What makes the Filmmaking Programs at Purchase College Unique?
Our goal is to make sure you leave the program with a solid foundation of the most important aspects of filmmaking. What makes the Purchase College programs so unique is that you will learn by doing. We will keep the lectures and lessons short and to the point, and then make sure you apply those concepts right away. I try to teach everything I have learned from working in the business, and from my own experiences as a film student. Likewise, our Teaching Assistants are college film students themselves. They bring a wealth of knowledge to the program and are eager to share their experiences with you. Best of all, when writing, storyboarding, shooting and editing, there is always an experienced filmmaker working with you.
Will I be bored if I have taken Filmmaking classes before?
Absolutely not! Our goal is to see even the most advanced filmmaker improve upon the skills you already have. Filmmaking is very similar to playing an instrument; you need to keep doing it in to be good at your craft. It’s also important to try new things and experiment. If you already know the basics, perhaps it’s time to hone these skills, or maybe branch out into a new genre, such as documentary or experimental. There are so many ways to apply what you already know and at the same time bring your skills to the next level.
What if this is all new to me and I have never taken a class or picked up a camera?
At some point in time we all had to be the “new kid” on the block. Here at Purchase College we work hard to cater to both the rookie as well as the seasoned filmmaker. Our teaching assistants and instructors are always there to assist you, and once you start working alongside the other filmmakers, you will be amazed how fast you pick it up. In fact, by the time we are ready to screen our final projects at our big movie premier, you will find that everyone has improved as a filmmaker.
My son/daughter has made films on his/her own, what will he/she get out of the program?
I urge experienced filmmakers to join us! With equipment being so much more accessible now than it once was, it is now much easier for aspiring filmmakers to start out by working alone. What’s great about the Purchase College summer filmmaking programs is your chance to work with other filmmakers - such as our college-level TAs who are all film majors themselves - who have the same passion for film as you do. Collaboration is an essential skill in the art of filmmaking. As the saying goes, “no man is an island.” This is especially true of film. (If you don’t believe me, scroll down to the end credits of any summer blockbuster and count the number of people that worked on the movie.) So, experienced filmmakers please join us! Let us help you reach that next level!
Can I make my own film or do I have to work in a group?
You can make your own film if you like, but many students choose to collaborate on their final film projects, as it gives them the chance to make longer more complex movies. The choice is yours.
Can I be put in a group with a friend?
Yes, not a problem just let us know whom you would like to be with. But remember, there just might be a new friend out there waiting for you to meet, so try to be open to working with new people. Each year we see amazing films (and new friendships) made by teams of people who were once perfect strangers.
Can I switch groups once the program starts?
We try and mix the groups up as much as possible so that you get a chance to work with almost everyone in the class. That said, if you are having issues with your assigned group, let us know.
What does a typical day look like?
We start each day by watching a scene or two from a great film. As we are watching we talk about the cinematography, storyline, editing, lighting style, etc. At around 9:45-until about 10:30 we have a morning workshop or mini-lesson (such as lighting, sound design, or camera techniques). We then break into groups and apply the concept discussed in the lesson. After lunch, until the time we leave for the day we will continue to work on the day’s topic, or introduce a new one as time permits.
Do I need my own camera?
It is suggested that you have a camera but it is not imperative. Usually if one or two people in the group have a camera we are able to get by. But if you are interested in learning about cinematography, we strongly recommend that you buy a camera.
What if I have an older camera?
I tell everyone to bring your old camera to class the first day and so that we can test it. If your camera has USB or Firewire connections and uses mini digital videotape it will most likely be fine. The disadvantage of these older units is that the video resolution (quality) is often lower. That said, some of the older cameras are really sturdy, and have great microphones and lenses. Bring it in and let’s check it out together.
What is the editing program we will use?
We will be using DaVinci Resolve, iMovie, Final Cut Pro, and Adobe Premiere. The choice is yours! And, if you are proficient on one editing platform, we will try and get you working on at least one of the other editing systems so you are constantly learning new tools and ways to hone your craft. You may like another system better, you never know.
Do I need to know how to use an editing program before I start?
No, you don’t need to know a thing about editing. We should have even beginners up to speed in a few days. If you are more comfortable on iMovie, then you can cut on that system. I do urge all students to try at least two different editing platforms so they can pick the one that works best for them.
Mirrorless Camera (CSC)
There are many choices for video cameras these days, but if your child is planning on going to college for film or media studies, you may want to consider buying a DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) or a Mirrorless (Compact System Camera).
• Since they are technically “still” cameras, you can use them for both still pictures, and video. The whole family can use the same camera.
• They shoot great video images in both “High Definition” (1080 HD) and Ultra HD 4K.
• Besides, if your child is planning on studying film or media, he or she will likely end up taking a photography course or two. These types of cameras can do both.
• One reason the images are the lenses these cameras come with. They are interchangeable. You can buy all sorts of different lenses to suit your needs.
For DSLR, think about buying Nikon, Canon, or Pentax.
• For Mirrorless: Sony, Black Magic, Lumix (Panasonic), Fuji, Nikon, or Canon.
• Many of these DSLR and CSC cameras do not feature silent auto focus, so your child will have to plan his shots more carefully, like a real moviemaker would. (NOTE: Many professional film and professional video cameras do not have auto focus either.)
• Generally these cameras do not have great built-in sound microphones. To work around this, you can buy an external microphone to mount on the camera.
• Many of these cameras feature a “rolling shutter.” This means you will get some image distortion when filming fast moving objects. (NOTE: Video cameras use a different type of sensor, better suited for live action.)
• If you do choose to go for a video camera, and money is not too big a concern, you may want to go for a “prosumer” model. These run from $500 and up. They have better lenses, sound, and more manual functions, all of which allow for more artistic control.
• Stick with models that make pro versions: Sony, Canon, Panasonic, JVC. These companies have been at it for a long time.
• Whatever you decide to buy, whether it’s a DSLR, CSC or Video Camera, remember to purchase an extra battery, and fast storage card, as shooting video takes up a huge amount of power and card space.
What About a GoPro, iPhone or Android?
• While GoPro, iPhones, and other Smartphone cameras have stunning video quality there are some drawbacks to these cameras. The GoPro, for example, has a “fixed” wide-angle lens. It’s ideal for shooting sports and action clips, but may not be great for more dramatic sequences.
• Likewise, most smartphones are limited in focus, depth of field, and zoom control. That said, Go Pros and iPhones make great B-Camera (second camera) on a film shoot, and useful for scouting a location, or testing how a scene will look.
Then Again …
• You may just want to wait for now. Buy a basic camcorder that your child likes the feel of. Even the most basic models now shoot 4K these days, and you can get a really nice one for about $300. Besides, it’s not the camera, but the person behind it that matters.
• Before you buy, remember to do the “touch test.” Hold the camera and try it out. Are the buttons where you (or your child) like them? Is the camera too big? Is it too small? One big reason I bought my DSLR camera was that I liked how it felt in my hand. I also liked how the menu buttons are laid out.
• If, in a year or so, your child is still serious about filmmaking see what their classmates are buying for college, and buy a fancy camera then.
John P. Morgan (JP)
Lead Instructor, Purchase College Summer Filmmaking Institute