February 12, 2014 at 10:05 am  •  Posted in Art, Creativity, Film, Film Makers, Innovation by  •  0 Comments

Small Things, Save the Children from Resonate Films on Vimeo.

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What is your background and how did you begin your journey? 

I was born in the midlands in the UK and I grew up in quite a controlled, conservative environment. I was a musician and I had to play classical music every day and I wasn’t really allowed to watch much TV. My imagination was inspired by what I saw on TV and I was blown away the first time I went to the cinema. It certainly seemed much more interesting than my life growing up in Derby. I yearned for adventure and to understand the world more. After doing a joint honors philosophy / sociology degree at Leeds university and not knowing what I wanted to do for a while, a careers adviser at uni actually encouraged me to just follow my dreams and do what I really wanted to do, which was to work in the movies. Somehow this just hadn’t been an option before. It seemed so unattainable. So I did some work experience and then got accepted into the National Film and Television school in the UK. Since I had a strong music background and had become quite technical through making electronic dance music, getting into the sound department seemed like a logical step. After film school I worked in post production and location sound for quite a while. As a sound recordist I travelled the world working on all kinds of projects. About ten years ago I started doing a few cameraman jobs and I now I work pretty much solely as a cameraman through my company Resonate Films.

Describe your job and what you do? 

I work as both a lighting cameraman and sometimes as a shooting director. As a lighting cameraman my job is ultimately to help the director achieve his or her vision. My job is both technical and creative. So much of it is about understanding the medium and thinking about what shots you need for the edit.I like to have a vision in my mind about how the finished film will look and work towards it, even if plans completely change. There’s little point in just getting a few nice shots if they won’t edit together. I use lots of different pieces of kit based around various lights, tripods, cameras, sound and grip equipment.

Being familiar and comfortable with the kit is important but being technical is only a part of it. Your personality is probably just as crucial. I work on all kinds of projects for a variety of clients. This week alone I’ll be doing four different shoots. On top of that I’m hiring kit out and having numerous discussions about projects that I’ve got coming up. It can be hard to keep on top of everything. Recent projects that I’ve worked on in the last fortnight include a BBC thing called Richard Hammond’s Big Weather, a green screen shoot for Visa, a couple of other corporates, a brand piece for Bupa and a shoot for a charity called Tomorrow’s People and I have finished a Range Rover in Saudi Arabia!

What an actual shoot is like varies so much depending on the project.

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Was this always going to be the direction you were going to go in or has this evolved naturally? 

My direction has certainly evolved. I like to have a plan though. I can’t imagine not working towards something. I’m sure the direction I’m currently going in will evolve too. What inspires me and where I want to focus my creative energy is different now from where it was ten years ago. It’ll probably be different again in ten years. I hope so actually. It’ll definitely be in filmmaking though. I love the medium. I’m always keen to grow.

What has been your most memorable project?

There have been so many memorable projects or at least memorable moments within those projects. It’s hard to say. The first thing that comes to mind though was a shoot that I did for the Jamaican Tourism Board. That was a full on two weeks. From the word go we were filming all kinds of spectacular things. On the very first day we got into a light aircraft and flew around the coastline of the island. I’m always reminded of that shoot as I have a scar on my arm that I got after swinging off a very large bridge and the wet rope got wrapped around my arm before I fell into the water. Ouch!

Over the years there have been so many unusual experiences and I’ve met so many wonderful people. A few years ago I started making a list of all these things so that I wouldn’t totally forget them.

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You recently did work for ‘Save the Children’ tell us about this?

That shoots for Save the Children are particularly rememberable. Save the Children got in touch with me initially back in 2012 to work on a christmas themed campaign. It was through an old contact I had there who I’d worked with over ten years ago. This led to me going with them out to Malawi and then Niger to shoot two commercials, one on Health and the other on Nutrition. They’re being broadcast at the moment.

It’s not easy to describe quite what it was like. When you see a child for the first time who’s literally starving to death, it’s an image that stays with you.I kept a diary whilst I was out there to help digest it all. As a European seeing the extreme contrast in the world like that still takes some getting used to, even after all this time. Whilst we were in Niger, a number of the children we filmed died of malnourishment. It seems so wrong especially when the country is just a few hours flight away. Not that distance and time should make any difference. It was just that being in Niger in the morning and then Paris in the afternoon was such a contrast. Coming back to the mega wealth of Europe was actually a bit of a culture shock to be honest, more than the other way round. Working with Save the Children is such a privilege. Many of the places I go to with work are the sort of places where tourists just don’t go. I get so see some things that you wouldn’t necessarily chose or want to see. There’s a massive need in this world and it’s wonderful to see the fantastic work that Save the Children do and to be involved with them using the skills that I have as a filmmaker.

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What has been the best piece of advice you have been given to you?

It was when my careers adviser at university asked me what it was that I really wanted to do and then he told me to just go and do it. Simple really.

 As an creative artist what kind of work (if money was freely given) would you like to do?

Well I really like variety. I’d ideally like to work on the sort of projects that I get the most pleasure out of watching which are feature films, documentaries and good quality American TV dramas. I do really like working on films for brands though as well as doing travel films as they’re so much fun. I also like making films for charities and trying to do something positive. Believing in what you do is key. I’m lucky as I already do so many of these things.

What’s usually just as important as the film you’re making is whom you’re making it with and what kind of experiences you have on the way. The process can be of more value to you than the finished film.

Ultimately I like really like films, whatever genre, where you have an emotional connection with the characters and where the story still resonates with you afterwards, hence the name of my company Resonate Films. Those are the kinds of films I’d ideally like to make. That’s why I got into this industry.

Contact Oli Cohen here on The Factoryline  and on his website here  http://www.resonatefilms.tv


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