The Video Mode talks to the talented student filmmaker Ella Rose Howlett, who was recently crowned The Video Mode/Canon Amateur Filmmaker of the Year 2017

Although she’s only 21-years-old student filmmaker, Ella Rose Howlett already has over six years of experience under her belt and last month was deservedly named The Video Mode/Canon Amateur Filmmaker of the Year (AFOY) 2017. She started her filmmaking career when pursuing one of her hobbies as a teenager, ‘I first got into filmmaking when I used to make longboarding videos. I really enjoyed longboarding and I saw a lot of videos on YouTube of people longboarding and thought, “I could do that! That looks fun”. I did a few of those [videos] and that went on to [me realising] “wait a second, people actually do this for a living. I could do this for a living as well!”’

Ella reveals, ‘From the beginning, my filmmaking was self-taught and that led on to me getting onto a course at Edinburgh University. I’m now going into the third year and I’ve had part-time jobs in a video production company in Cambridge. The course is in Film and TV, so we make films all the time. It’s very practical and hands-on, which is perfect for me.’

Entering AFOY
Ella decided to enter Amateur Filmmaker of the Year (AFOY) 2017 after receiving an Amateur Photographer e-mail newsletter calling for filmmakers to get involved. She explains, ‘There was a travel film category and I’d just finished a cut of my New Zealand film, ‘Responsibly Irresponsible’, two months previously and I thought it was perfect to put that in. When I found out that I’d won [Round One] I bought an expensive bottle of champagne for the first time in my life. I was ecstatic.’

Her success in Round One of the three-round competition meant Ella had to script, shoot and edit a film on the theme ‘Environment’ in under three weeks to keep her bid for the AFOY title on-track. She did so with her film ‘It’s One Ocean’ – an examination of ocean pollution off the coast of Great Britain – which came second in Round Two of AFOY.

The final round had the theme ‘People’ and Ella entered her short ‘Paolo di Siena: Italy’s Oldest Horse Race’. She explains, ‘I saw a film of the event and thought it looked really interesting. I remember my Dad criticising me for it. I think he felt a bit disheartened by the fact that I was going to be sat there looking at my camera instead of watching the event. I have more of a good time when I’m filming a spectacular event than if I’m just sat there watching it because putting your passion into something that you’re at that is already amazing just makes everything better.’

ABOVE: AFOY 2017 winner Ella Rose Howlett (centre) receives her prize of a Canon EOS C100 Mark II digital cinema camera from Sarah Bennett (Canon UK, left) and Nigel Atherton (Group Editor, Photo & Video brands, Time Inc. UK, right).

ABOVE: AFOY 2017 winner Ella Rose Howlett (centre) receives her prize of a Canon EOS C100 Mark II digital cinema camera from Sarah Bennett (European Marketing Specialist, Canon UK, left) and Nigel Atherton (Group Editor, Photo & Video brands, Time Inc. UK, right).

Style, approach and narrative
The head judge of AFOY 2017, Simeon Quarrie (a top commercial filmmaker and a Canon Explorer to boot), explained, ‘Ella Howlett’s work really stood out to me. She has a clear style, a consistent approach and structured narrative.’

Ella admits, ‘Over the years I’ve developed my own style. It’s something that I’ve been working towards because, at university, that’s what they try to gear you towards. I’ve got to the point now where people say, “you can tell that that’s an Ella film”. That’s great and it means I’m obviously doing something right. Whenever I make a film I try to make it build to a point where people will be either excited or shocked or want to see more. The ‘build’ is a massive part of the way I structure my films. If you start a film explaining what it is then nobody is really going to want to see it.’

The top overall prize in the AFOY 2017 contest was a Canon EOS C100 Mark II digital cinema camera with a Canon EF-25-105mm zoom lens (worth over £4,600). Ella reveals, ‘I’m going to make one of my major short films next year – it’s been a couple of years since I’ve been able to make something that big. I think the C100 Mark II is going to make it look so pretty and I won’t have to worry about getting a camera for that film!’

Find out more…
To watch The Video Mode’s exclusive interview with Ella Rose Howlett just click on the play button in the video window at the top of this article. To find out more about all the final AFOY 2017 results, including the final ‘Top 10’ table of filmmakers, just click here.