We interview filmmaker, photographer and Catalyst Film Production tutor Oliver Valente.
Have you ever heard the tale of The Three Princes of Serendip? If you haven’t, the name will surely ring a bell. It inspired man of letters Horace Walpole to coin the word serendipity, after its heroes who “were always making discoveries, by accidents and sagacity, of things they were not in quest of.”
Of course, you needn’t be at Serendip (the old name for Sri Lanka), ‘the island where the lions dwell,’ to benefit from many unplanned, fortunate discoveries. In fact, if you’re a creative, serendipity couldn’t be closer to home. Often our greatest work is fuelled by unexpected encounters and experiences, last-minute changes of plan, seemingly illogical U-turns, happy accidents and coincidences. You could even argue that finding that which you are not seeking is an art form in itself.
It was exactly this that convinced film tutor Oliver Valente to begin a new chapter at Catalyst – but we’ll let him tell the story. The shiny-CV’ed, East Africa-born filmmaker and photographer joined us back in September to begin sharing his stellar cinematography skills with our students.
To get to know Oliver a little better, we bumped into him for a quick chat.
Welcome! What are you doing at Catalyst?
Thanks! I am teaching cinematography, predominantly to second-year film students. I’m also dabbling in various different facets of the film school, making myself useful wherever I can.
What were you doing before you came to Catalyst?
I was, and still am, working as a freelance director and cinematographer. I’ve been very lucky in having had opportunities all over the world in productions of all shapes and sizes. I hope to keep riding that wave.
That’s a tough one. It might sound a little crazy, but a mixture of serendipity and belief in what Catalyst stands for. A friend who works at the school told me about an opportunity to get involved teaching here. I have always enjoyed passing on what I have been lucky enough to learn so the idea intrigued me. When I discovered the school was located at the Funkhaus – where I shot my first big budget music video for Universal and MTV almost ten years ago – it felt like the filmmaking gods were telling me this is where I should be. Romanticising much? Maybe…
“If I can influence a student’s filmmaking in any way then I’ll feel like I’ve ticked the box I hoped to tick.”
What impact do you hope to have at the school this year?
If I can influence a student’s filmmaking in any way then I’ll feel like I’ve ticked the box I hoped to tick. My cinematography tutor at film school left a lasting impression on both my personality and my filmmaking. If I can match one tenth of that influence on a current or future student then it’s mission accomplished.
What do you recommend we watch, see or listen to this weekend?
How much time do you want to dedicate to other stuff? I’m a big believer in film and TV being the best resource for a filmmaker to hone their skills. If it’s good then steal from it, if its bad then learn from it. In short, it doesn’t matter what you watch, it just matters that you watch – and watch a lot.
Get to know another of our new faces, Film Production tutor Daniel Dietz.