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Notes from behind the lens of Channel 4's Rory Peck Shorts

Notes from behind the lens of Channel 4's Rory Peck Shorts

The Rory Peck Shorts for Channel 4 aim to tell the story of the journalists' experience behind the camera. Each one consists of an interview with a Rory Peck Award finalist, combined with excerpts from their nominated films. Sam Sapin has shot, directed and edited this series for the last 6 years.

I shot my first interview for the Rory Peck Shorts in the ruins of Crystal Palace, Sydenham with photographer and filmmaker Tim Hetherington. It was the spring of 2008. For this - and the 23 other interviews I’ve done for the series since then - the most elusive piece of the puzzle was the last.

The final act in each of these short films requires the nominee to reflect on what he or she does and how they feel about it.  Tim understood this perfectly; he began grilling himself, questioning his own answers to make sure he had arrived at the truth. Since then, this hunt for introspective thoughts from skilled documentarians has always been my favorite part of the process, and the responses continue to fascinate me.

Finding the locations for these interviews has also been a highlight, requiring varying levels of ingenuity, improvisation and/or trespassing. In keeping with the format, the goal is to find a spot that somehow resembles scenes from the finalist’s own work. For this I’ve explored derelict waterways, and have wandered through crumbling cemeteries and abandoned mental hospitals to find northern Syria in Central London, arid Afghanistan in frosty Berlin, and when logistics have required it, Africa in my own living room.

A (hopefully) quiet, often remote location, a world class filmmaker on the wrong side of the camera and lucky ol’ me. This series has significantly influenced and inspired my own filmmaking practice, and I’m truly grateful for every one of these little big films.

Many thanks to all the nominees I've featured, and everyone at the Trust. Keep up the amazing work!

Dedicated to the memory of Tim Hetherington.

Sam Sapin is a documentary storyteller who has made a number of films around the world. You can find out more about his work at

These are some of Sam's own favourites from his collected Rory Peck Shorts:

In this Rory Peck Short, Tim Hetherington tells how he managed to capture not only the action in 'The Other War' in Afghanistan's Korengal Valley, but the rarely documented human side of the US soldiers as their unit sustains multiple fatalities.

Joost Van der Valk describes his experiences filming the award winning 'Saving Africa's Witch Children'.

Filmmaker Ben Anderson presents a series of shockingly candid revelations from US and Afghan armies as America prepares to withdraw its military from the country.

This is a profile of Jason N Parkinson and his footage shot during the first week of the Egyptian Uprising.

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