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  • Writer's pictureAidan Joseph

Delivering a Filmmaking Masterclass to University Students

Updated: Apr 17

I hit a pretty exciting milestone in my creative career today... I gave my first 4 hour long lecture to the Masters students at Leeds MetFilm School.

Aidan Joseph leading a documentary lecture to Leeds MetFilm school
Talking to the students

This was a massive step in a new direction for me. Although I graduated my own masters degree in 2018 which was 6(!!!) years ago, it feels like it was only a year ago that I left. To be invited to come talk to some students that were studying at this level felt like a massive jump in the deep end.

I've always liked the idea of one day becoming a tutor for film, as it seems like a natural progression into regular, predictable work when settling down later in life. Filmmaking can demand hugely taxing and unpredictable hours of you, so it made a lot of sense as to why many of the tutors on my own course had made this decision. Many of them were part-time and still working in the filmmaking scene alongside their tutoring profession. This transition as a long-term prospective really appealed to me, but I had not expected the first opportunity to arise this soon!

One of my friends and long-term collaborators, Ed Swales, reached out to me with this opportunity. I mulled it over for a few weeks with some serious imposter syndrome... could I really impart any wisdom to a Masters level of filmmaking academia? Is there any way I could entertain a class of students for 4 whole hours? Am I being too much of a wuss?

I really think that across all of my career of filmmaking so far, whenever an opportunity arose that felt like a big step-up that I wasn't ready for, if I just pulled up my pants and got stuck in with a brave face, it would always yield results. Sometimes, it would go terribly wrong... and sometimes it would be a massive success. Whatever the outcome, one thing would always be consistent; I would learn... a lot.

And so I said... "You know what, go on then, let's do it!"

A slide from my presentation on the day:

Ed and I got together a few weeks before the session to plan over what I would talk about. As soon as I had this opportunity to break down what we would cover, I started to feel a lot more confident.

It was Ed's ideas for me to talk about my career so far as a filmmaker, how I transitioned from my student years at Sheffield Hallam University, to running a business, and finally to where I currently am - embarking on my new chapter at Aidan Joseph Media.

Ed and myself on set of 'Property '- (Dir. Jon Addison)

And the session itself was part of their documentary filmmaking module, so this was the other angle that I approached. Having made hundreds of films over the years, I have discovered the types of films that inspire me to create. The primary discipline that excites me the most is documentary filmmaking.

My 3rd year major project at university "Limits of Freedom: The Street Children of Kathmandu" was an exploration into the complex issue of homelessness and drug abuse amongst the youth of the capital city of Nepal.

A slide from my presentation on the day:

This documentary went on to win several awards and be featured at multiple film festivals around the world. We were nominated for a Royal Television Society award, had the film screened at the BFI Southbank in London and won Outstanding Student Debut at the High Peak Indie Film Festival.

It was great to talk to the students about this film as it is so relatable to them at the stage they are currently at. I was absolutely delighted by the response at this early stage of the presentation, as they were already asking plenty of questions and being really engaged. This gave me a huge boost of confidence and I soon slipped into the rhythm of things and began to really enjoy myself!

A slide from my presentation on the day:

I wanted to talk to the students about what I know best - creating documentary inspired videos for brands and businesses. Although I started my career with a successful crowdfund and independently created short film, the rest of my time creating films has primarily been with businesses. I have shaped and redirected my efforts to being able to achieve marketing goals, harness social media trends, and capture the eyes of audiences so that businesses can boost their brands.

But I never lost the passion for being a creative.

I love making films that tell stories, and no matter what a business is doing, they always have something that is unique.

It is our job as filmmakers to figure out the best way to showcase what makes each brand special, and make it shine in a way that is bespoke to them.

A slide from my presentation on the day:

One of the key points that I tried to drill in with the students - is to not shy away from limitations. In fact, my opinion is to embrace them.

Limitations can work to promote creativity. They lead to problem solving, and can lead to a film becoming more interesting. Whenever I learn of a documentary production that has managed to achieve an incredible film despite huge limitations, I am always immensely impressed. Triumph in the face of adversity is inspiring and impressive.

When I am approached by a client that needs me to create some promotional materials, but I only have limited resources, and short window of opportunity, we need to convey a particular message or any number of business influenced parameters, this gets the creative cogs turning. I love to figure out the solutions to any of these opportunities and this is a massive parallel in both corporate and independent documentary filmmaking - and I love it.

Although I was nervous to begin with about whether I would have enough content to cover the 4 hour session... by the end I still had a whole section of my presentation leftover that I didn't get a chance to get to! The students were asking so many questions and we had a lot of organic conversations that filled up the time in a really fun way that seemed to send the students away feeling really inspired.

I was absolutely buzzing off the back of this experience.

It was very scary to begin with, but after getting stuck in and acknowledging.... you know what... I do know my stuff! I have a lot of experience in this industry, I've worked with loads of brands and I've been making films for many years now. I had a lot to talk about that the students were really excited to hear.

This was 100% another lesson for me in not shying away from opportunities when they present themselves. It feels like a big step-up for me and I'm intimidated? Good. That means you're moving forwards and upwards. And I felt like I benefitted massively from the whole experience.

Several of the students reached out to me after the session to express how much they enjoyed it. I was overjoyed to receive these because it really cemented my perception that the students had found it beneficial.

It was messages like this one that absolutely made my day. If I can inspire just one filmmaker to give documentary filmmaking a shot when they weren't previously interested, then that feels like a big success.

Maybe that dream of being a tutor sometime down the line... isn't so far away!

Written on 20th February 2024 by Aidan Joseph.

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