When you get to my age, a refresher covering most aspects of an active life in the Showbusiness is always a good idea. Also, the nature of the current showbiz tends to get away from you. With that in mind, I noticed a 1 week movie-making course being given just down the road from me, at the premises of Universal Studios (which brought back memories of the House Calls disaster).
The course, which cost $1,500, covered the latest advances in communication and supply of recorded entertainment to the masses – unlike live theatre, with which I have always been more comfortable back in New York.
The six day course was provided by the Hollywood branch of the New York Film Academy, in a surprisingly clean and modern office building, and bussed students to the nearby Universal lot, where we could shoot on their Western and European sets, or practice location work in Griffith Park.
Provided was the latest in video camera equipment (Panasonic), and editing software (Final Cut Pro). Things being what they are, these days, state-of-the-art changes take place almost every day.
The instructors are seasoned professionals, taking time out from their not busy enough creative schedules, to impart some of their special knowledge to people like me, and their acting students were happy enough to perform for my camera. An aside here, I have too much respect for SAG and AFTRA and Equity members to expect them to work for nothing (sorry USC and UCLA student wannabe movie makers, and their elite schools who demand professional performer freebies, giving nothing in return.)
Day 1 the class of just 6 paired off, and then we met the instructors who introduced us to student actors we’d work with, and described the functions of the workshops and the safety hazards to avoid on set. We were also told to prepare a 2 or 3 minute story to be shot in about 20 shots, with a point of view, a beginning, and an end. Day 2 we were introduced to video cameras, their technical capabilities and how to operate them, and Day 3 was a discussion on screen-writing, with the necessity for story containing conflict and suspense, then a trip to Griffith Park just to test out the cameras. As a stills photographer more comfortable with 35mm film, I was told to just multiply the unfamiliar exposure settings of video by 7.2, to get recognizable results. Day 4 we met the editor guy, who put post-production in its place, and showed how the editor could make or break a film. I didn’t know that Walter Murch made Apocalypse Now into a movie out of a mess of a million shots. Murch believes in editing from a standing position, and asked to be left alone for many days in a dark quiet room, producing a masterpiece. Then we went out to the U. lot, on a very hot day of pure exhaustion. But it was worth it. And after, I slept well. Day 5 was spent editing what we shot, and trying to put muscle memory into the fingers in the dark in an attempt to operate the computer keys. And the final day, it was viewing the results, mutually criticizing the 6 movie clips, and taking home the DVD for further work (maybe.) Audio and special effects and lighting were deemed too complicated to tackle in a 1-week course. Agreed.
So my next thought is to buy a Canon digital camera to go with my FCP Studio package which I hadn’t yet dared inspect. Thank you NY Film Academy and the instructors I met. I’m happy to promote all of it. A freebie from me.
Next I look forward once again to Digital Day at the Directors Guild headquarters at the end of July. A chance to see the latest advances in digital cameras and to get inside the heads of famous directors and software makers.