Film Workshop

Ever since I committed to the expedition I’ve been practising to improve my film skills. I’ve made and edited a number of short films for my Yes Man Challenges and a number of other events. I have known for a while, that if I wanted to get better I was going to have to attend a film course.

This past weekend I headed up to Cambridge to attend Phil Coates’ bespoke adventure filmmaking weekend workshop. I was joined by Stuart, Bryan, Tracey, and Ryan on the course for two days. We were all there for slightly different reasons but what we did have in common was a desire to learn and improve.

Phil is a down to earth kind of guy who is obviously passionate and enthusiastic about adventure filmmaking. He was instantly likeable and made everybody feel at ease. He is ably supported by the lovely Annie, who I suspect keeps him on track and makes sure the workshop runs smoothly.

As the weekend is designed as a bespoke workshop we were all asked to describe what we wanted out of the weekend and what we would like to learn. For me the specific areas were shooting script and narrative structure along with general equipment operation and practice.

Once we got stuck into the detail Phil asked some pretty searching questions about my plans and forced me to reconsider my approach. It felt pretty uncomfortable having 18 months work picked apart but I knew deep down that it was the critical feedback I needed. I went away feeling a little low on Saturday night. However after a good nights sleep and spending time thinking in more detail I believe I’m now heading in the right direction. I’m certainly learning that it’s not going to be a straight forward process and the scale of the challenge is huge.

To give you an idea of the scale of what’s possible. Phil recently shot footage for a potential North Pole documentary. Over 8 weeks he shot 100 hours of footage in a region where the landscape didn’t change radically. I’m about to head off on a 35 week trip that covers a region of over 30 countries and 2 continents. It’s a little daunting when you consider it like that. A major challenge will be to not shoot too much rubbish. It will be a tough discipline.

Over the weekend we looked at the following topics:

  • How to develop your shooting script and narrative structure
  • Steady shooting skills and good techniques for the best camera positions
  • How to capture great audio
  • How to get the right exposure using manual settings
  • How to use our equipment along with the opportunity to practise in the snow
  • Shooting environments and how best to protect our equipment
  • What are the best accessories to improve our filming

Phil also provided loads of practical tips based on over 20 years experience in the industry

On Sunday afternoon we headed out for some practical training. Phil was kind enough to arrange snowing conditions, so we could get a real impression of the difficult environments he has made a career out of. It certainly made filming tougher than usual having to look after the equipment more carefully.

All in all it was a fascinating couple of days at film school and something I would highly recommend for anybody aspiring to film an adventure.

You can see all the films I’ve produced to date on YouTube by clicking here. I hope to significantly improve on the quality of these over the coming months.

Adventure and Expedition Film Workshop

If you are interested I can highly recommend Phil’s course. You can find out more details at

Phil Coates is an experienced professional cameraman who specialises in adventure and expedition filmmaking. He has worked on a range of productions for BBC, Discovery Channel, ITV and many more, producing assignments on Antarctica, Everest, Greenland and the North Pole, to name a few.

Phil provides:

  • 2-day intensive workshop style course
  • Discover the fundamentals of factual filmmaking
  • Understand the production process from script to screen
  • Gain confidence shooting on pro kit
  • Courses tailored to specifically meet your needs

The bespoke course is specifically designed and developed for expedition members and remote location field researchers looking to record their experiences and tell their story in a more professional and compelling way.

The intensive workshop style course focuses on helping you lay down the foundations of filming making, enabling you to build on your experiences and acquire further specific technical knowledge as and when you require.

The course is for adventurers, expeditioners, research scientists, NGO and charity personnel working in remote and challenging environments. It is the perfect solution for any adventurer looking to get the best from filming their expedition or activity.

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