I realised just how brilliant the Bill Douglas Centre was at the end of last year. As a first year English student, I had been full of the conviction that I wanted to work in film and television. I had taken a film studies module, become Screen Editor of Exeposé Online and had generally watched as much Netflix as I possibly could. However I felt that my practical engagement with film was lacking. As much as I’d enthused over my favourite Werner Herzog and forced those around me into loving The West Wing, I hadn’t actually done anything immensely proactive myself.

Both with this concern in mind and a small chunk free time before final exams, I emailed Phil Wickham, curator of the Bill Douglas Centre, to ask about volunteering. To my surprise, he encouraged me to make a short film to promote the Bill Douglas Centre. Wanting practical filming experience and having enjoyed visiting the museum, I was more than happy to take up the task.

After proposing a few ideas, it was decided that the film would feature two new visitors to the Bill Douglas Centre and follow them as they toured the museum.  Once I had corralled flatmates and friends into forming my crew and begged the ever-wonderful Joe and Olya to let their first visit to the BDC be filmed, we were off.

A tight schedule meant we could only film for a few hours on one day. This presented several limitations: we didn’t have enough time (or battery life!) to film pick-ups or extensive b-roll, and Joe and Olya’s visit was dictated by the shots and interviews we needed to get rather than objects they wanted to see. It was also a lesson in how a series of shots may look organic on-screen but be convoluted and tricky to set-up, though the general rigmarole of filming became something we all quite enjoyed grappling with. The editing period was also limited to a few days but again we enjoyed learning how to make an interesting and lively film from the many shots we filmed.

While various issues did occur, it was an overwhelmingly positive experience. My crew, consisting of Leo, Jon, Jess, Emily and Izzy, were enthusiastic from the get-go. As it was a new experience for all of us, it was nice to see where each of our strengths lay and discover how much fun both figuring out shots and filming them could be. With the goodwill and trust of Phil Wickham, we had been given complete freedom with our filming and we all enjoyed exploring the vast range of creative decisions we were able to consider.

The Bill Douglas Centre proved itself to be an incredible resource and the film only touches on the various exhibits and artefacts. That we were able to couple filming with learning about the history of cinema and see our camera beside a ‘cinématographe’ and its other predecessors made it particularly special. Learning about the Magic Lanterns was just as intriguing as the more recognisable memorabilia upstairs of which Harry Potter and Disney were favourites, Furthermore, both Joe and Olya came away genuinely enthused by the museum’s contents which was an important goal of the film itself.

While I do hope the film reflects the hard work put in, my main aim is that it does inspire people to visit the Bill Douglas Centre. Having given me such an empowering learning experience, I know first-hand how fantastic it is not only as a museum and research centre but as an educational tool. If you are interested in film or are just looking for a way to enrich your studies, make sure to take advantage of how valuable a resource the BDC is.

I would like to thank Joe, Olya, Leo, Jon, Izzy, Jess and Emily for joining me and bringing their dedication and enthusiasm. Most importantly, I would also like to thank Phil Wickham and the entire Bill Douglas Centre for giving me this opportunity which I know will prove fundamental to any future projects I embark upon.

The film is now on the BDC’s facebook page and on youtube under ‘The Bill Douglas Experience’.

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