Student filmmaking deserves more support in Cambridge
MARK DANCIGER thinks theatre has hogged the limelight for too long.
The Cambridge theatre scene is known the world over.
Everyone raves about the Footlights, with their all-star alumni lineup, or the prestigious ADC theatre, with its glittering history of writers and directors who went on to hit the big-time.
Compared to these titans, filmmaking in Cambridge has always been a much more low-key affair. Though I imagine many of you will have been involved in theatre in some capacity or another, relatively few of you will have even considered working on a short film.
This is a real shame. Though you may not know it, Cambridge has as much of a history of nurturing first-class filmmakers as it does fostering top quality actors. Sam Mendes (American Beauty), Paul Greengrass (Captain Phillips) and Mike Newell (Four Weddings and a Funeral) are all Cantabs. Further, many of our actors and actresses have gone on to make a career on the silver screen- Rachel Weisz, Tom Hiddleston and Eddie Redmayne are just a few from an enormous list.
So why aren’t more of you getting involved in filmmaking? Perhaps it’s due to the lack of a central hub, or organised system supporting it. Plus, getting involved with theatre is extraordinarily easy. There is a well established and supported structure which you can easily slot into, whether you want to act, direct or get involved in the technical side of things.
In comparison, film may appear difficult to get involved in. If you are producing or directing, you don’t have the ADC system to lean back on, and so it seems as if you have to put in a lot more work to to get things started.
Further, there is comparatively little funding available for filmmaking in Cambridge, compared to that in place for theatre.
I’ve heard people argue that this is because it’s harder to see a financial return on a film. With a show, you have a full week of tickets to sell, and it’s relatively easy to at least break even.
However, this is a fundamental misunderstanding of the function of student drama. We are in the rare scenario where we do not have to be driven by financial motives.
The Cambridge filmmaking scene does not need to be so overlooked. Cinecam, the Cambridge Filmmaking Society, is constantly looking to help first-time filmmakers get started.
Cinecam’s current main project is an hour long TV pilot called Ruling Class, the scale of which matches even the biggest ADC shows. If you want to get a sense of what goes on on a large production, the team are shooting a couple of large scale scenes at the end of term and need a huge number of extras.
Sign up here to spend a few hours on set and see the Cambridge film scene in action.
Similarly if you have an idea you’d love to film, the Cinecam team is always happy to meet and chat about your project, and help you get it made. Cinecam runs regular filmmaking workshops on the various aspects of the craft, and have an ever expanding roster of kit that you can use whenever you need.
Further, if you are on the committee of a drama society, please consider offering funding for student filmmakers. The Dryden Society and CADS are notable for being well ahead of the curve here, and all other societies should be encouraged to follow their example. You may not make a profit from these films, but you will have a finished product that you can show off forever, unlike a play, which is relegated to memory after a week.
And beyond all this, start spreading the word about the Cambridge film scene. If you see a screening of a student film, go and watch it. Start up your own project, or apply to work on others. Help publicise the numerous wonderful films being produced every term.
Filmmaking in Cambridge can be a big deal, but it needs your support.