From Documentary Student to Filmmaker: How Fraser launched his TV career
Part-Time Documentary Filmmaker alumni Fraser McGruer won second prize in the Met/ Independent documentary competition ‘IndyDocs’ and is now working for the Independent’s new TV channel: London Live. He tells us about his journey as a filmmaker, and what projects he is working on now.
Blog by Fraser McGruer
It was 8am on a beautiful summer’s day and, somewhat unexpectedly, I found myself inside a ramshackle little boat on the river Lea in North East London, interviewing Kristoff, a slightly scary looking Hungarian with lots of tattoos and a skinhead/ pony tail….
- The journey to Kristoff’s boat started in late December 2013. At the time, I was enrolled on Met Film School’s Part-time Documentary Filmmakingcourse. I had noticed a poster advertising a competition for Met students and graduates. The competition was being in held in partnership with the Independent newspaper, with the shortlisted films to be shown online. The brief was ‘tell us something we didn’t know’.
- I had a subject in mind, but the competition deadline was coming up in a few days. I phoned my subject on the Thursday, picked up the gear from Met Film on the Friday, filmed on the Saturday, cut on the Sunday and submitted in time for the deadline on the Monday morning. You can see the end film here:The Goolie Chit. I was pleased to have made and submitted the film and was astonished when it was shortlisted along with nine others and was even more astonished when I was told it had won second prize in the competition, with the prize being work experience with the Independent.
- I recently embarked upon the work placement with the Independent’s sister company, London Live, London’s new local TV channel. I’ve been working with a wonderful producer who has been very encouraging. Together we have been working on a project, the end-result of which will be a series of short films in which different communities or groups of Londoners provide their perspective on life in London. My first attempt was with black cab drivers, but I had to temporarily abandon this film as these guys are actually (and quite surprisingly) quite tricky to pin down for a short chat (though I’ll have another crack at them soon). So, I turned my attention to people who live on canal boats. I’d always wondered what life was like on a canal boat, so off I went to Springfield Park in Hackney to find out. It was a very enjoyable day and you can see the results here with Kristoff and company in their full glory: London by Canal
- Thinking about how the part-time doc course has helped me in what I’m doing at the moment, these are my thoughts. I found the practical exercises we did of great value. My favourite was ‘Life in a bag’ where you wander up to a stranger in Ealing and ask them what’s in the their bag and film them as they tell you. This is pretty much exactly what I’ve been doing with my London Live films, so it was great experience in getting someone to talk to you whilst also shooting film and audio.
- Other aspects of the course that I have drawn heavily upon include knowing what kind of shots I want to capture ahead of the shoot and making sure I get these. Also, the editing experience was of course invaluable and, perhaps more importantly, knowing how to organise my rushes and organise the editing process. Perhaps most useful of all was the final film project all of us students had to complete for the course. More than anything, for me, it was an exercise in getting the job done and committing to completing a film. There are so many uncertainties in the process of making a film that it’s easy to get lost or disheartened. So, delivering a final film (you can see my graduation film here: Strings Attached) and knowing that you have it within you to do it is invaluable skill to have under your belt.
- I’m still a long, long way from making a ‘perfect’ film and I still get annoyed with the mistakes I make, but, positively, I feel that each film has been a learning experience and marks an improvement on the previous one; I’m beginning to build a portfolio of films of which I feel I can be proud. The doc course with Met Film, the competition and the work experience with London Live have all been vital components in this process. Onwards and upwards…