A collaborative project between Dulwich College International and the Dulwich College Shanghai IB Film Department
In January this year a group of four Shanghai IB film students, their teacher and the Marketing Director from Dulwich College international (DCI) embarked on an ambitious project to create a new Dulwich film to show case the dynamic and diverse family of schools that Dulwich College International has become. Their finished piece can be viewed below:
Before we talk to the Film makers responsible we take some time with Dr Ben Lyons, the Marketing Director at DCI to tell us how the project started: “For a long time I had been wondering about how to update our old corporate film. How to capture what each of the schools were doing, the diverse student achievements and experiences and all within a very short time frame. It needed to be a multipurpose film, that is one that parents, teachers, corporate and government people could watch. The family of Dulwich schools has evolved enormously since the previous film was shot in 2007; and the previous film was more about bricks and mortar, physical locations. The new film had to get to the heart of what a Dulwich education was all about.” • inDulwich.com: How did the film to do the film with IB Film students come about? “I was talking to Karen Strickland (at DCS) about what her son Alex got up to over his summer holidays and it turned out he had spent some time at the UCLA film school doing some short courses on animation and film making. This peeked my interest especially when I found out he did film at DC Shanghai as one of his IB subjects. I was introduced to Mr. Anthony Reich, the Head of the IB Film department, met the students; and it all went from there. The idea we had was that instead of spending the money on an outside production company we could spend it on top class equipment for the students and give them a project that tied in with both their CAS requirements and their coursework. And who is best placed to express what a Dulwich education is about than a Dulwich student?” • inDulwich.com: Did you have any doubts or concerns about delivering the final film? “Totally. Everyone has an opinion on what it should be and that was always a challenge! But the students are a very talented group that brought different skill sets to the project. They have a very passionate teacher and they came up with a concept that worked very quickly – the journey that is the Dulwich College International story both in a historical and geographical context; and the journey of a Dulwich student through the academics, the arts, sports, and community spheres. The idea they came up with was fantastic and they even got to pitch it to Dr. Joseph Spence, The Master of Dulwich College in London whilst he was here in March." • inDulwich.com: Any favorite moments on or off camera and a personal favorite film would be? “All in all it was a great experience. There was a huge amount of planning and effort from lots of people at each of the schools and on location. There were a few logistical challenges but I am very proud of the maturity, effort, and creativity that this group displayed. And we had fun. A favourite film would have to be 'Good Fellas'.” Introducing the film crew • Omar Kanaan My favourite film has got to be The Lord of the Rings - The Two Towers. I never get tired of how epic each scene is during the monumental film. I've seen the film so many times and I still enjoy it. That is the mark of a great film to me. During the Project: I enjoyed going to places that I wouldn't have gone to of my own accord. Though we were there for only a short period of time, Seoul has got to be my highlight of the experience. • Alex Strickland Favourite film: The Shawshank Redemption. I love how the music creates such a variety of moods throughout the film. It is such a powerful viewing experience. Best thing about the project: Working on a real project, and working on a set to shoot a film with a big budget.
• Olivier de Brabant Film: Fight Club. I really enjoy the twist of 'Who is Tyler Durden?' This film is so often quoted ("The first rule about...") and that is surely the mark of a classic. The Project: I enjoyed the opportunities to experience a real film production and learn the in and outs of the industry. • Calum Anderson Film: Atmen. A surreal German art house film. I really enjoy dark comedies and this film encapsulates European progression in this genre. I also really enjoy Babel, the use of three narrative strands all coming together in the final 15 minutes was a revelation and is the best example of cinematic diversion I have seen yet. This project gave us a chance to work alongside filmmaking professionals, giving me a unique insight into the processes of filmmaking. It was also a wonderful opportunity for me personally as a young composer to be given carte blanche on writing an original soundtrack for a film. I really enjoyed coming up with various options, creating different tones and moods, and then seeing how the Producer and Executive Producer reacted to my creations. It give me a real artistic thrill. • Mr. Anthony Reich Anthony is in his tenth year of teaching. He began his career teaching English at the leading British international school in Bogota, Colombia, The Colegio Anglo Colombiano. He moved to DCS in August 2008, with his wife Maria (a special needs education teacher in Junior School) to teach English and to set up the Film department at Dulwich Shanghai, an elective arts subject taught to IB students. Into his fifth year at DCS now, he is also a Head of Year. Favourite Films: Choosing one film as a 'favourite' is always a nigh on impossible task. I struggle whenever students ask me this question. If pushed I would probably have to go for City of God (Ciudad de Deus). A great movie has to be many things: original, engaging, different and above all, memorable. This film is all that. And a whole lot more. A Brazilian ghetto gangster movie that charts the lives of various hoods in Rio's famed favela the 'City of God', this is a hard-hitting movie that blazes with frenzied violence. Everything about this film works, from the funky rhythmic samba beats, to the alluring Angelica (Alice Braga has never been better), the feverish editing and the sun drenched cinematography. inDulwich.com: Tell us about the beginnings of the project When I was first approached about the possibility of producing the new Dulwich promotional video with my IB students I was cautious and sceptical to say the least. To be totally honest, I was suspicious of the motives for getting students to make a professional video and could not help but wonder if it was because it could be done 'on the cheap'. But upon further conversations with Ben (Lyons, the Director of Marketing at DCI) I was relieved to find that this was not the