'Everyone here is dedicated to letting the students find their own voice', says editor and Summer School tutor Ollie Huddleston. That's the underlying objective of the IDFAcademy Summer School, which took place for the ninth time last week.
This year's IDFAcademy Summer School hosted 32 young and upcoming talents from all over the world – from Ireland to Lithuania, from China to Kenya, and from Nicaragua to Palestine. They met with each other and their tutors for six days of hard work, tough meetings, screenings and some well-earned leisure time. Not all of them were new to IDFA: Georgian director Tinatin Gurchiani presented her debut film The Machine Which Makes Everything Disappear about young people in Georgia in Amsterdam a few years ago. She returned with her newborn baby, and her new project Love Song, Pastorale, the second part of a proposed trilogy, which is about elderly people in her home country.
Gurchiani was excited to be reunited with tutor Alan Berliner. 'He’s a great master and a great person, who is able to give us the confidence to trust ourselves. What I learned from him is to do things from my heart, to not be afraid of mistakes and to find my own way to make my film work. Berliner brings things on point, but teaches us to stay in our own world and find solutions there.' For Gurchiani the Summer School is a place to think about how she can better plan her next steps. She already found sufficient funds to make the film, but is still in the middle of preparations. 'This film is a totally different journey from the last one. As it is about elderly people I have to reconsider the intensity, speed and rhythm. Talking to Berliner, but also to the other tutors and participants, has helped me to better imagine what the film could be like.'
For Polish director Lukasz Konopa and Danish colleague Emil Langballe it’s a different story. The two, who met at film school in the UK, are working on their first project together. 'The story came to us when we were researching another idea', Langballe says. 'A friend told us about his friend, who was going to be king.' Konopa smiles: 'We dropped everything. He was about to leave Denmark to visit Ghana and we went with him. As we’re having a break from shooting, the Summer School came at a perfect time.'
They wanted to use this opportunity to sharpen their treatment before shooting again in the fall. 'For us it's now very important to find the essence of our story, and of our main character', Langballe says. Konopa adds: 'This story has so many possibilities, and so many ways in which it can unfold. We have to focus on what's the best film for us to make, what our protagonist needs and wants, what his obstacles and dilemma’s are.' They succeeded in achieving their goal through honest and open sessions with their tutor and other participants. Langballe: 'We were asked questions we hadn’t asked ourselves – about why we are the ones to tell this story. It made us dig deeper. It sometimes felt like group therapy.'
Konopa: 'We now have a clearer idea about where were going. And we’re more aware of the challenges facing us. We realize we need to get closer to our protagonist, get him to open up emotionally and learn about his dilemma’s. We have been given practical tips: to plan situations for him he has to respond to, so he will be able to reveal more.'
Tutor and editor Ollie Huddleston also likes to teach his students practical tips. Like using actual cards to bring structure to a film when editing. 'It's how I work myself. I write all the different scenes on different cards and move them around on my desk to get every scene in the right place.' Huddleston was a tutor at the Summer School for the third year running. 'For me it feels like I’m traveling, while staying in one place. You get exposed to many different stories, ideas, cultures and backgrounds in a very short time.'
For Huddleston it’s a real challenge to get to know his students in these six days. 'When you work with a director, it normally takes quite some time to develop the relationship you need to trust each other. Here you have to get right down to the essence.' The editor is not just about giving practical advice. 'Most important is asking the obvious questions: Why are you making this film? And who are you making it for? As an audience you want to be able to connect to a character, just like in fiction. So as a director and editor you have to work with that audience in mind.'
Huddleston was a tutor on two projects, one from China and one from Kenya. Two very different stories, one about a mother sending her three year old child to a boarding school to learn about Confucian traditions and the other about a young gay man in Kenya, facing the obvious dangers there. 'It’s important for the participants to find their voice and tell the story the way they want it. They have to feel the essential voice of the film before they can work on the storyline, structure and mood of the film. It has to really come from them and it is good to see everyone working at the IDFAcademy is encouraging this.'