Grades 4-8

Location: Humanities Bldg., Room 1032

New and returning students learn how to tell a story through images. They develop strong plot lines, build shot compositions, direct actors, practice set etiquette, and edit their work. Students gain comfort with a digital video camera and lighting equipment.

Students must supply their own camcorder or DSLR (digital single-lens reflex) camera. They should also remember to bring the connection cables and the manual for their device.

  • Gratuitous violence, use of guns, and/or offensive language are not permitted.
  • Family and friends are invited to a screening of selected works by each student on the last day of the session.

Topics Covered:

  • Writing a screenplay using industry standard format using script writing software
  • Storyboarding
  • Developing characters/storytelling
  • Location scouting
  • Blocking a scene with your camera (actors & camera crew practice together)
  • Understanding your camcorder
  • How to stage & film a scene
  • Image control: composition / depth of field
  • Lighting: Interior (inside) / Exterior (outside)
  • Audio (sound) on the set and in post-production (editing)
  • Editing techniques using industry standard software: Adobe Premiere and/or iMovie

Typical Day

In the course of two weeks, students will collaborate creatively to make a short film which will be screened on the last day of the program. 

Typical Day:

  • In the morning, as students come in, we watch films on the large screen and discuss film language: What are the storytelling elements that are used in filming and editing? We also learn how to watch the ways in which the camera moves. Who is in the frame? What type of shot is being used and why? What styles do directors use to bring the audience into their world?
  • We will also discuss the different genres of filmmaking: comedy, action, drama, adventure, musical, horror, documentary, & experimental.
  • Students are divided into smaller groups to work on the day’s assignment and the creation of their Film (ie. location scouting, scriptwriting, shooting scenes, editing or working on pre-production).
  • Lunch:  Students bring lunch, which can be refrigerated. Students eat lunch, picnic style, with staff on campus grounds, outdoors as the weather allows.
  • After lunch we return to our smaller groups. We may reverse the group assignments in the afternoon, to make sure everyone has time to finish their movie. (Example: If your group was shooting in the morning, then you will be editing in the afternoon.)
  • We reconvene as a group 15 minutes before pick-up and continue watching and discussing the film from the morning. 

Important to Note:

  • The majority of your day will be hands-on. A Teacher or Teacher’s Assistant will be working alongside of you to answer any questions.
  • Returning students will be able to expand on their experience and are encouraged to come in ready to shoot with a script or script idea.
  • Small groups usually consist of 4 to 5 students working with a Teacher or Teacher’s Assistant.
  • The program will culminate with a film festival for family and friends on the last day of the program.
  • Students must supply their own digital camcorders. (Bring your manuals too!)

The highlight of this program is being with other like-minded people who love film. The ways in which we collaborate is what makes the program unique. 

 Filmmaking FAQs

1. 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.

2. 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.

3. 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.

4. 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 TA’s 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!

5. 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. 6. 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.

7. 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 a group you are assigned to let us know.

8. 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.

9. 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.

10. What kind of camera should I buy?

These days most students are working with HD Video Camcorders (such as Canon, Sony, or Samsung), or a Canon or Nikon DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex). Most of these cameras are available at Best Buy, Target or your local camera store. Before buying, do the “touch test.” Make sure the camera you choose feels good in your hand, and that you like the way the buttons and menus are laid out. You’re the one that has to use it, after all. It should be a camera that works for you!

11. 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.

12. What is the editing program we will use?

We will be using Adobe Premiere and/or iMovie. 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 that you are constantly learning new tools and ways to hone your craft. You may like another system better, you never know.

13. 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.

What Type of Camera to Buy?

 DSLR Video Camera

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 Digital SLR (Single Lens Reflex) camera. These are mid-level to high-end still cameras that now record video. Many film and television projects are being shot (filmed) on these nowadays. THE PROS: • They can shoot great video images in both “High Definition” (HD) and Standard Video (like on TV). • Since it is a “still” camera, you can use one camera for both still pictures, and video. The whole family can use the same camera. • If your child is planning on studying film or media, he or she will likely end up taking a photography course or two. This type of camera can do both. • One reason the images are so nice is the lenses these cameras come with. They are interchangeable, too. You can buy all sorts of different lenses to suit your needs. THE CONS: • Many of these DSLR cameras do not feature auto focus, so your child will have to plan his shots more carefully, like a real moviemaker would. NOTE: Most professional film and professional video cameras do not have auto focus either. • Generally these cameras do not have great built-in sound microphones (neither do 35mm film cameras). To work around this, you can buy an external microphone. Another cheap fix (that we teach this in class) is to simply make sure to get one “take” of you actors right next to the camera (a close up). You can then use this sound for all your angles. • These cameras are more expensive than most video cameras. Prices can range from $400 to over $1500. (Even more for the real high-end Canon 5D)

Video Camera

If you do choose to go for a video camera, and money is not a big 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. • I would also research which ones work best with the editing system that your child prefers (iMovie, Final Cut Pro, Adobe Premiere, Avid). Many times a camera’s video format works better with a particular editing system.

What about using a GoPro or Smartphone?

While GoPro, iPhones and Android cameras have stunning video quality there are some drawbacks to these cameras. The GoPro, for example, has a “fixed” wideangle lens. It’s ideal for shooting sports and action clips, but may not be great for more dramatic sequences. Likewise iPhones and Droids are limited in focus, depth of field and zoom control. That said, GoPros and iPhones make great second cameras on a shoot, and useful for scouting a location, or testing how a scene will look. Whatever you decide to buy, whether it’s a DSLR or Video Camera, remember to purchase an extra battery, and storage card if you can, as shooting video files takes up a huge amount of power and card space.

Then again …

You may just want to wait for now. Buy a basic camcorder that your child likes the feel of. Most camcorders these days shoot beautiful video in Widescreen HD anyway, 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 Canon DSLR (over the Nikon) was that I liked how it felt in my hand and how the menu buttons were laid out. If your child is still serious about filmmaking in a year or two, find out what their classmates are buying for college, and spring for the fancy camera then.

John Morgan (JP) Lead Instructor, Purchase College Summer Filmmaking Institute

Session III: July 29–August 9
Monday–Friday, 9:30 a.m.–3:30 p.m.
$1,200 for the first registration
$1,080 for the second registration in the family, Purchase College employees and alumni, and early registrations (received by May 10, 2019)

For a well-rounded summer, combine this program with Young Artists, Young Photographers, Young Architects, Young Actors and Performers, Young Journalists, and/or Virtual and Augmented Reality Adventures! to maximize your creative experience.

Discount for enrolling in multiple programs.

About the Instructors