Mise en Scène
Each student will make a short film in one long shot with no editing. The shot should visually express as much as possible about the characters and their actions, and tell a story that has a beginning, middle, and end. This project emphasizes how the relationship of the subject to the camera creates drama, and students should pay close attention to their choice of lenses, distances, and angles. Students should rehearse the shot for blocking of actors and camera until the scene works without needing to stop; only then should they roll camera.
Continuity is one of the fundamental principles of modern filmmaking. By making a “continuity film,” students learn the way cuts can advance the story while sustaining the reality of the scene, and the difference between “film time” and “real time.” Students are challenged to write, direct, shoot, edit, and screen a short film of a few minutes that maintains continuity in story, time, and space. The action in these films unfolds utilizing a variety of shots in a continuous sequence (no jumps in time or action). It is essential that the audience believe in the reality of the scene. Students previsualize their films, including storyboard and floor plans.
Montage can be used to great effect in the compression of time and to create visual collisions and juxtapositions between shots. In the Montage project, Students choose one short selection of music, then plan and shoot this film of up to four minutes with the music in mind. In the editing room, students cut the images to work in concert with or in counterpoint to the music. Students should experiment with rhythm and pacing. In addition to storyboards, students may use a still camera for pre-planning their coverage. It can help them in the choice of locations, distances and angles, lighting, and compositions.
Creative Non-Fiction Content
To help students prepare for the booming nonfiction sector of the film and digital content industry, students explore creative nonfiction formats to expand their filmmaking toolbox. Content covered may include narrative documentaries, digital social media, web series, and television.
This project challenges students to explore the relationship between dialogue and dramatic action. It serves as the student’s first foray into directing a film with dialogue recorded on set. Students are provided with short dialogue-only scripts with no description of physical detail or action. The student director determines the “who, what, where, when, and why” of the story. Above all, each student director must identify the characters’ objectives and dramatic beats of the scene.
When the finished projects are screened in class for critique, students will discover how different directorial interpretations of the same scene reveal the characters and the impact and meaning of the story.
Point of View (POV)
Each shot in a film expresses a point of view, and in narrative film, the point of view changes often, sometimes with each new shot. For the most part, point of view—which is often called narrative stance—is largely invisible to the audience; though the accumulated effect of the changes profoundly affects the way the audience interprets any scene. Students create a short scene with minimal dialogue and no more than three characters that have conflicting objectives, while presenting the viewer visually with a clear and distinct point of view.
Through experimenting with eyelines, framing, graphic control (composition and staging), and narrative control (often editing choices), the audience should have a clear understanding of which character’s story the filmmaker is telling. Each student will write, direct, and edit a short POV film of up to five minutes.
Production Workshop #1
Filming a neutral dialogue scene with the class as assigned crew and instructor supervision, this scene should be complete with subtext, backstory, conflict, objectives, beats, actions, and be contained within one location. In these workshops, students act for each other to learn how to be in front of the camera.
Production Workshop #2
In the Production Workshop #2, all students present and pitch a director’s proposal to the class. During the pitch, students clearly define their purpose/message, look/style, and logistics (where, when, how). After the pitching is completed, the instructors will greenlight the best proposals, as well as come up with a production schedule, assign crew positions, and assign cast. All students will get to either direct, act as DP (Director of Photography), or serve as the AD (Assistant Director.)
The Non-Sync Film
The Non-Sync project is a longer narrative film without the use of dialogue. The goal of this project is for students to incorporate all of the directing techniques learned thus far (Mise-en-scène, Continuity, Pacing, and Montage), along with sound effects and score, into a complete story of no more than 10 minutes. Students make a shot list, storyboard, and floor plan for their project, as well as scout locations. It is best to keep the production to one or two locations with two to three characters. Student create a production book including their script, floor plans, shot lists, shooting schedule, script breakdowns, and permits. Lastly, they rehearse with their actors prior to shooting.
The Sync Sound Film
The Sync Sound Film challenges students to draw from the lessons and skills they have learned from making the series of building block exercises from Mise-en-scene to POV. It is the first opportunity to fully employ both the Director’s visual and dramatic toolbox. In order to focus students attention on the foundational elements of dramatic storytelling, this film should take place in only 1-3 locations with no more than three actors. The film and real time of the story should not diverge dramatically, and attention should be paid to the small and telling moments. In this project, students will write a script from 3-7 pages in length and have up to 10 minutes of screen time to present their stories.
The Short Film Project is the culmination of the technical and creative skills that students have developed throughout their program. The goal is to produce a fully realized short film that demonstrates their own artistic vision and point of view. Detailed production books are prepared and presented; then, the students receive a “green light” from the faculty in order to check out for their productions. For this film, students work with larger crews and have more time allotted for pre-production, production, and post-production than the previous projects. This is the Final Film for the 1-Year Program.
2-Year Thesis Film
The thesis is the final film of the program and will combine all of the techniques learned thus far. Students will utilize advanced equipment package to film their thesis. Students will also have a longer production period to work on a more detailed and nuanced level and in a greater scope. The short film will be up to 20 minutes in length. Students will also fill essential crew positions on short-form films directed by fellow students. The thesis project provides students to demonstrate their talents, creative voice, and accumulated knowledge and skills, creating a polished film that they may submit to festivals and use as their calling card.