Posted tagged ‘Student Filmmaking’

Screening the Kitchen Scene Assignment

February 5, 2009

I filmed my kitchen scene assignment in one of our common room. I thought it was fairly well prepared and ready, but we ended up lighting the kitchen too dimly. The acting performances were good; the characters were pretty straight forward. I edited it two days before class, which I believed was plenty of time. I was not proud of it though. The music did not flow well, the lighting was terrible, and the end of the story seemed weak. I pre-screened it to some classmates, and they seemed rather disinterested in it. Also, we had to turn in our first draft of the script for our final project. My story concept is fascinating, but I feel as if I am not handling the story as well as it deserves.

The morning of class came, and Professor Scoggins began with his usual quiz. Only one person passed the quiz this week, though. Failure woke us all up. It was like a motivational speech, and we were all immediately fired up about doing better the next time.

He showed my kitchen scene the very last. I was nervous. Some of the others were quite good. And somehow, at moments like that, I feel competitive toward my classmates. I know I should want the best man to win, but this is Hollywood, right? We should always be willing to push others aside in the mad rat race to the top. But in actuality, we learn at JP Catholic that the “top” that we strive for is not what we might think it is. The “top” is unfulfilling if you’re not working for Jesus.

Finally he came to my scene. He asked what I thought of it before he watched it, and I told him I thought it was probably my weakest work. He watched it. When it ended, he asked why I didn’t like it, and I told him. He then went back through it, and told me why it was one of the better films I have done. Prof. Scoggins really opens our eyes to our own work, which is difficult when you have either an overly positive or negative emotional connection to what you have filmed.

We handed in our first drafts, and read each other’s work. Nathan did not take any of our scripts, but had us pass them around to each other. Each person got notes on their script from three other people. This worked well for me, because I needed that feedback. Next week we will hand in our second draft, and the following week we will have our director’s notebooks to show. Then we will begin work early on our finals.

Our video assignment for this week was interesting. In class, Nathan played some music and told us to think of images, any image that came to mind, and write them down. We practiced an exercise where we thought of our film ideas based on some of the imagery we saw. It was a very interesting approach, and opened our minds away from the claustrophobic textbook approach, and made us realize that to be a director, you have to be a dreamer.

My film this week is going to be about a boy who falls in love with a girl, and serenades her with his guitar; his only talent. But she is deaf, and cannot hear him. All she can do is feel the rhythm.

Reviewing the Car Scene

February 5, 2009

This week’s class began with a prayer as always. Professor Scoggins screened last week’s assignment, which was a short film on the logline: “A woman going into labor on her way to the hospital.” What makes this class great is the hands-on feedback. Professor Scoggins gives initial feedback after the first screening and then plays our film over and over; pausing, rewinding, and playing it back to guide us through it.

I found these to be extremely helpful, even listening to the feedback he gave on other people’s work. I find myself watching my movies with a different eye now. I analyze each scene and imagine myself making it. As a result, it is actually improving my own filmmaking. Nathan thoroughly loved my car scene. I needed to work on the opening, however, since it was a little disconnected from the rest.

In the second half of class, we broke off for 20 minutes to think of a new short film idea. The rule this time was that it had to be in a kitchen. Some of us drove down the road to Starbucks where we could grab some energy and rack our brains. I couldn’t think of anything. Twenty minutes later I still had an empty notepad with no ideas. And it was almost time to pitch. I thought hard. Kitchen. Kitchen… nothing was coming.

Since Professor Scoggins liked the comedic element in my car scene, I finally decided to try comedy again. At the last second I thought of my kitchen idea: “It’s the middle of the night. A robber breaks in the kitchen window, heading for the laptop on the other side of the room. But before he can get there, he runs into a sleepwalker. From there it just gets funny… I haven’t thought of an end yet.”

Professor Scoggins liked that idea, and had some suggestions. What if it ended with the robber accidentally bumping the light switch on his way out the window, waking up the sleepwalker, ending on a humorously awkward note? He had me map out the kitchen, and I showed him where I planned on filming different shots from. For each of our films he repeated this process. He made suggestions, and we would make suggestions to each other.

