Identity, isolation and connection: collaborative film-making over Zoom, by young artist Ella

Is it possible to make a collaborative short film over Zoom? As it turns out, yes it is!

18 year old Ella took part in our City as Studio online film-making residency in February 2021. She shares her experiences: what she learned, what was challenging, and some of her thoughtful creative work exploring identity, isolation and connection.

Words, images and film by Ella.

Hi there, my name’s Ella, I’m 18 years old and live in London. I’ve always loved performing and making up stories. More recently I’ve become interested in cinematography and film. These are some pictures of my work.

Photograph taken from above of a tea-light candle burning on a wooden surface, with an extended tape measure next to it, measuring the tea-light at 5 centimetres.
Photograph of a window taken from indoors. The view through the window is a residential street, with a tall tree. There are two signs up in the window facing outwards, one reads "BLM" and one reads "IT WILL PASS"
A bookshelf with several books displayed: It's OK Not to be OK; To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee; Natives by Akala; All About Love by bell hooks; Your Silence Will Not Protect You by Audre Lorde; More Than This by Patrick Ness; The Blood of Emmett Till by Tiimothy B Tyson; and The World is Your Oyster. The books are framed by two book ends, one in the shape of a thumbs up, and one with the fingers doing a peace sign

I thoroughly enjoyed the starting process for our experimental films, it was a very laid back, playful approach and I learnt more about camera movements and framing to give a variety of shots for my short film. I was happy with the pace and edit of my final product but perhaps would have wished for a higher quality camera and colour scheme, to make it more stylized and professional looking. I most definitely will continue to experiment with film making, including playing with the camera, performance, and making narratives come to life on stage with actors and such.

Photograph of the interior of a room. On the left hand side is a large green plant, with a disposable face mask hanging off one of the leaves. On the right hand side you can see the corner of a framed poster, and the leaves of another plant.

I think my biggest achievement is my new knowledge of camera movement and angles, and how to overlay sounds on iMovie.

If I were to do the residency again I would have made my personal and stop motion film longer. I would have also overlaid music over my stop motion clip, perhaps making a sound score out of objects in my house like we learnt from Poppy [Tibbets]. I really loved seeing what music software programs like Ableton could do to the sounds we recorded and how musicians used to use the old mixing technology to make sound scores like the theme tune of Doctor Who.

The successes and challenges with a team over Zoom were in balance. I think a challenge was the awkwardness of connection troubles and fear of speaking over each other, so we took turns to go round the group so everyone’s voice was heard.

A success however has to be our final day of shooting where we all played around with our framing on zoom and each presented something different and creative. For example I used a fish eye lens over my laptop camera to give illusion of a fish bowl and then got big piece of paper and drew blue waves on it to give it a water/ocean look, moving it in different ways over the camera to give the effect that the water was moving in the fish bowl.

I’d say skills I’ve gained would have to be creativity because initially I had a block in my mind that said performance and film making wouldn’t work over Zoom, but I actually had a lot of fun in the last filming session and also learnt a lot and was inspired by others. I’d also say I’ve improved my technical ability and skills in using editing software’s such as iMovie.

Photograph of the interior of a bathroom. A young woman is pictured in the foreground, and also reflected in a mirror behind. She is holding her face and looking down. Behind her is a rack of shelves with lots of cosmetic products.
A young woman laughs holding a small golden puppy

For leadership skills I guess I became my own leader as I was directing, storyboarding and editing all my work. I definitely took on a lot of the feedback and listened to how I could improve. It then made me more confident to give constructive feedback to others and be assertive with my opinion and voice.

I did learn a lot about different roles within an art gallery and how to get there, also different titles for artists and where you can specialise in different art mediums. I learnt about the names of different camera movements or framing shots and how useful a pistol grip or steady cam is for filming smooth shots.

Aged 16-19 and interested in film, music, art and the world around you? Sign up now for our next free online film-making residency, 12-16 April 2021.

Find out more about City as Studio, here.

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