Storytelling and filmmaking live and change with the times

New forms of filmmaking bring changes to the familiar roles. Professor Jarmo Lampela to engage with these challenges as the next Head of Drama for YLE

According to Professor Jarmo Lampela, who has had a long career as a professor of film directing at Aalto University, many job descriptions in the cinematography field look the same as they did way back in the 1980s. The work environment and tools have changed, however, and this is reflected also in the methods of filmmaking.

'In the digital age the editor, for example, has to be able to manage a vastly larger amount of material, and still do the work to the same deadlines as in pre-digital times. One must also be able to develop one`s own project according to a tight schedule', Jarmo Lampela explains.

'The screenwriter's role has also changed, especially for television series. In these the script is often produced in a group in which the screenwriter's job ranges from writing the dialogue, individual episodes, or new characters to constructing story lines and backgrounds.'

Jarmo Lampela has himself experimented with different production methods. In the Theatre Goes Movies project, involving three Helsinki theatres, use was made of theatre-based story development and working methods. The production method changed the actor's role and the traditional model for directing.

'The working method was very dialogic, because everyone was from the beginning working closely together, including the actors. If was easy for the actors to make the necessary role adaptations for the shootings, because they knew the roles so well', Lampela explains.

ELO an example to other film schools in developing the research tradition

On the international level, relatively few film schools offer postgraduate degrees and research opportunities. In the research of the Department of Film, Television and Scenography (ELO), the focus is not so much on delving into the final products, but more on digging into both the questions arising in the making of films by those from an artistic background and also the development of filmmaking processes.

Research results have already been obtained in areas such as screenwriting and documentary film, and now the way is opening up for researching film production as well.

'Understandable and concrete research results are of interest to the film industry, because they offer a way in for filmmakers', says Lampela.

In addition, international cooperation and partnerships have been intentionally developed for over five years now, and the results can already be seen.

The EU-funded Engage project is about developing the film and television projects of master's students in screenwriting, directing, and producing from film schools in four different countries. Partnering in this project are the film schools of Ireland, Scotland, and Estonia. The project has involved getting familiar with the special features of each country's film production and competing in pitching, with students also receiving expert feedback on their projects.

Through the development work, the international Illumenation Film Festival was transformed into an event which supports the exchanging of teaching and the creation of future professional contact networks for students. Also the Nordicil Network was activated, which covers the Nordic countries.

Now there are international partners in nearly 15 countries, which has given birth to a number of interesting cooperative projects. Partnering schools also activate student exchange, and nowadays students know already beforehand which foreign film school they would like to go to on exchange.

'Our goal is that for filmmakers international coproductions would not be the exception, but rather a natural way to work together', Lampela says.

Films with forms of distribution and target audiences as their starting point

The distribution of films and TV series is changing rapidly with the development of technology, internationalization, and the fragmentation of target audiences. New ways of attracting target audiences are needed, and ELO students are also engaging with this challenge.

In cooperation with Zürich Film School, an international series that will be screened online is under development.

'The premises of the project are particularly interesting, because success does not depend so much on production funding, but more on the whole idea itself and whether it can make a genuine breakthrough internationally', Lampela explains.

'The opportunity is also interesting because it offers ELO the chance to reflect on how up to date its own teaching is. And it is also important to stay open to students' new ideas.'

Jarmo Lampela points out that, despite the developments in technology, film making is still very much about teamwork.

'In the creative process a dialogic environment will continue to be central. Through dialogue, one passes from the starting point to a significantly better final outcome than through toiling away on one's own.'

For viewers, the development of forms of distribution brings greater freedom in the expansion of the range of programmes on offer into new areas, especially online. According to Mr Lampela, ELO's current and future alumni occupy a central role as creators of new drama and experts in new forms of production and distribution. Professor Lampela, the coming YLE Head of Drama, has a clear message to the film makers of the future:

'The goal of ELO alumni is to offer viewers challenging content. For example, there is no single correct model for the TV series production.'

In Aalto University film school at ELO, each person finds their own way to tell the story based on teaching received, analysis, and their own thinking. ELO films are marked by their distinctive sound and feel, their own way of viewing and observing the world.

The films of ELO students are successful both at home and in the international arena, but perhaps even more important than success is failure.

'The failures experienced in the safe study environment are an important part of the studies and of the development of a film maker', points out Jarmo Lampela.

Professor Lampela will be taking on his new challenges in the world of drama starting in May.

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