Take Two: Three Questions for Mark Irwin

Mark Irwin on-set with Lab 1: Certificate in Film Production students

From January to February 2017, Weengushk Film Institute had the pleasure of welcoming cinematographer, Mark Irwin, A.S.C., C.S.C. to Manitoulin Island to instruct and mentor the WFI Lab 1: Certificate in Film Production students.

Mark Irwin is widely known for collaborating with a number of directors, including David Cronenberg, Wes Craven and the Farrelly Brothers. Mr. Irwin was on-set for a number of WFI student films providing instruction and guidance to WFI students.

WFI was able to speak to Mark Irwin of his experience over the winter months.

WFI: What has your experience at Weengushk Film Institute been like so far?

Mark Irwin: My experience at Weengushk Film Institute began with eight (8) students of ages and experience, each unknown to me at the time. I had read all of their director's visions and screenplays and now have met them as first-time directors for those projects.

As a professional cinematographer, I was given the task of teaching them [the students] about my craft and how to apply it to their job of telling stories with pictures.

After in-class instruction and a number of screenings, we began shooting the first project of eight and my involvement changed. Instead of theory and tests, I could now guide the actual lighting, framing and coverage of the stories that they had written. This is the essence of education - lessons in life, trial by fire, being thrown into the deep end - all metaphors for learning by doing.

I learned the strengths and weaknesses of each student as they changed roles from film to film and could gauge their skills and artistic temperament in each category. It was a very illuminating experience to watch students from classroom to set. The best way to judge any filmmaker, but especially young and experimental minds.

WFI: What are your thoughts on the programs at Weengushk Film Institute? What do you think WFI hopes to achieve?

MI: Weengushk has given itself a grand task of teaching, training, producing and completing cinematic journeys for a huge range of ages and ambitions.

I believe that their mission is to ultimately create graduates who can enter the professional film world with a broad but also detailed knowledge of the skills and experiences that can allow them to find a future for themselves.

The great unknown, from my firsthand experience, is how to corral the variety of talents and stories and weaknesses into a cohesive educational experience.

WFI: What do you think the goal of Weengushk Film Institute is? How would our students benefit?

MI: The old adage, "You get out what your put in" seems to be the baseline for the students in this open forum and the eager participants seem to benefit the most.

Ultimately, the true test is directing actors on a set with all of the vocation and time constraints of an actual production. If they can pass that test and deliver a finished film on time and on schedule, then they have achieved the Weengushk goal of a complete cinematic journey.

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