In 2010, a fellow video producer turned me on to this British filmmaker named Philip Bloom and his groundbreaking work with DSLRs. I read everything on philipbloom.net and within a few months had amassed a collection of expensive toys I’d been taught to use through his generous website. My life to that point had been handheld, on tape, and in woefully substandard definition. I had seen the light and could identify the color temperature.

CFL

After a year of virtual tutelage, I attended my first Philip Bloom workshop, Canon Filmmakers Live, in Nashville. In addition to invaluable gear recommendations and practical shooting advice, I learned that Philip is not only a brilliant DP, cinematographer, and filmmaker, but a nice guy (cheeky, but nice) and is taller than he appears on TV. I took the Nashville experience and put it into practice, upping my game an f-stop or two.

In 2012, I went to Key West for a three-day masterclass taught by Philip and Nino Leitner. It was a marvelous assembly of creative people, an impressive collection of gear, and an unforgettable setting, around which Philip leisurely rode his bicycle while we sweated out our training making a film. (see the film by “Team Death” below) Three days among peers honing our craft was perhaps the best professional morale boost once could ask for.  I never shot the same way again.  This single masterclass had done more for me than my entire undergraduate degree program. (Sorry, WKU.)

[ key west cemetery ] from Jon Minnihan on Vimeo.

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2012 Key West Filmmaking Masterclass (photo by Pascal Depuhl, 4/29/12)

Winter 2013 was cold and bitter and I thought it better to fly to Miami for another one-day Philip Bloom workshop hosted by Filmgate Interactive. Like Canon Filmmakers Live, Philip had his usual pile of computers, hard drives, dollies, Zacuto rigs, and venti Starbucks coffees strewn about the table in front and we all sat in rapt attention. I had heard him talk on most of these topics before, but it was fun nonetheless. (More on this workshop in a previous post.)

2013 Filmgate Interactive Philip Bloom workshop, Miami Beach, FL, 2/2/13

One day being not nearly enough, I returned to Filmgate the following year for a three-day masterclass set in lovely Miami Beach and the Everglades with hopes of replicating the revelatory experience of Key West. In spite of the engaging presentation, full day of shooting in the Everglades, and the fun people involved, I “learned” very little.

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Shooting in the Everglades, 2/4/14

I believe Philip Bloom will teach you everything he knows. He certainly taught me everything I know about DSLR filmmaking, and I owe him immeasurably for enhancing my abilities over the years. But it occurred to me after Miami that the amount of training, tools, and tips one can receive from a full-time professional like Philip at the occasional workshop or masterclass can eventually reach a threshold for repeat attenders. In my case, between 2010 and 2014, I had taken in the vast majority of Philip’s fine but finite “curriculum”.

Why, then, did I keep returning year after year?

Inspiration.

Watching Philip’s films with him present to field questions is a treat, as is his rapport with the audience (even if 90 percent of everything he says is bollocks). He forces you to confront your own work and inevitably think Damn it, I can do better. I walked away from every workshop and masterclass inspired more than informed, enthused more than merely educated. And my work improved every time.

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2014 Filmgate Interactive Filmmaking Masterclass meet-up, Miami Beach, FL. (photo by @BrilynnF, 2/5/14)

I’ve learned a great deal from Philip over the years about full-frame sensors, CF cards, rolling shutter, color grading, prime lenses, interviewing, timelapsing, etc., but the most important lesson I learned from Philip Bloom is that I am not Philip Bloom. The allure of one day having a high-traffic blog, 100K+ Twitter followers, film shoots around the globe, and a house full of cats can be alluring, and there is the temptation to start one’s own blog, review gear, timelapse everything, and offer your own workshops. But in an age where everyone is a self-promoter imitating other self-promoters imitating other self-promoters imitating Steve Jobs, it is best (and far less exhausting) to be one’s self, to take all that inspiration and what’s been learned and get out there and shoot. The experience, opportunities, and perhaps the audience will come with time. I believe Philip would agree.

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Philip and I, 2014 Filmgate Interactive Filmmaking Masterclass, 2/5/14)

Postscript – The impetus for this post has now become the afterthought. The aim before getting all Philosophical was to set up my little timelapse montage “Rooms with Hit and Miss Views”, which I began two years ago inspired by Philip’s practice of timelapsing all of his hotel room views whether lackluster or spectacular. This mediocre film with marvelous music by Jordan Hancock taught me that timelapsing out hotel room windows is great for guys like Philip (who can arrange far nicer views), but that I would much prefer forgoing the incessant shutter clicks for some quiet reading time and a Hendrick’s and tonic with cucumber (just kidding).*

These timelapses are far from perfect.  I am not Philip Bloom.

Rooms with Hit and Miss Views from Ryan Staples on Vimeo.

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*Mr. Bloom’s drink of choice

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Written by Ryan Staples

Professional videographer, proficient photographer, practicing writer. Imperfect perfectionist.