case as the intention was to fund an improved film department with the budget set aside for the production of the film. As such, as 'payment' for doing the film, we have kitted out our department with some top quality DSLR cameras, a great array of lenses, dolly track, sliders, sound equipment and lights. We are now in an extremely good position to make top quality student (and corporate!) films. I had a small group of students in the Year 12 Film class, only 4 lads in the group, and had been very impressed with the 2 short film projects that they'd made so far. They were original, quirky, adventurous, impressive, and above all showed real potential in filmmaking. I was surprised at the quality they were producing at their first real attempts in filmmaking and this, too, filled me with confidence for the project proposed. The IB film syllabus is made up of various skills and assessments, but 50% of the course is dedicated to film production, so it was certainly a justifiable exercise to do in class. We knew we would have to be organised and so we set about the pre-production by researching other corporate videos that we liked in order to get a feel for the genre, very different to the short comedy films, and the music videos we had already done. Almost immediately we decided that the theme of the film had to be 'journey' both in terms of education being a journey, made up of the core components of academics, arts, sports and community, but also in terms of being able to move from city to city and still be at a Dulwich school - a fairly unique position in international education. We highlighted which geographical landmarks in each city would need to be filmed in order for the audience to immediately be able to identify which city we were in. Not a hard task for Shanghai or London, but rather more difficult perhaps when looking at Zhuhai. We took our proposal back to Ben and his team who were fully supportive of the concept. We then set about doing various practice shoots around Shanghai so that when we did arrive in Seoul, Beijing, Zhuhai, Suzhou and finally, London, we would be fully prepared, both conceptually and technically. Being part of a real film crew was a very exciting prospect for all of us and the lads set about the shooting with fervour. Throughout the whole process, however, I was fully aware of the "Executive Producers" and the objective set by DCI. We had to shoot something that was pleasing to them, but also original and compelling to watch - something that we could be proud of. Let's be honest, corporate and even school corporate videos can be dull turgid affairs, full of statistics, crusty old men, and PR brain-washing. I was conscious that I did not want our film to go down that same path but to really show something from a student perspective.
Completing the filming was time-consuming and hard work, but immensely satisfying at the same time. It was great to see all of our ideas come together behind the lens and there are a couple of shots that I am particularly proud of. I love the opening shot of the Houses of Parliament from South Bank. I envisaged this shot whilst sat behind my desk in my classroom in Shanghai, 6000 miles away from the location, and as such am pretty happy that the final result is almost exactly as I imagined it. This doesn't happen too often in filmmaking, so when you can pull it off, it is satisfying. We hired a section of professional dolly track for this shot, and got to the location very early in the morning in order to benefit from the better light you get at that time of day. We did numerous takes, amidst the onlooking joggers and dog-walkers, but the sense of gentle movement and the idea of journey and transition that you get in the opening shot is tangible. We wanted to start the film with something iconic and I feel we nailed it. The gargoyle shot is another that I am happy with. Completely different to the meticulous planning that had gone into the opening shot, it was one of those rare unplanned treats that can happen unexpectedly in filmmaking. We had to shoot indoors as it was raining outside and went up to the Headmasters Library in the attic at DCL. We were shooting the books and the cosy warmth of the armchairs in the library and just trying to work out how we were going to light what was quite a dark room. I paused to look outside and curse the weather that was prohibiting us from getting some more external footage, and that was not allowing enough natural light into the room, when I noticed the gargoyle, dripping with rain, protruding from the building, right next to the window. It had a real sense of history and heritage about it that we were trying to capture in our opening London sequence, and was perfect b-roll footage, so we shot it quickly and nailed it first time. It goes to show that despite exhaustive planning, it is sometimes the accidents that can turn out best. Finally, I love the wall that Olivier (our journeying student) walks past in Suzhou. It sums up much of China for me in its elegant mosaic stone patterning. It was a nightmare to film as that is a very busy street with both tourists and vendors in Suzhou and trying to get the locals to slow down and stop on their scooters, even for 10 seconds whilst the camera rolled, was extremely hard. We managed it in the end, but not without some inconvenience to man on a bike who was in a great hurry to go somewhere. Editing the film and bringing all of our preconceived ideas together was perhaps the trickiest part of the process. You cannot help but dream big in filmmaking and you want the result to be perfect, but getting all of the elements to fit together really is like trying to put together a 1500 piece 3D jigsaw puzzle with sound. Time was running short towards the end of term, so we used a professional editor to help us build on the skeleton had we created. It was really exciting to be in the studio with the editor and see it all come together. I was impressed by the work the students did as they all contributed so much in so many ways from pre-production, to filming, acting, editing and music composition. Calum, the composer, created many different soundscapes to listen to, creating a variety of moods and tones and I was impressed by the diversity of his composition. I think his final piece is engaging, dynamic and works extremely effectively with the film. I have certainly taken a huge amount from this experience. I enjoyed the challenge immensely. When we showed it as a premiere to the new teachers at DCS I was nervous, excited and felt like a parent at their child's first piano concert. But overall, bearing in mind it was put together by a group of 4 students, who had only made 2 short films before and been studying the subject for 6 months, it is an impressive result and I am undoubtedly proud of what we have achieved.