Be Inspired | Meet the Filmmaker - Celine Grassy
Today we speak to family filmmaker and FilmingLife Academy member Celine Grassy about how she got started in films and what motivates her to keep creating…
Tell us a bit about yourself
I'm a French mom of two boys. I left Paris 3 years ago after calling it home for 10 years (and loving it!!), I followed my husband to Dubai with my almost 3 year old boy and my just 1 month old baby boy. Since then, it has been a rather drastic change in life. I used to have a full time job in the fashion industry and became a stay at home mum for a while. We swapped the rainy days with the everlasting sunny days, the beach became our park. Among many other new things we experienced as new expats in the Middle East, I finally had time.
Tell us about the kind of photography & films you create (style/genre/pro or hobby)…
I think I can describe my style of photography as "posed" or "guided" lifestyle. I started photographing my kids at home, and ran a 365 project last year, so I did a lot of personal work which has been amazing, both technically and personally. Dubai offers amazing landscapes like the desert and the beach, palms gardens, so a lot of my sessions take place outdoors and are a mix of candid moments and portraits. I love being creative with light, and transforming guided poses into very candid moments. When I'm shooting indoors, I absolutely love playing with shadows, and my work becomes a lot more moody.
My films are a little different in a way that you can't guide as much, which is also what I absolutely love about them. Everything is much more spontaneous, it focuses more on the moments, the gesture, the connections and the emotions. And I still try to focus on the light, that's usually the first thing that draws me every time to a photo or a film.
I can see a lot of poetry in the small things and everyday life, and I hope my images and films translate it.
How did you first get started in photography?
As I said earlier, one of the best thing that happened in our new life in Dubai was having time at home, with my kids. That's the moment I decided to pick up my camera again, and learn as much as I could to document our new life and our boys. I was only starting to understand a little about stills, and then my eyes came across magical family films on IG. I'm the kind of person wanting to learn everything at the same time, and I have to say it usually doesn't work best!! But this time, I wanted so bad to learn fast enough to start creating films for my family, that I spent as much time as I could on learning this new art.
The quality of online education, workshops and communities, is really amazing, I learnt everything from there and just personal experience. I think I can say I became a photographer about a year and a half ago, about the same time I started creating my first film. I have launched my small photography business less than a year ago, and I am currently building a portfolio of family films before I can start offering them to my clients.
What made you decide to learn video? What was your motivation?
When I first came across a family film, I was just stunned. I am kind of creative, I like experimenting with many arts, and it usually only lasts for a few months. And I like it, it may be therapeutic!! I was still an amateur in photography, but I had such a spark of joy when I saw those films, that I just jumped into it, and signed on to a quite intense online workshop. My second boy was still a baby, being expats we saw our parents only for vacation, and I wanted so badly to create really nice memories for them.
This was the actual starting point. I did it only for us. Then the magic of the social media network made me meet Allison [Allison Redmon Photography], who also happens to live in that part of the world, I was instantly amazed by her work, which I find so inspiring, and she introduced me to Courtney Holmes’ workshop. The Filming Life Academy opened soon after and I joined about a year ago, and I am still learning so much from the course and the talented community!
What was your biggest challenge when you first started learning video and how did you overcome it?
I still wasn't really mastering photography, and light, and my style wasn't really defined. I had also just upgraded to a professional camera, so I was really discovering and learning everything at the same time. Focus wasn't great, composition, light... But in a way, everything I created in films brought such instant satisfaction to me. I worked a lot, non stop, shooting, experimenting, editing. And I just kept my motivation high because I was enjoying it so much and it was also a way to spend time with my family.
It took me so many hours to edit my first film, and yet things just "clicked" together, it brought me so much joy. The ultimate motivation was to see my boys watching their first film again and again... they still do! How amazing is that.
Did you find it a challenge to educate clients on the value of films, how were they first received by clients?
I still haven't introduced films in my packages, but I am building a portfolio and communicating about it, and I already have amazing feedback about it. This is rather new here in Dubai, and I would be so happy to create them for families here. I guess the number one challenge is to explain how the budget for a film can be really more important compared to a traditional photoshoot, but the magic of the films themselves will speak for it!
Tell us about your favourite film and why it's special to you
I obviously love the films I created for my family, they speak to my heart, I don't mind the technical errors because it is emotionally so strong. But I’ve wanted for some time to put myself in the situation to create a film for another family, and try to find my way to create the same level of emotion and aesthetic. I really cannot say I knew it was going to work!
I chose my good photographer friend, who had graciously offered us a photo session, and she didn't have any expectations about it. I love this film because I think I was, at some point, able to nicely paint their life with their boys, to enhance their connections, their emotions, and I'm happy with the aesthetic of the film.
This is the first film that I'd like to put in my portfolio, I also feel it is close enough to my photography style, and that was another challenge for me.
What is your best piece of advice for those just getting started with films?
I would say, do it first for yourself. You can never regret mastering an art that can create such beautiful memories that your kids will cherish over the years, whatever age they be. I can tell you I have a few photos of my grandma and I when I was a baby and a kid. I don't own them, they are still at my parent's place, but I can precisely describe them. I would like so badly to have the same with our voices, her arms around me, the way we looked at each other, our laughs.
Thats the gift I decided to make for my kids, aside from the photo albums. And most probably along the way, families will want you to create the same magic for them. That's what I am hoping for!