30  August  2019

INTERVIEW: Petru Maier, DFF, celebrates 25 years at European Film College

On September 1st 2019, Petru Maier, DFF, will be celebrating 25 years as a camera teacher at European Film College. In this interview, Petru talks about his source of inspiration, the highlights of his teaching years, and much more.

You're known as a master in expressing yourself in a very condensed way. If you had to describe your relationship with European Film College in very few sentences, what would they be?

"That every course is like being on a set for 8 and half months for making a movie. I’ve made 25 movies so far. They were all big productions, having anything between 105 to 120 talents, crew members, and collaborators."

When we talk to colleagues and students, it seems in all of your 25 years, you never lost your spark or your motivation for discovering new ways of teaching and looking at images - what is your secret to maintaining your motivation?

"The work at European Film College is very close in nature to the work on a film production. There are not two days alike. Well, there are no two students alike, although there were so many having the same name or…even looking alike sometimes!"

If you could pick one or two highlight(s) of your career at European Film College so far, what would they be?

"There were those film productions where I was out with the students filming something else than an exercise. Although they were commercials, filming for real together with the students was the situation where I felt they have learned the most from me, because I could be professionally myself 100%. I am not a trained teacher. I am a trained cinematographer, and I love being on a set making films. I still remember the amazed face of a student telling me: '… we didn’t see that side of you in the classroom …' Of course, they didn’t because a classroom is not a film set and no matter how hard one tries, one can never transform a filmset into classroom or vice versa unless the teacher is in charge with a real production where the students assist. I’ve tried lots of formulas, but so far, the one where students assist in a real production is by far the most efficient in terms of learning.

Closest to it is the “Extreme Film Making” which I’ve done last year, where the students where challenged at the same intensity as in a real production; not by the requirements of a client but by the medium itself: the rigour of the 16mm reversal film which was processed in house."

What does it mean to you to be able to celebrate a 25th anniversary?

"Well, I said it around me that it will be a hard day. I am not accustomed to be the centre of attention, although as a teacher you are in front of the students quite a lot, every day. I’ll manage. As a cinematographer one needs to learn to adapt to ever-changing condition like in weather, directors’ mood, budget cuts, crew problems and so on … sounds almost like the things a teacher has to do when dealing with students, adapting to ever-changing situations … The hardest part will be the speeches, but I hope I will be able to fight back the tears."
Petru Maier, camera teacher at European Film College, working as Director of Photography in Norway, 2014.