Simon Stolland joined Screen and Film School students for an intimate Masterclass at our Central Site on Wednesday 26th February.

Simon began his filmmaking journey by creating music videos for friends, where they caught the attention of SB.TV. founder: Jamal Edwards. Jamal put Simon in contact with Rapman, where the two worked together for almost 3 years before creating Shiro’s Story, a 3-part YouTube mini-series that sky rocketed both of their careers.

Shiro’s Story caught the attention of Paramount who began talks of making a feature film with Rapman as director/writer – and Rapman insisted that Simon came with him as DOP. Thus, Blue Story was set in motion and released in November 2019.

Having come from humble beginnings, Simon explained how different it was to work on a Paramount set compared to the music video shoots he was used to. Where Simon would usually shoot, edit and grade his films, he had to manage other people and trust them to execute his vision for Blue Story. Understanding the importance of collaboration, he ensured that everyone in his department felt they could give input in a non-judgemental environment.

Simon gave tips on creating shot lists, managing others and working with an AD, as well as what he would look for in an AC/2nd AC (suggestions, technical knowledge, and someone to have your back!), before looking at scenes from Blue Story and explaining what worked and what didn’t – and how he would fix it if he had enough time!

To finish, Simon gave some words of wisdom:

  • Keep enjoying what you’re doing – the more films you make, the higher the chance you have of finding more opportunities. This will also keep you grounded, so you don’t forget why you started making films in the first place.
  • If you get paid for what you’re making, use that money to invest in your own kit where possible. Then you can build a portfolio in your own time.
  • As long as you have good lighting and production design, you’re on to a winner!