Boot Camp for Filmmakers

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By Max Lorber

Most people will agree that the best way for a student to learn and grow as an artist and an individual is in the field working with experienced, professional men and women who can show them the way in which the real world operates. Some call it trial by fire: “When there’s a will, there’s a way.” Walking into a studio or onto a film set, not knowing up from down, sky from rock, entrance from exit. But you give a motivated person a deadline and the equipment to get that deadline met, they will figure it out because they know if they do not, they are the one that suffers the consequence.

This is the main reason why the Communications and New Media Boot Camp film program is so effective. Students are given six weeks to produce a narrative short at least 12 minutes long. And every summer roughly 12-16 CNMS students willing throw themselves to the wolves and create absolute magic.

Students walk into the first class and are introduced to Huey Coleman and Corey Norman, both experienced filmmakers and professors at the CNMS program at SMCC. They sit in a roundtable-style production meeting and pitch film ideas. These ideas are voted on, a tally is taken, and groups are formed within roughly an hour. Some bring scripts they have already been working on, others bring treatments, and some just cough up ideas they make up on the spot.

After the groups are formed based on the students’ interests and how they vote, the beautiful exercise of lofty artistic collaboration combining with realistic practicality, otherwise known as pre-production, officially begins. The next two weeks are dedicated to this back-and-forth process: Scripts are ironed out, shooting schedules are set up, jobs are delegated, actors are found and auditioned, locations are secured, and the two-week deadline must be met or the students will not receive 3 out of the 9 credits. It is not uncommon for students to work eight to ten hours a day to get the job done.

Then production begins. Mistakes and miscalculations are inevitable, of course, but this is how students learn. Adjustments are made on the fly, locations are switched, actors are replaced, scenes are cut and rewritten. Again, that two-week deadline is absolute. Principal shots and scenes must be executed or the students will not receive credit for this portion of the Boot Camp program. Group bonds and friendships are often tested under such pressure, but oftentimes relationships become stronger through this harrowing grind, and lifelong friendships and collaborative partners are formed.

The last two weeks are dedicated to post-production. This is when the film is edited, the sound is mixed, and the soundtrack is selected. Adobe Premier is the program used for the above mentioned tasks, but many students have never used it before. They learn trial-by-fire style, with a strict deadline looming.

In the end, the films are screened at the Boot Camp Gala event in the South Portland Campus’s Hildreth building. Students, professors, parents and friends pack into the room to watch the films, and the Boot Camp crews stand up for a Q&A after their film has been screened.

This past summer the films “Drought,” “Bullpen” and “Emergence” all met the post-production deadline, were screened on schedule, and received strong applause and enthusiastic questions from the audience.

If you are reading this and wondering if you would ever be able to create a film — maybe you even have some ideas rattling around up there or have something already put down on paper — remember you go to school at SMCC, a school that employs professors that have been or currently are professionals in the field, and that dream has the potential to become a reality. Like anything else, it just takes a little guts and a lot of hard work.

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