Text Only Page



Documentary Filmmaker Offers Tips to Trent Students
February 2, 2007

Thanks to first-year student, Chelsea Hoagland, Trent University enjoyed a recent visit from its very first "filmmaker-in-residence", her father and acclaimed documentary film producer, James Hoagland.

Mr. Hoagland's professional career as a filmmaker dates back over 35 years. He has concentrated on the documentary format and has his own production company, Centre Productions, based in Halifax. He has shot on location around the globe, including work for PBS in Kenya and the Discovery Channel in China and Argentina. A Buddhist himself, Mr. Hoagland has also compiled the single most extensive cinematic record of Tibetan Buddhism.

Mr. Hoagland was at Trent from January 24 to 26, meeting one-on-one with Trent students and budding film producers and delivering a public presentation outlining his own experiences as a filmmaker.

During his evening presentation, entitled "Subject to Change: Not Letting Your Expectations Get in the Way of Your Filmmaking", Mr. Hoagland spoke to a group of 40 students and members of the community on the challenges of on-location filmmaking. He also showed the group footage from his internationally-acclaimed feature length film, The Lion’s Roar, a documentary exploring Tibetan religious practice.

Mr. Hoagland also offered the group several filmmaking tips, including:

  • "If you want to be a director or writer, learn how to shoot, record sound, and edit. A good director or writer needs to understand all the roles involved."
  • "Hold still and let the action take place in the frame. Also, hold the shot – hold it longer than you think is necessary."
  • "Sound makes or breaks a documentary. Mics are like lenses – each one has a different quality. Silence is also important."
  • In terms of editing, "Work with what you have, not what you remember it to be. Don’t get too attached and always be open to other peoples’ ideas."

Perhaps his most important tip, however, came not about filmmaking but rather about enjoying your university experience: "Your professors have all this knowledge so you (as a student) should see yourself as a sponge – soak up as much of that knowledge as you can because later you will realize the unique chance you had at Trent to interact personally with those experts."