I have the great privilege every weekend of passing on my film making knowledge to kids from six years old, all the way up to 18. Not that long ago I used to wish I could have been a teacher, but our system doesn't allow it because I don't have a degree. Yet here I am, teaching. Go figure.
Well OK, it's not a full time education post, but a similar responsibility comes with it. Because I've never had any formal training though, I never really know how I'm doing. Last week the academy had a visit from head office and he paid me the nicest compliment. He had been observing one of my classes as we filmed a Christmas music video for my 9 to 12 year olds. At the end of the day he told me that it was rare to find a good film maker who was also a good teacher, and he felt the kids were inspired by me.
Despite not being known as a professional teacher as such, it was nice someone had recognised what to me feels entirely natural.
In a similar way I observe the students every week, trying to spot those who are struggling or those who show a particular aptitude for certain tasks. Over the weeks I had noticed one girl who was particularly quiet. I was starting to suspect that she just wasn't interested in film & TV. For example, every time the rest of her class were up in front of camera, she would be the last to be on set, and would generally stand at the back, trying to stay out of the limelight.
Two weeks ago her group were filming their music video. At one point I took the camera off the tripod to change the battery. To do this several pieces have to be removed to get at the battery, and then they all have to be carefully put back on in the right order before remounting the camera, itself a tricky stage. I'm not yet at the stage of going through these tasks with the class, but every week they observe what I do.
On this occasion I swapped the battery over and handed the camera to the girl in question to keep a hold of while I took the dead battery away to be charged up. On my return, which couldn't have been more than a minute, she had assembled all the parts on the camera and remounted it on the tripod. I had never shown her all these steps specifically. She didn't hang around for praise, just returned to her group to carry on with her other set tasks. Clearly she has a natural ability for the tech side of film making, and despite all my careful observations it had never dawned on me.
This week I saw the new movie The Imitation Game, about Alan Turing during the Second World War, who led the team that broke the Enigma code, an achievement that is widely believed to have shortened the war by more than two years. There is a line in that film that best sums up the experience I had in class that day:
"Sometimes it's the people no one expects anything from who do the things no one expects".