Movies on Movies and BACA

Hello all CC blog readers, whether seasoned or new, thanks for tuning in. My name is Tom and I am a fellow student with Angela Kong in the Documentary Film Institute class. Angela already has told quite a bit alluding to our externship experiences, but I just want to extend a quick background about the class and what we covered before our externships began. I aim to provide genuine writing, which may mean it rambles a bit at times, but I enjoy that; I hope you do too. This shouldn’t feel like an essay. I really hope it doesn’t. If it does, don’t tell me.

The Documentary Film Institute is a pretty radical step in filmmaking at CC because generally we have only one block to make our films. My first film class I took was the Documentary FYE freshman year; we had two blocks to cover documentary study generally, but we had only one block to make our respective documentaries. Our first week and a half involved quick, one minute assignments, essentially leaving us two weeks to produce our 7-10 minute documentaries. It was nuts, and other filmmaking classes operate the same way– whenever I have a block like that I know I am signing myself up for 100% filmmaking at all times. This Documentary class we have a full two blocks to immerse ourselves in documentary study,giving us the opportunity to work on our final films for about 5 weeks. It’s a monumental amount of time. The first few weeks we spent watching some of the earliest documentaries such as Nanook of the North or Man with a Movie Camera, discussing formal aspects of interviews, composition, and editing style. From Nanook’s literal staging of eskimo life in the Arctic, documented as if it was the reality of contemporary of eskimo life, we began to talk about (and still do, and will always) what it means to think of documentary as the “creative treatment of actuality”. Moving through early documentary work through more contemporary documentaries, such as Nanking or The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom, our class began to examine how filmmakers format stories in emotional, dramatic ways. Documentary isn’t real life, and it shouldn’t be– nobody wants to watch security camera footage without cuts or music. If you do, look up Iranian filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami; imagine the pacing of 2001: A Space Odyssey except in documentary, it’s incredible in its own right but I don’t find it thrilling.

From documentary study, we moved into shooting assignments. It’s amazing because our class is so diverse; as a Film major, I have experience behind a camera and watching movies intellectually, but for a lot of the class, these are the first movies people have made. It’s really great to hear science-minded people contribute in a generally humanities-centered discipline. Clay always says that Film is the absolute liberal arts discipline, which it absolutely is– you can make a movie about anything. With those diverse perspectives in mind, we went through a gauntlet of short video assignments. From shooting an action without intervening (I shot my friend moving her bed, and when she asked me to help I didn’t answer), to an interview, to even scouring archival footage to illustrate a story. My group member and I chose to tell the story of a defected MI6 spy in the Korean war using voice actors and war footage; it’s absurd what you can do with archival footage, and how it brings “dead” stories to life. We really got to know each other in the editing lab thru these assignments. Inevitably, in any film class the editing lab becomes the late night club, and soon we all got editing experience before heading on our retreat to BACA to focus on specific, technical exercises.

I had never been to BACA before, and god is it buggy. I didn’t really expect that for Colorado, but it was great to get away from campus and spend time together as a class. We dove right into technical assignments, our largest one focusing on lighting a subject for an interview. We placed our Para-Professor Demetria in a chair and took off. Our library/classroom became a giant studio, as we rearranged chairs and tables to set up our mock interview. Lights, sandbags, filters, it practically looked like a fiction film set; it’s great to see the potential we have to create amazing interview setups. Also the amount of time it takes– documentary is so much running and gunning, but for interviews, if you have a chance to set up something compositionally pleasing, do it. We may not have the time to set up every interview like we did for Demetria (we probably spent about an hour, maybe more), but if I can, I definitely will. Thankfully the whole class has experience now, so we can assist each other’s production crews. We did a couple more assignments, like changing white balance from an outside environment to an inside environment, shooting outside, and more cinema verite shooting (no intervening), while watching more documentaries, like Marwencol. We were all feeling a bit depressed after watching such emotional knockouts like Nanking or The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom, so when Clay, Dylan, and Demetria came prepared for our screening with full movie candy I practically died. I’m such a sugar fiend, so it was heaven, and I felt like I was back at home watching a fun movie with my family.

Now everyone’s caught up, so let’s dive into externships. The real work begins.

Published by Tom '16

My name is Tom and I am from Connecticut; not unique from the majority of the CC population I enjoy skiing, but more uniquely while also not being that unique, I like watching movies. I have a strange affinity for psychopathic movie characters like Hannibal Lecter. I also am fascinated with ice cream; my favorite flavor is a toss-up between Mint Chocolate Cookie and Dulce de Leche.