A film school journey – Erin Latimer

erin1Since her Sydney Film School graduation in 2013, Erin Latimer has been extremely busy.

Not only has she started her own production company, Permanent Ink Pictures with her brother and current Sydney Film School student, Justin Latimer, she has also continued her film study at the University of New South Wales. Erin is a great example of how the diploma obtained at Sydney Film School can compliment both past and future study. It opens pathways to more opportunities as well as broadens your filmmaking knowledge and understand each part of the process to work in different roles in the filmmaking process.

We thank Erin for taking the time to answer a few questions about her time at Sydney Film School and her study and film work after graduation.

by Nicole Newton-Plater

Q: What led you to choose Sydney Film School to begin your film study?

A: I did an acting program at NIDA when I was 16. At one point we collaborated with some other NIDA students who were making a short film and I knew at that moment that I was on the wrong side of the camera. I then went to TAFE and studied Digital Media where my favourite class was video editing and it became obvious that film school was the next step. Watching some short films in the Sydney Film School cinema on their Open Day, I knew that I wanted to spend the next year making films too and that I’d come to the right place. I’m pretty sure I took the application form home, filled it out and returned it to John Buckmaster that same day.
Q: How did Sydney Film School  help you choose which area of filmmaking you wanted to specialize in? 
A: I specialised in Screenwriting and Cinematography while at SFS. I’d always been into writing and learning to craft screenplays was an opportunity I had been waiting for. Cinematography was also something I’d always been interested in, but never knew much about. SFS gave me the chance to get hands-on with cameras right away and after focus pulling for the major film in Part One, I was keen to continue in the camera department for the rest of the year and landed a DOP (Director of Photography) role for Part Two.
Q: As you are now completing a Bachelor of Arts with majors in Film Studies and Creative Writing at University of New South Wales, how did your study at Sydney Film School help pave the way for further study?
A: I came into UNSW with a lot of knowledge about the practical side of filmmaking. In my first year at university, I took a practical course where our tutor showed us how to use DSLRs and basic lights and tripods, but after film school none of that was new to me. I never took another practical course and instead have spent the last two and half years focused entirely on film theory, which has been a great benefit to me as a writer. Having practical skills under my belt first also complimented my university study well, as I’ve been able to use my deeper of knowledge of cinematography, sound, editing and much more to write better informed theory and analysis. 
Q: Do you think it is beneficial to study film and continue to progress your career in film at the same time?
A: That depends on your situation, I would say. If you’re in a position where you’re getting paid to work in the industry, I would leave study behind to focus on that at least temporarily. For me the last couple of years have been very busy study-wise so I haven’t had a lot of time to sink my teeth into paid film work. Instead I have been focused on personal film projects and building the beginnings of my production company, which is of course a big part of progressing my career.  
Q: Do you find that the work you are doing often coincides with what you are studying?
A: Since I’m studying film theory and creative writing I would say as a writer yes, but as a director, no. I’m currently taking a class called Reviewing the Arts which focuses on crafting reviews and criticism in a chosen discipline, which is of course film and television for me. I’ve recently begun writing critical/analytical essays and reviews for a website called Fandom Following, which is all about nerdy media and pop culture. Having that opportunity coincide with that class has been quite beneficial as I’m learning to hone my skills as a reviewer while getting published at the same time.
Q: How was your production company, Permanent Ink Pictures established?
A: When I wrapped up at SFS in 2013, I left with a free weekend of RED camera gear hire thanks to a cinematography award from the school. I used this to direct my debut project outside of film school, a music video called “Hooks” by Daniel Tomalaris. I wanted my work to have a brand from the start, especially since I knew I would be collaborating with my brother Justin in future (who is studying at SFS currently), so having a single name to put all of our work under was something I wanted to establish right away. So Permanent Ink Pictures was born.
Q:Permanent Ink has a great connection with SFS, as you show on the company’s website and Facebook page. Do you find it important to pay homage to where you studied?
A: Absolutely, but even more so I think it’s important to pay homage to everyone you collaborate with. Filmmaking is impossible without a team and when you’re a new filmmaker not getting paid and not able to pay everyone you work with, getting names out there is everything. A lot of the people I still work with now have come out of Sydney Film School, such as Hannah Klassek who has been my cinematographer for both “Hooks” and my first short film The Crush Space and we’re likely to work again in the future. This is also the reason that we’re building up a recommendations page on our website, to highlight who our key collaborators are and do what we can to get them noticed by others. Everyone currently listed on that page has been incredible to work with and I’m more than happy to support them as I couldn’t have made my films without them. 
Q. The Crush Space was Permanent Ink Pictures first short film. It’s also a great example of a successful crowd funding campaign, what do you think made people so eager to contribute to the film and how did you generate interest for it?
A. Almost everyone that contributed to the crowd-funding campaign knew me in person or knew someone else working on the film. It was great to see what a large network of support the project generated largely through social media and word of mouth. The Crush Space was a first for a lot of us….one of the lead actors was just stepping into film for the first time after starting her career in theatre for example and a number of the crew were university students or recent graduates of film school. So I think everyone was really eager to see the film succeed because of what it might be able to do for our careers. 

Q. When you first started production on The Crush Space, you already had the goal of submitting it to film festivals in mind. What advice would you give to people wanting to submit their films into festivals?
A. Festival submission has been a big learning curve for Permanent Ink and we received a lot of rejections, but there was also quite a few achievements as well. We got into a new festival, Sydney Indie Film Festival, and received an award for Best Supporting Actress there. I would say do your research first, in pre-production, and have in mind which festivals you want to enter into and why and to focus on a small number of significant festivals that your film can be marketed towards.

Q: The Crush Space sounds like it was the type of film you wanted to watch so you decided it would be you to make it. How important is it to have a personal interest in what you are making?
A: In my first semester at Sydney Film School I was the director of a short documentary. The production went pretty terribly at first….my sound recordist was two hours late to a shoot, my producer didn’t show up to any meetings and so on. I went to Leslie Oliver, who was the director of the diploma course when I was at SFS, for help and he simply said, “If you care about it, it will get made.” And I did, and so it did. The Crush Space was no different. I cared a lot about the story and luckily found other people who did too. I sometimes hear people use the phrase “passion project” in a negative way as if it refers to self-indulgence, but from my experience on the amateur and low-budget indie film scene I would say that everything is a passion project because when there’s not always enough money to go around you have to fuel yourself in other ways. Being interested in what you’re creating is the biggest one. 

Q: You have worked on the 
crew of music videos since leaving SFS including that of Samantha Jade’s “Up”. How is working on a music video different to working on a film?
A: Music videos are great fun as there’s always lots of room for experimentation. I’m personally drawn to music videos because as a writer I like the challenge of telling a story purely through images without dialogue, save the song lyrics if they’re at all related. My films are usually very dialogue-heavy so changing things up by making a music video usually results in something very different. Whether I’m directing or camera assisting or anything else, music videos are a great platform for trying new things and taking risks you might not think to take in a scripted short. 

Q: What projects do you have coming up?
A: I finish my final semester at UNSW in June, after which I’m flying to California for 7 weeks to take a break and catch up with family and friends, as well as get plenty of writing done. I’ve been stewing on some ideas for a web series for quite a while so I’m looking to sit down and pen some drafts soon. As for my next short, I have a little comedy script I wrote back in 2012 during my first semester at SFS. I plan to take it out of the drawer and rework it a little and get it made in the near future. But once I’m back from the US the main goal is to start looking for some work in the industry. With a film school diploma and an arts degree at my fingertips…not to mention the desperation of a recent graduate waist-deep in debt…I’m confident that I’ll find some work I’ll love.

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