Directing an Award Winning Documentary

Our incredibly talented Film Programme Coordinator and lecturer, Carl Copeland, has recently written and directed The Bookshop short documentary, which is currently on the festival scene and won the Grand Jury Award at the Screen Power Film Festival, London!

It’s currently been accepted for a couple of festivals with the hope that it continues to gain more recognition. It was filmed and completed by staff and alumni students.
To mark this wonderful achievement, we sat down with Carl to talk about the film and his time teaching at SAE.

Could you tell us a little bit about yourself?

I’ve been a lecturer for nearly ten-years specialising in film, media and practice. Prior to this I have worked in a range of different roles in the filmmaking process. These include film directing, assistant directing, producing, camera operator, editing etc. I have a passion for cinema and I watch films religiously, to me this forms the basis for making films but also studying and analysing films. If I’m not spending time with my partner and children, I’m likely doing something film related.

Carl Copeland

What was the inspiration behind The Bookshop?

I like stories with interesting people and documentary is the perfect platform for this, as it deals with real lives. The Bookshop as a subject matter is interesting enough, it’s a nostalgic place that we don’t see much of these days, particularly in the age of high street consumerism and online consumption. But the inspiration is really Michael, who owns the bookshop. He’s the person who brings it to life, he’s got a humanistic stance to his thoughts and feelings and you naturally warm to him through his outlook on life. I love observational documentaries like Salesman (1969) and stylistic docs like Sans Soleil (1983), these were both inspirational in my implementation of it. Ultimately, I feel the documentary will serve as a timestamp for unique ventures such as the Bookshop.

What was the filming process like?

The filming process was seamless. I do a lot pre-planning with the questions, the tone and the general approach of the documentary. When we arrived for filming it was relatively straightforward as a result. We shot over three-days with the first day dedicated to the interview and days two and three dedicated towards observational and B-Roll footage. I enjoy the filmmaking process and working with a great team of individuals including Saul and David, it was just another day.

What were the biggest challenges you faced during the production of The Bookshop?

The production aspect of the Bookshop as highlighted was relatively straightforward. We had the odd technical issue and the shop was difficult to navigate due to its size. However, it was nothing that couldn’t be dealt with. The biggest challenges were in post-production. We had hours worth of footage which me and Jake boiled down to a 9-minute short film. I had a clear treatment and structure for the project, but you make tweaks based on the information provided. This took several months on and off, developing narratives and timelines that we felt worked. 

What were the three most rewarding moments of writing and directing The Bookshop?

I think the whole process was rewarding and actually seeing the film come together is what is the most gratifying. It’s collaborating with like minded individuals that gives you incentive to want to make more projects.

Do you have any plans for future projects?

Yes, the same crew are currently in pre-production on another short documentary called the Tailor. Here I look the intricate craft on an independent tailor and his life’s work in what he deems as a dying trade. It will be completed by late 2022.

What advice would you give to aspiring film writers and directors?

My advice to aspiring filmmakers is to write and film anything. People are hung up on equipment, but all you need is a great story and a desire to make movies. I always watch films as a source of inspiration.

What do you enjoy most about teaching at SAE?

My favourite thing about teaching at SAE is the staff and the students. There is a great rapport with the fellow lecturers and we’re all on the same page about our teaching and learning. However, I love teaching the students, it’s great to share ideas about making films and then supporting them on their journeys to bring them to life. 

What is your favourite thing about teaching film?

Film is one of the finest mediums to express yourself, and it can change lives. I am passionate about film, and working with like-minded students makes the job easy.

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