Amy Rose on the Peter Symes Workshop

Amy is a freelance filmmaker, mainly making documentaries. She did a Masters in Directing at Edinburgh College of Art (ECA), where she made Kirran and the Hatchmaker. This short documentary about a small boy and his chickens has played at festivals in the UK and abroad, and got selected for the Skillset Trailblazers strand at Edinburgh Film Festival ‘09. Amy also works as a documentary and music camera person, and worked in TV for a few years before going to ECA. Amy’s project for BTG is called Twinset.

So, having been shortlisted in December for Bridging the Gap, the first workshop was this weekend. It was headed up by Peter Symes – old school documentary man from Bristol... very nice. Being greeted by his beaming smile over coffee before we began was an excellent thing.

My film is called "Twinset" and is about a 61 year old transvestite called Jennifer, who lives in Holland-on-Sea in Essex. My best mate Jess met Jennifer a few years ago, when she was working for Marc Isaacs on his film about Frinton. Luckily for us, Jennifer didn't end up in the film... so we went back to see her in October this year and our new film grew feet.


The workshop was billed as being about "research and development". Basically, we all sat around a big table and discussed the 12 projects: 45 minutes for each one, 6 per day. It started with Peter asking us all to describe our films in one sentence. I was first and mine was spectacularly bad. Beginning with mild humiliation was quite fun, but going first was a little strange. Everyone else was working out how honest they should be and I felt a little woolly round the edges. I would have preferred to go a bit later in the day when the gloves had come off.

The big challenge, as always, is combing through the chaos to find the story: people's lives are so full, and I get enchanted by their complexity. Deciding what I really want to explore and how I want to do it is difficult. In the past, I have made a few films - both documentary and fiction. One in particular is the main springboard for this one - more in approach and methodology than subject though. It's called "Kirran and the Hatchmaker", and is about a small boy who lives in the middle of Wales, writing wild stories and raising chickens. I shot the film over the space of about 4 months, ending up with countless hilarious moments but, overall, there was 35 hours of footage and a lot of different films that could have come out of the edit. I don't really want that to happen again, but it's probably inevitable.

The danger with these communal workshops is that people make so many suggestions that you lose sight of your own ideas for the film. Inevitably, people respond to what they find engaging... and that can be a confusing thing. Clarity! I will find it under a rock somewhere along the way.

The next workshop is in the middle of February, with Danish documentary guru Tue Steen Muller. It's a "pitching and training workshop"... before that I need to start shooting to have some material to show. Before I start shooting I need to get my head around what I'm doing, so back to the grindstone; back to Essex...