Ian Sellar is a Scottish filmmaker whose films have been distributed internationally to critical acclaim, including Venus Peter (1989), the animated feature Home Road Movies (2001), and The Englishman (2007). Since 1994, Ian has been head tutor for fiction direction at the UK National Film and Television School. He also has run master classes in Cuba, Scandinavia and South Africa.
On Binger Filmlab:
“What I find most interesting is observing each individual’s development. I see how participants are at the start of the programme and at the end, and I see how they grow as filmmakers. They communicate more about themselves, which enables me to get to know them well.
Working with directors is very different from working with writers. A director’s presence is reflected in every shot and every frame. I show them the value of their individuality. The same goes for writers, but they always have to check if everything is still like they intended it to be. And every detail of that process matters. Directors have to make a second translation; they have to translate what is written into what happens in front of the camera. It is their job to make choices and those choices eventually become recognised as their signature. I encourage them to believe that their signature will be reflected on screen, even if they’re not consciously trying to leave their mark on the film.
Lunch is a major event at Binger’s. Every day a professional chef prepares delicious meals and people have the opportunity to get to know one another away from filmmaking. All the different disciplines mingle and everyone is eager to offer a glimpse into the world to which he or she belongs. Filmmakers who join Binger are talented and passionate, but at the same time very different. And they all gather at lunch. It reminds me of a story about post-war Italy. Everything was destroyed, but the country’s leaders gathered and because of a lack of furniture, they all brought their own chair to the table. Lunch may be a small detail, but at the same time it is a prime example of the effort the staff puts into making people feel at home.
At Binger, it’s not is not about selling a certain system. There is no single solution, written in a fancy book, with methods that everyone has to know by heart. There is a different path for everyone and participants learn the most from the obstacles and solutions that others have experienced. At Binger, they do everything they can to maintain that sense of freedom.
I always tell participants to explore their own minds. You have to get your hands dirty. For me, the people are more interesting than the film. I help them to strengthen their voices. It’s important to always be clear about what you are trying to say; it's better to communicate a single important message, rather than ten unclear messages. The simpler the message, the better. Viewers' reactions are complex enough. If a message is ambiguous, it's like two people talking at the same time. When that happens, viewers find it difficult to follow the film and relate to the story.
Working with enthusiastic, intelligent and talented filmmakers also enables me to grow as a filmmaker. It nourishes me, gives me energy. I’m learning that there are other ways of telling a story. It opens doors to paths than I could not have imagined."