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How To Make Great DIY Swim Film – Top Tips #1

How do you make a great DIY swim film? In the first of six blogs, BAFTA-nominated director Stefan Stuckert of the feature documentary 'Oceans 7' looks at story and prep.

1. It’s not the camera…

“It is the photographer, not the camera, that is the instrument.” (Eve Arnold). 

Beth Beach 1

There’s no need for an expensive camera or sound recording device. Work with what you have! I’ll assume a smart phone or basic compact camera. A large percentage of what makes a good film happens before you even switch on the camera. Preparation is crucial.

Whatever you film, it will be special and unique because you are using an exceptional piece of equipment: yourself! It’s your vision and ideas that drive the film, not the equipment.

2. Why are you making the film?

Hawaii Sunset

This may seem obvious, but before you turn on your camera, think about the purpose. What is your film about? Is it a stunning location that interests you, the time of day (for example a misty morning or a beautiful sunset) or the people you’re swimming with? Are you attending a special event, for example a competition, or are you reviewing a new piece of swim gear?

Every swim is different. Every swim is special.  Clearly deciding what your film is about will determine everything else, from camera angles to choice of music. 

3. Story and drama

Hawaii Night

Whether you make a Hollywood blockbuster, an art movie or a home video, at the heart of filmmaking is the urge to tell a story.

Most stories move from a starting point A to an end point B and involve some drama or conflict along the way. The drama can be simple, for example encountering an unexpected current along a river swim or worrying about the darkness of the water beneath you. Are you trying to beat your personal best? Is it winter and you’re concerned about the water temperature? Or are you after something more artistic such as the drama of the changing light as the sun sets over a mountain lake?

The story can be anything you like, but find your starting / end points and highlight the conflict in-between.

That’s it for now. It’ll be more practical advice next week. Please, send in suggestion for types of films you’d like to make! It is always better to work with concrete examples.

Stefan Stuckert is the BAFTA-nominated director of the feature documentary ‘Oceans 7’ about the open-sea swimmer Beth French and her extraordinary challenge to swim across the world’s seven toughest sea-channels in a single year.

In order to help raise funds for shooting the last crucial scenes of the film, Stefan will be running a crowd funding campaign, starting Thursday, 9 November. If you’d like to become part of this exciting project, check out their website for more details.