13 January 2020

It was a huge delight to welcome back the great Danish cinematographer (and original AFU tutor) Jonas Mortensen, who returned to Abingdon on Saturday to run a workshop with senior AFU filmmakers on using our Swiss-made 1971 Bolex 16mm film camera. This wonderful piece of kit represents the ultimate test for student filmmakers who must learn, among many other things, how to load 100 foot rolls of film that last a mere 2 minutes, 45 seconds; wind the clockwork camera mechanism (maximum shot length: 23 seconds); measure focal length with a tape measure and use a light meter to find aperture settings before sending their footage to be developed with fingers firmly crossed that what they’ve shot will come out as they intended. It’s exhilarating but nerve-wracking stuff, and worth every bit of the challenge in order to capture the unique warmth of image that real film delivers, as seen in the recent BAFTA-nominated film “Bait”, which used exactly the same kind of camera.

The workshop also marked a return to the methods of the very earliest filmmakers at Abingdon, when the late Michael Grigsby (OA 1955) and his contemporaries shot on 16mm cameras – albeit ones less sophisticated than the beautifully made Bolex.

Jonas was a regular at the AFU from its inception in 2003 until 2012 when his commitments as a cinematographer became so significant that he was no longer able to fit in the weekly sessions at Abingdon. In that time, he oversaw two of the AFU’s most ambitious projects to date – two thirty-minute student documentaries, one shot in Cambodia and the other in Moldova, and he has stayed in touch with the AFU since then through serving as a consultant on the Loose Limbed Collective’s debut film “The Bomb Club” and a special adviser on new film equipment. Away from Abingdon, his career has taken him all over the world. One of his recent assignments was shooting the Rolling Stones’ documentary “Havana Moon” in Cuba, for example and last year he completed work on “Rudeboy: the story of Trojan Records”, shot in Jamaica and other Caribbean islands.

We look forward to seeing what new cinematic delights emerge from the sixth form filmmakers who have put themselves forward to face the challenge of using 16mm film. An added bonus on Saturday was the presence of Abingdon Film Academy & Larkmead student Federico Balla who took time out from working with AFU tutor Duncan Pickstock on editing his first film to look in on the Bolex session and perhaps draw inspiration for his next project!

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