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We are delighted to announce that January 2021's Film of the Month winner is fascinating documentary Olympic Medal Dealing, from filmmaker Neil, in Cambridge. See his winning film above!
Olympic Medal Dealing (engaging for ages 7+) is a delightful documentary about a former software engineer who finds joy in his new job as a seller of specialised sport medals.
I've never thought about olymic medal dealing before, and now I want to know more! Understated close ups of the medals themselves showed an appreciation for the craft and artistic creativity that goes into making each one. Has great rhythm and is impeccably shot.Film of the Month judge on 'Olympic Medal Dealing'
We got in touch with Neil to find out more about his film.
How did you begin making films, and how long have you been a filmmaker?
I think I've been making films for about seven years or so. The first films I can remember making were little stop-motion animations with LEGO figures. A bit later, my friends and I started putting together more cohesive short films for lots of different genres: horror, comedy, thrillers and all sorts. It wasn't until a couple of years ago that I tried making short documentaries, and since then it's been my main filmmaking interest.
We absolutely loved the focus for your documentary. When did you realise you could make an interesting documentary about your Dad's unique job?
I think it was after I watched a short documentary about a lady whose job is making 'reborn' baby dolls (which look life-like and are often commissioned by parents who lost an infant child). It was a pretty fascinating look into a really bizarre job that I never knew existed. So then I thought that my dad could make for a good documentary subject, given how specialised his business is. When we went into lockdown, I decided it would be the perfect time to make the film, since my dad and I are living under the same roof and I could film everything in our home.
Were you influenced in any way by another documentary filmmaker and if so, who and why?
My favourite documentary filmmaker is Louis Theroux so I think he must have influenced me on some level. I'm always interested in the kinds of odd-ball characters and lifestyles which he explores in his films. My dad is almost like a very scaled-down version of one of those people since he has a quirky job and there are lots of interesting details to explore. Just without the offensive language and controversial opinions!
What makes a great documentary for you?
I think it's all to do with the people in front of the camera and the way the story is told. Films which focus on intriguing characters like Amy Winehouse in Amy (2015) and Bob Dylan in Don't Look Back (1967) completely invest you in their stories. I think the best documentaries use similar story-telling methods to fictional films. They normally follow a rough three-act structure with some kind of conflict and a resolution at the end (but not always). The hard part is finding subjects that lend themselves to the format and then crafting your story as you edit the footage.
Did you face any challenges whilst making your film and if so, how did you overcome these?
The main challenge was making everything look and sound professional with pretty limited resources. For the interview, I positioned my dad near a window to make sure there was plenty of natural light on his face. I put a white bedsheet over the window which helped to diffuse the light and give a more flattering effect (not that my dad needs it!). Then I made sure to record clean audio and used a bit of EQ (Equalization - changing the balance to give you more control over the recorded sound) and compression in the edit. Other than that, it was pretty straightforward since my dad was very cooperative - he even gave me a 50% discount on his usual pay rate!
Is this your first time making a documentary film? If not, what other work have you made?
I made a few other documentaries before this. My first attempt was a short film about a band at my sixth-form college. A bit later, I made a documentary called 17 and Deaf - a runner-up in the Into Film Awards 2020 - about a friend of mine and her experience growing up with impaired hearing. After that I made several films in collaboration with Cambridge TV, who are a local production company. These focused on all kinds of subjects, including competitive swimming, sleep disorders and plastic pollution.
Do you have any future filmmaking projects you'd like to tell us about?
At the moment I'm in my first year at university studying filmmaking and I'm working on a fictional film which is a thriller/dark-comedy along the same vein as American Psycho and Fargo. Lots of blood and gore and that kind of thing. It has some experimental elements, so I think creating the sound mix will be a lot of fun once restrictions allow us to make it!
What three top tips would you give to other young filmmakers who are about to make their first documentary?
Neil's film will now be showcased to over 300,000 film club members online and all of our Film of the Month films are now on the Into Film YouTube channel, and he has also secured a £100 Amazon voucher to help further develop their future films. Think you could win Film of the Month? Find out more about how you can enter our ongoing Film of the Month competition.
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