In the more than 12 years that I spent in teaching at prestigious European film schools, I developed a teaching method to give students a good basis in the field of cinematographic art.
According to my opinion and teaching praxis of film –or for that matter of another art- this teaching differs greatly from other (scientific) university courses. It is not that easy to speak about a unique, but at the same time regular teaching method that applies to this field. Cinematography includes not only visual art, but also a highly developed technique. Art is a very subjective method to appraise. Additionally, in the last years the recording and broadcasting technology has also changed rapidly.

This complexity demands competence and a high degree of flexibility in teaching.

My teaching methodology is based on two basic assumptions:
1. One learns through “hands on practice”.
2. Each student has to develop his own innate and specific qualities.

-The film and TV industry will only employ people with such backgrounds. They must not only be well educated, but they must be very creative and have the self confidence of being convinced of their own abilities.

-As a teacher I tried to identify some significant points of development that permitted me to evaluate the progress of my teaching. This is based on the following observations:
Film and cinematography is a combination of two disciplines: Art and technique. Students should master both disciplines. To work effectively students should be trained to work in teams, and offer their individual qualities and responsibilities to the team as a whole. This is absolutely essential.

-Talent by itself is not sufficient. Students must also have the skills to master the practical side of their work Talent can be developed, but technique must be learned. One of the main points in my teaching is, that each student must be able to control each film take. They must have the ability to repeat each film take in the same quality.

But first of all, I want to cover the fundamental principles of real professional film technique. Tools and procedures will be explained in teaching practical lessons in skills. Students will then practice on their own, and thus learn how to apply advanced film techniques, using the skills that they have just learned. This part of film training is very exciting for the students. They have to set goals and solve problems on their own. These are changing all the time.

I started my teaching with workshops involving many skills. I emphasized to the students that they have to work together as a team. The strength of some students in a particular setting is technique. [/one_half] Where as other students displayed a sense of creativity. However, these particular personal traits can change, depending on the task that has to be accomplished. During such workshops I repeatedly observed such changes in the make up of the teams. Dealing with such groups would provide me also the opportunity to learn to speak English more fluently.

Step by step the complexity and difficulty of the projects would increase. This is also due to the fact that the goal, or topic of each project, would be different. Students would have to learn to adapt themselves to these changes. In the next phase emphasis would be placed on innovation and creativity. In a real life situation every task, every film shot, is different. Students must be trained to immediately make the correct decision.

At this point developing the student’s own personality and independence in their creative work is a very great challenge to the teacher. His own personality and competence is crucial in dealing with students during this phase.

The way I see it is, that my role as the teacher is not only to be a source of knowledge, but to be also a source of support and a source of information of additional resources. Students should have the feeling that I am approachable, available, and a good listener. It is my task to help students to understand the widespread application of cinematography, with its fictions, features, and entertainment. This in term has to be differentiated from real life.

To sum up, I treat each student as an individual. Each student has his own qualities that are based on his own unique situation. These qualities are shaped by his intelligence, his cultural background, by his previous schooling, and countless other factors. Each student should be aware of why he has chosen to make films.

For this reason I always look forward to counseling sessions with each student. I hold several counseling sessions with each student every semester. It is my firm belief that this kind of one-to-one interaction is essential to a student’s development in understanding his own personality, his strength, as well as his weaknesses. I try to encourage students to become critical observers of the world around them. Movies are motion pictures that tell a story. Style is important in a movie, as well as in a story.

My goal is not only to further in my students an interest and engagement in cultural events of all kinds, but also in the environment around them.

Michael Majerski
Berlin