Lucy Gaffy on Filmmaking & Six Week Film School

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Lucy Gaffy is an award-winning filmmaker, and a graduate of the AFTRS. With a seven-year career in the industry writing and directing short films, documentaries, and feature-film projects, Lucy is the ideal tutor for The Six Week Film School.


What are your 10 Top Tips for Filmmakers?

1. Find your tribe - surround yourself friends and fellow filmmakers who share your taste, vision and passion.

2. Get the best training you can - honour filmmaking as a craft and specialisation that requires development. 

3. If you're on time you're late - respect the half hour pre call

4. Wear comfortable shoes! 

5. Don't focus solely on the destination - try and take the time to enjoy the journey as well. The road to being a filmmaker in Australia is longer than you think, but more joyous than you can imagine.

6. Don't be afraid to be bold, audacious or present the new - that's your job.

7. Your first idea is not always your best idea - don't hold onto it too hard if it is failing to resonate with people.

8. Seek the council of those you admire whose taste align with yours - beware of phonies who talk rather than do. 

9. Always have the audience experience in the forefront of your mind - irrespective of what type of piece you are making (independent or commercial) how the audience is feeling is your primary concern. If you don't care about them, they won't care about you or the work you are putting forward.

10. Bring to the world what you love yourself - don't follow fads. By the time you get them financed that ship has sailed and you end up with a piece that isn't authentically you.


Your number 1 tip is “Find your tribe. Surround yourself with friends and fellow filmmakers who share your taste, vision and passion.” Can you expand on this a little more?

I think because filmmaking is such a collaborative creative enterprise, more so than almost anything else, finding a group of people that you connect with in terms of your ideas, who share your sense of the world and the types of stories that you enjoy is absolutely essential in terms of your creative work. By opening yourself up to the collaborative and collegiate experience that is filmmaking, your work is really enriched. I think something that will come out of the The Six Week Film School for the participants is they find their first Tribe which is really important.


What drew you to filmmaking in the first place?

I’ve always loved filmmaking. I think the first video we got when I was about five was a documentary called That’s Entertainment! which was about MGM Studio, and I was really obsessed with this movie as it was a documentary about how movies were made. However I really didn’t start filmmaking until I was 25. I was immediately drawn to the immersive storytelling that is manifested by cinema. For me it is the fusion of the best things that come out of reading a novel or going to a play; reading a novel you can be inside the experience of a character, and going to a play you’re connected to the physicality of the performer or the actor and what they’re doing, and for me cinema is the thing that marries these two things so perfectly. I think that’s why, of all creative practices, that’s where I’ve found myself as a practitioner.


You’re a writer and a director: do you prefer one over the other?

I think one really informs the other, and actually think as a director you are always sort of writing, whether you wrote the screenplay or not. I think having a really strong command of story is a fundamental element of being a director; because you’re leading, and working with an actor or working with any of your heads of department or craft people, to use all of those techniques and palettes to inform story.


The Six Week Film School is part theory, part practice. How do you combine those two things?

Some of the information that we talk about in terms of film history or screen craft or visual storytelling is information that’s available in textbooks and websites, BUT this information is really enriched by the practical work we do in the course. You get to collaborate and create work with people, you get to learn what it’s like to share, you’ve got to learn what it’s like to not always be in control, and then you’ve got to learn what it’s like to create a work with more than one voice at play. This is probably the primary function of a working filmmaker in Australia today and it’s not something you can ever learn from reading an article on a website and it’s not a skill that’s ever exercised by reading a textbook.

I think there’s a really theoretical base to everything that we do, but we’ve been really careful to make sure that there’s a practical application or exercise for each skill. For example, when we do a History of Acting seminar, we do a technique where everyone has to get up and be an actor, and use those techniques on each other; when we do a Cinematography workshop, we get up and everyone has a camera in their hands, and we get to feel and look and see how everything works.

Another thing students have to do is to pitch. Generally I’ve found most people who do this course want to be a director, but we can only have one director, so I give them a very real-world experience of having to pitch against each other for the gig. Then we’ll have two cinematographers, which is the second thing that everyone wants to be, two camera teams, then there will be a production designer, so if you’re not the director you’ll be a head of department, and you’ll have a lot of responsibility. And there’s not just one editor: everybody gets to edit. So that’s really focussing on the really key post production skills, which is a really important entry-level skillset that everybody should have, so that’s why we encourage everybody to do it.


If you want to hear more from Lucy Gaffy check out The Six Week Film School.

The course starts on 11 January at AFTRS Sydney. Enrolments must close 21 December.

Acknowledgement

The Australian Film Television Radio and School would like to acknowledge the Traditional Owners, the Bidjigal people and Gadigal people of the Eora Nation, on whose land we meet, work, study and teach. We pay our respects to Elders past and present, and extend our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people from all nations of this land.