NYU is a production program. The goal is to learn the art by actually making movies.
So, we are thrown into the deep end. Sink or swim. At the end of the first week, we are assigned crews and given our cameras. 16mm film cameras. Video may be fine for exercises, but film is tougher, film requires more discipline and therefore, our very first deliverable will be on film ((I am sure there’s a debate about the wisdom of shooting film in the digital revolution era, but personally, I find the discipline of shooting film an incredible lesson to learn)).
At the end of the first semester, we will each deliver a four-minute black and white film. It is required that the film be all exteriors (so we aren’t forced to deal with lighting right away) and it will have no dialog. The lack of dialog forces us to focus on drama through action.
All of the classes that we have are tailored to teach us how to make our films. The classes are directing, writing, aesthetics, production management, sound, editing, acting and cinematography (techniques and lecture). Directing and writing are self-explanatory and it is our directing classes that assigns us exercises every single week.
Aesthetics is all about how to construct your shots, scenes and your film. Shot design, movement of the frame, movement within the frame, camera strategies, color, lighting, depth of field… The list is endless. We watch films that do an incredible job and deconstruct why they are in fact so powerful. It is an incredible class. Brilliant. I’m learning to notice, to think this way, to appreciate the incredible detail filmmakers go to get their desired effect on their audience.
Sound and editing are, again, self-explanatory. Production management teaches us how to be indie filmmakers. Permits, licenses, releases and the other joys of being write/director/producers. Acting starts off with teaching us the basics of acting so that we understand what’s involved and then moves into how to direct actors. The in-class exercises are just incredibly fun and revealing. I love acting and find that almost all my fellow classmates are great actors.
Cinematography gets split into a hands-on techniques class where we learn the details of the camera, the equipment, and how to actually shoot and a lecture, where one of the most incredibly interest women I’ve ever met talks to us about how to use camera techniques to make the films we want. She shows us the movies she’s shot and the ones others have shot and deconstructs how the cinematography was done.
I can’t stress how much I love my classes. Each one is incredibly rich and deep and the professors are amazingly accomplished (but that’s for another post). But while each class teaches us skills to make our first semester films, each class also assigns us separate deliverables that make the workload pretty significant.
As I sit here towards the end of the semester, I am amazed by what I’ve had the privilege to learn. One of the things that the head of program reinforced to us at the beginning was the fact that we are in art school. This has a whole bunch of specific implications (some of which are controversial), but the one that is staring me in the face is that being in art school means we get evaluated on our work.
At the end of the semester, each of the 36 of us will screen his/her movie for the faculty. We will then sit at the front of the screening room and hear the critique. No rebuttals allowed. Just absorb the evaluation.
Jeez. A lot of editing to be done before I will be ready for that… Off I go to edit.