Trinity students swap books for cameras

Trinity’s film production module, a collaboration between three departments, allows young film-makers to bring their ambitions into focus.

indepth1Right at this moment, if you decided to take a walk around the college campus in the winter chill, you will inevitably see students chatting, students snapchatting, tourists waiting for the Book of Kells, more tourists searching for the Book of Kells, students heading to lectures, students being persuaded not to head to lectures. Then, in a corner of the campus, you may happen upon something a little out of ordinary. There, before your very eyes, would be a group of fourth year students with a camera, a script and bucket loads of enthusiasm. It is almost their final day of shooting their short film and the delight is palpable. The common campus explorer would wonder what in the world these students were up to. This curious one decided to find out.

I meet Eavan Gaffney, a fourth year student, in the Buttery. She slides a green tray onto the table before she sits down opposite me. Her group has been filming all morning, she explains, so she hasn’t had a chance to eat lunch yet. As a TSM student of English Literature and Film Studies, Eavan had to choose one subject to major in. She chose Film Studies and is currently enrolled in the DFM module, one of the main reasons why she chose to major in this subject. This is why she has been on campus filming during hours when some other students are tucked up in bed, dreading the irritating din of their alarm. This is why she is acutely  aware of the hour the sun will rise over the campus. It is also why she is talking to me today. DFM is a module that facilitates the collaboration of three different college departments as it can be taken by the students of drama, film studies and music during their fourth year. The students of the class divide into two groups and each group must make two films each of a length of ten minutes. Each and every decision is made by the students – from the vague ideas pitched at the beginning of term to the final product.


That being said, the students of DFM are not tossed into the deep end upon arriving back into their final year of college. First, the students were divided into groups for the module. Then in week two came the pitches for ideas, followed by a vote. Some provided scripts in a “this is one I prepared earlier” sort of way. Others, like Eavan, contributed an idea that they were interested in. Then the different roles were divided up among the students according to their various disciplines. For Eavan, because her idea was chosen, the role is director of one of the group’s films. For the music students, their responsibility lies in the composition of the soundtrack, while the drama students dived into the casting of the short films. Others perform roles in production and editing. For the first six weeks of term, the talented students attended two classes a week. Forget seemingly endless PowerPoints and unintelligible scribbles from a long lecture. DFM students are provided with masterclasses from industry experts. Their lecturers this semester included Bollywood director Shyam Benedal to Colm Nowell, the Irish locations manager for such well received productions as Penny Dreadful and Byzantium.

After Reading Week, the Oscar-worthy adage came to life once more, this time before the students’ eyes as it really was time for lights, camera and action. Shooting took place between weeks eight and ten and most filming took place around Trinity College. Eavan describes how the process of filming around the campus makes her see the college through new eyes now. She recalls her first morning on set when she landed on campus at half six in the morning and the realisation of difficult it is to achieve the correct shot. I met Eavan the very same day. The lighting of the scene they filmed that morning had proved to be a troublesome conundrum as it had shined in a way deemed unsuitable for the shoot to progress. Eavan and her crew had to delay filming until this issue was rectified unthey could complete filming later that day.

Shooting took place between weeks eight and ten and most filming took place around Trinity College. Eavan describes how the process of filming around the campus makes her see the college through new eyes now.

This detail from a normal day in the life of a DFM student may sound amusing, or even kind of fun: chilling around campus with your comrades and a camera, literally waiting for the sun to shine. But for the students, this is a serious endeavour. These students are in fourth year, a year that contributes to their final degree. DFM has the equivalent number of credits of two separate modules, a fact that makes it even more important for the students to create something extraordinary. Each student is graded separately based on their role in the production and the film alone is not all the students are assessed on. They must also provide paperwork from the shooting of the film – a shot list, story boards and a reflection where they explain their inspiration and justify their actions during their term as member of a film crew. Furthermore, in much the same way other students are negotiating deadlines, their films must be ready to premiere in January, and not just for their lecturers and fellow classmates. There is an annual public screening for anyone who wishes to bear witness to the work of their peers. Those who wander amongst them around what is now to them, a giant film set.

Practical experience

When asked if she is enjoying the module and all its undertakings, Eavan’s reply is instantaneous: “It has been a really, really great experience.” Most of the film studies courses previous to this endeavour have been theory-based. It’s interesting for the students now to tackle a more practical element and to be pushed into the real life challenges of film-making, Eavan explains. This is an area many of her classmates also wanted to experience. She is in the final throes of both films as both are being shot at the same time. The first, her own pitch, “Soundtracked” provides an ingeniously intriguing plot: a girl who wakes up each day to an unsolicited soundtrack of her own life, which she is unable to stop. The second, the extremely wittily titled “Locked” is directed by Alex Black and tells the tale of two girls on a night out,  one of whom is extremely drunk and another who is stuck inside a toilet cubicle.

Before I leave Eavan in peace to enjoy her lunch, I ask her why she feels more students aren’t aware of all the films made year on year right here on their own turf. She pauses for a minute and replies that while she isn’t certain of this, she feels many students of the college would find it interesting in viewing films set around Trinity campus. After all, what better way is there to appreciate the beauty of our campus than on the big screen?