James McDonald: Here’s a few pointers on making your own film. Use any camera you have to hand and a tripod if you have one, but most importantly don’t forget about sound, as bad sound is the basic failing of most low-budget films, certainly most of mine. The easiest ways of guaranteeing good sound are a good location and a well-placed microphone. For example, don’t interview somebody beside a busy road, unless of course you’re interviewing them about traffic, in which case it’s a very insightful, creative decision. Get the microphone as close to the voice of your interviewee as possible, but out of shot. If you don’t have a fancy microphone, and you’re just using the one built into the camera, just get close and find a quiet place. And always wear headphones to monitor the sound.
In terms of the image, it should be common sense as to what a good shot is, and whether you have the right light, the right focus and the framing. Ways of making it look more professional might be to keep a space in front of the direction your interviewee is looking, and get plenty of cutaway shots to cover over any edits. Technicalities aside, it benefits you to start thinking like an editor before you shoot a single thing, as this is going to have to form some kind of cohesive statement in the end. Write an outline script before you start filming with what you would want to say and make sure you ask the contributors the appropriate questions when you meet with them.
Can I playfully ask you to describe Brixton?
Also, jot down the kinds of images that will work suitably with what they are saying and try to film them at the time rather than as an afterthought. This might save you an unnecessary car journey and keep your carbon emissions down, as well as meaning you don’t have to waste your time going back to get a shot of something you could’ve easily got when you were there last. After that, it’s anyone’s guess as to what makes a good film. Be playful, inventive and do something new and exciting. It doesn’t matter what camera you have, or what you’re editing on, they all do the same job, and what matters in the end is that you’ve made something that says what you want to say and that people want to watch.