Australian Film, Television, and Radio School (AFTRS) tutor Dylan Blowen shares his experiences educating the next generation of Australian documentarians.
Preparing to inspire a class of budding documentary makers in the upcoming Feature Documentary Intensive course at the AFTRS, award-winning filmmaker Dylan Blowen took a moment to reflect on the challenges, rewards, and personal growth that comes from working in film.
After spending much of his career working with the likes of Universal and Paramount in Los Angeles, Dylan moved to Australia to establish Pony Films, a production company in Sydney, with his now wife Rachel Landers. Together they’ve produced several successful films.
The move to create a production company was a big decision, but Dylan was propelled by his willingness to learn.
“One of the things you’re forced to do as a documentary filmmaker is learn lots of disciplines, which is great for a nerd like me. You can’t rely on the luxury of a large budget or massive crew of specialists when you’re filming over a long and not completely certain timeframe, so you wind up picking up as many skills you need to make your story happen.”
While that might seem intimidating for most, Dylan sees it as a sign of knowing you have a story worth telling. He encourages his students to bring their passion for storytelling to the classroom.
“There are those who have stories they are really compelled to tell. If you want to make a film about THAT story, then I want to know about it. Bring me that story and by the end of the week you won’t be afraid to be ambitious.”
Discovering what that ambition can lead to for students is Dylan’s favourite part of teaching. Through his courses at AFTRS, Dylan helps students bring their ideas and stories to life.
“When you finish something, no matter how long it takes, the hard work involved, whether you put it out to air, cinema or online, the result can feel so rewarding.”
For students to learn how to move their story from an into a production, Dylan’s classes cover a wide scope. Students will learn more about the genre including factual TV/documentary series, feature documentary, and online documentaries.
“I work from a granular level helping students get to a core idea. Then we expand, from one line, to one paragraph synopsis, to a one-page synopsis, to a treatment, to more.”
Dylan shakes his head at those who suggest that making a documentary is just turning on a camera and pointing it at something happening. His experience has let him see people follow that path, only to be surrounded by thousands of hours of footage that says nothing.
“I walk into that room every day with the intent that each person who comes to those workshops has the capacity and ability to absolutely get their film, their story, made. It’s just a question of what’s the best pathway to get there.”
People’s passion for getting their story idea told has seen Dylan teach a wide range of students over the years, including industry professionals, retired bankers, and even conspiracy theorists.
“If you’ve got a good story and the passion to tell it, I’ll give you the tools to realise it.”