March 02, 2010

That's what I'm going to study (assignments)

NYFA designed a series of film exercises as building blocks for the final film project. They are intended to instill in each student a degree of confidence in visual storytelling and to provide a foundation in basic film craft.

Those new to filmmaking begin to understand how the disciplines of writing, cinematography, sound, and editing work together, while those with experience can practice and refine specific craft skills. All students should seize this opportunity to experiment freely in order to develop their ability to engage and entertain an audience. Films are shot on 16mm black and white reversal film stock and edited digitally. For their final films, students have the option of shooting in color. Six and eight week students may shoot their final films in digital video.

In their first film, students are introduced to mise-en-scène, or directing a shot to visually tell a story. Once they create a dramatic moment, they concentrate on the dynamics of the shot that will best express it. This project teaches students how the relationship of the subject and the camera creates drama. Each student designs and shoots a scene which has a beginning, middle, and end. Students learn to pay close attention to the choice of lenses, distances, and angles. Since the story must be told in no more than three shots, each shot must be staged to express as much as possible about the characters and their actions. Students should rehearse the shot for blocking of actors and camera until the scene works without needing to stop; only then should they roll film. Students each shoot one roll of black and white reversal film, then edit and screen their films for critique and discussion.

• Allotted shooting time: 3 hours
• Editing time: One 4-hour slot
• Screening time: 30 seconds to 2 minutes

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. They learn the difference between "film time" and "real time".

Students are challenged to make a film that maintains continuity in story, time, and space. The action in these films unfolds utilizing a variety of shots (10-15) in a continuous sequence (no perceptible jumps in time or action). Students must produce a clear, visual scene while maintaining the truthfulness of the moment. It is essential that the audience believes in the reality of the scene. Students write, direct, shoot, edit, and screen a film of up to three minutes.

Students must thoroughly organize and preproduce their projects by completing the following elements:
• Script
• Location Scout
• Breakdown
• Floor Plan
• Storyboard
• Schedule of shots
Students shoot two rolls of film then edit digitally and screen their films for critique and discussion.

• Allotted Shooting Time: 4 hours
• Screening Time: Up to 3 minutes
• Editing Time: Two 4-hour slots

The third project introduces students to the relationship between sound and film, as well as to narrative tools like montage and jump cuts. In this project, students are encouraged to explore a more personal form of visual storytelling.

Students choose a short continuous selection of music. In the editing room they cut their images to work in concert with, or in counterpoint to, the music. Students should experiment with rhythm and pacing. Each student writes, directs and shoots his or her project on film, edits digitally, and screens a completed Music Film of up to four minutes.

In addition to storyboards, students may use a still camera to plan their films. This assists them in their choice of locations, distances, angles, and lighting.
• Allotted Shooting Time: 5 hours
• Screening Time: Up to 3 minutes
• Editing Time: Three 4-hour slots

This projects challenges students to explore the relationship between dialogue and dramatic action. It serves as the students' 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 identifies the character objectives and dramatic beats of the scene.

Students will find that these elements determine the meaning of the dialogue and should deepen their understanding of text versus subtext.

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.

• Allotted Shooting Time: Four hours
• Editing Time: Two 4-hour slots
• Screening Time: 1 to 3 minutes

This final film is more ambitious in scope than the previous exercises. It builds upon the foundation of skills and knowledge gained in the first half of the workshop. There is a five-day pre-production period during which students meet with faculty for consultation. The shooting period is two days for each film.

There are two weeks of post-production in which each student may edit from 50-100 hours. Students may use sound effects, music, voice-over and ambient sound to help tell their stories. They apply the lessons learned through editing the first three projects as they utilize the many transition tools, special effects, and sound design options that digital editing allows.

The final project may be up to ten minutes in the eight-week and one-year program. Keep in mind, "less is more." Films may be shot on 16mm film or 24p digital video.

Films may be of any genre, and can be narrative, documentary, or experimental. In past years, many of these films have been selected and won awards at film festivals, both in this country and abroad.

Each film project is screened in class for discussion and critique. These screenings are an important part of the learning process and help students improve on their next projects. There is a group screening celebrating all final films open to cast, crew, friends, and family.

• Allotted shooting time: 2 days
• Editing time: 40-80 hours
• Screening time: Up to 10 minutes

NYFA strongly recommends that students come to the workshop with written ideas for their films. These ideas will be developed and honed in writing class.


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