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Charity filmmaker

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London based charity filmmaker

Working as a charity filmmaker, I filmed and edited a series of films for the Koestler Trust. The Koestler Trust is the UK’s best-known prison arts charity and has been awarding, exhibiting and selling artworks by offenders, detainees and secure patients for over 50 years. In this case study, I explain some of the detail behind one films production. Mercury Prize-winning rapper Speech Debell was to curate the 2013 Art by Offenders exhibition which is produced by the Koestler Trust. I was commissioned as a charity filmmaker to document the curation process.

Film overview

Speech Debelle worked with designer Stefan Kraus from Polimekanos to build this exhibition which Speech had called The Strength & Vulnerability Bunker. This film shows the exhibition as it was being installed and explains the concept behind the installation. The film continues with a video tour of the completed exhibition with a focus on some of the artworks. Over 20,000 people visited the exhibition at Southbank’s Festival Hall.

Filming days

I spent six days filming the exhibition installation as it progressed. Over these days I also filmed interviews with Speech, the exhibition artists, mentors, trainers and other contributors. The Southbank Centre technical team kindly provided me with the sound files from their PA mixing desk of the opening day’s events. I was able to sync up to the filmed footage from the opening day to these high-quality audio recordings.

Starting the edit

To start editing this type of film, I listen to all the good sync sound. I start to edit and assemble a long edit timeline. Once I have listened to all the sync sound, I then make duplicates of the editing timeline as I progress so that I always work on a new timeline.

Detailed editing

Eventually, I edit together and build a story that works just as audio (of course keeping the associated vision on the video layer). The process of editing generally starts with a long compilation edit and then as you repeatedly listen to it, making edits along the way, you gain an essence of the story. Over time as you lose the non-essential soundbites and tighten up audio gaps so that the duration of the edit timeline reduces. Then, when you have a good outline of the story in audio and roughly to time, you can start adding music tracks where appropriate building the soundtracks into a more complete and finished work.

Editing in music

As the editing timeline progresses and develops, you can start editing or painting the pictures over the audio bed and make the edit work visually with cutaways and visual effects. You then have an edit timeline that worked both visually and audibly. One of the real joys for me in charity filmmaking is selecting the music for the edit. Luckily for me each year the Koestler Awards attract hundreds of musical entries. Each year I listen to the vast majority to see which of them could be suitable for use in the film. Editing with music is a real passion of mine as is using the lyrics of a song to add pace, convey emotion and create depth to the story.

Delivering the edit

I delivered a polished first cut to the Koestler Trust and viewed it with their team. After some detail adjustments and a further viewing for sign off the film was uploaded as a YouTube video and burnt onto DVD’s. They were sent to all the secure institutions so that the artists could see what happened to their artworks.

Charity filmmaking

I am sure this film is a great inspiration for all secure institution artists. I hope it will encourage them to keep on contributing to the Koestler Awards each year. Filming, editing and crafting the Koestler films has been one of my professional and creative highlights. If you would like to commission my skills as a charity filmmaker, please get in touch.