Now I am ready to go out and film the kitchen scene. Also, Professor Scoggins told us that next week he wants us to pitch three ideas for our final project for the quarter, and in class we will decide which one to go for. I am looking forward to filming the kitchen scene.

Making the Car Scene

February 5, 2009

It was the first field project of the quarter, and my logline was “A woman going into labor on her way to the hospital.” On Saturday I wrote the script and did my shot list. I decided to have my protagonist get pulled over by a cop on her way to the hospital. But to give it a satisfying resolution, I made the cop her husband, who drives her the rest of the way to the hospital. With this resolution in mind, the person driving her would be her brother, and to give it a comedic element, I gave them some funny banter over her screaming before getting pulled over.

After I wrote the script and shot list, I re-ordered the shot list in the ideal shooting order, according to car location and camera position. That way I hoped to finish shooting in the quickest way possible. Then I storyboarded the shots in order of shooting. Unfortunately, I hadn’t been able to check out any of the cameras from school, so I had to borrow my roommate’s for a couple hours.

Sunday afternoon rolled around, and I realized I still had to find a cast. I made some quick phone calls and was able to find a guy and a girl. I told them to find their own costumes. She used a bike helmet to look pregnant. My roommate was the cop. I filmed as fast as I could. My actors were very easy to work with, and even though we were working in a cramped, hot car, and the takes were rather bothersome, the jokes about pretending to be pregnant kept us laughing, and we finished in just over an hour. I even added a few unplanned shots.

When you finish shooting, the tape is your most prized possession. I have seen people misplace tapes, and all the hard work has to be redone. I held on to the tape for dear life, and the next day in our editing lab I captured the footage onto my external hard drive.

The next two days consisted of heavy editing. Many of the shots were more out of focus, the sound was different from shot to shot, and there was a lot of glare and dust on the lens. Also, for some technical reasons, some of the footage didn’t capture, and so I had to edit around that.
But I love editing. I love digging into Soundtrack Pro and finding music, color correcting the footage and watching the finished product. But in this case I was nervous. I wasn’t too happy with the finished product. I put it in the instructor’s folder where we submit our films to, and hoped for the best.

(To be concluded later…)

Directing II: Introductory post

February 5, 2009

Directing is a fundamental skill for any media student here. Even if he is not planning to become a director, the skills and experience of directing short films is invaluable. Last quarter the junior media majors took DIRECTING I. In this class, we learned the fundamental skills of a director. We made a short film each week, and practiced directing scenes ranging from action sequences to couples breaking up. We studied the work of professional directors, and worked from very good text books over the quarter. The 3-hour class was broken into 3 sections: we would watch the films we made that week, and the teacher would give us very insightful feedback. Then we would talk about the textbooks and look at case studies, and the teacher would give his lecture. Finally, we would plan for the next week, break into teams, and pitch story ideas. When we settled on something, the class would be over, and we would go out and make our films for that week.

Our professor, Nathan Scoggins, is a new director to Hollywood, and a graduate of Act One, the Christian screenwriting school in Hollywood. He has already directed a feature film, which is in the marketing and distribution process. He has worked with professional actors and producers on many levels, and in the classroom, is a very entertaining and vibrant individual. His lectures are always filled with brilliant insights pertaining to a Christian approaching the secular monster of Hollywood. All of the students love having Professor Scoggins as our teacher.

Directing II is a follow-up class to Directing I. This time around, Professor Scoggins plans to be much more hands-on than before. The three-hour class will again be broken into 3 sections. First we will look at the films from the previous week and get feedback on them. Then we will divide into teams and come up with new stories, devoting a bit more time to this part than before. And the third hour will be devoted to pitching the ideas and preparing for them. The idea of this class is to gain as much experience from hands-on work as possible. We need to iron out our directing flaws by trial and error. Last quarter we pinpointed our weaknesses, and overcame the initial stumbling blocks. This quarter we will take it to the next level.

I believe this class is something to look forward to. I believe that there will be some really good shorts coming out of this quarter, and that at the end of it, we will each have much more honed skills than ever before.