One Shot Wonder
Sydney Film School director and filmmaker Ben Ferris is gearing up to teach his annual “one shot” class, a technique which he describes as “high risk filmmaking”.
A big part of what separates filmmaking from other performance arts is the ability to edit your work. But some filmmakers are denying themselves even this aspect of filmmaking, and exploring the creative limits of a film without cuts. Ben Ferris, director of the Sydney Film School and aficionado of such technical experiments, calls them "one shots". "A one shot is a film that essentially is recorded by turning the camera on and off without interference in between," Ferris explains to FilmInk when he rings up for a chat about his upcoming One Shot Workshop being held at Sydney Film School as part of the Australian Film Festival.
"Logistically and choreographically there are all sorts of challenges when you are working with an unbroken shot because if one thing goes wrong in the scene you have to start from scratch," Ferris says. Frustrating? Perhaps. But Ferris believes the method - employed by such iconic directors as Francis Ford Coppola, Stanley Kubrick and Robert Altman - serves "a really important and dramatic function in the telling of a film."
Of his own 2003 short film, the acclaimed The Kitchen, Ferris says that shooting it all in one take was a good way of "really drawing out the tension and not providing any relief for the characters." The director's debut feature, Penelope - a re-envisioning of the female character from Homer's epic The Odyssey - also employed the technique with many of the film's mythical long scenes shot in a single take.
On March 10, Ferris will be joining forces with the Australian Film Festival and heading up the third annual One Shot Workshop at the Sydney Film School. In this day long course, Ferris will lead his students in understanding the strengths and challenges of the one shot, and grant his students the time and means to try their hands at developing their own film."It's an introduction to what a one shot film is," Ferris says. "I'll be showing examples of how filmmakers interpret the one shot very differently.
"Then most of the day is practical. We are going to jump straight into devising a one shot piece. I'll be involving the students as actors as well as behind the camera, working together to devise the film. We'll shoot a piece together and then we will play it back and analyse the decisions that we've made. In the afternoon we are going to break up into groups and the teams are going to devise and shoot a one shot film together. We'll bring those films back and review them," Ferris sums up.
When asked what advice he would give filmmakers employing the "one shot" technique for the first time, Ferris had this to say: "Be prepared. Very, very prepared. It sounds like a lot easier of a proposition than it is. It's a really good example of how filmmaking is ninety percent preparation and ten percent inspiration on the day."
The course is open to accomplished filmmakers and newcomers alike. "I usually get a mix," Ferris says of his students. "It works because we are introducing a new concept to people."
The third annual One Shot Workshop is being held on March 10 at the Sydney Film School in Waterloo as part of the Australian Film Festival, which runs March 7-17. For more information or to book your seat, go here.