, F-Stop Academy, GenArts, Kino Flo, Lightworks, Lynda.com, Manfrotto, Maxon C4D, Noise Industries, PNY, Red Digital Cameras, Red Giant, RedShark News, Reflecmedia, RODE, SoHo Editors, Tascam, Toolfarm & Video Copilot.
Join the Velocity community now. Stay tuned to the socials @ScanProVideo facebook.com/ScanProVideo for info about special offers, masterclasses, giveaways and industry news. REDucation is coming to The Met Film School on October 25th – 26th.
Interview by Matt Aindow © Scan Pro Video 2014
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