School is busier than I remember it being.
In my first week of class, I struggled to balance class, class work, sleep, and my health. I really dug into the class work and made sure I did all the readings ahead of time, planned for upcoming assignments, and it ensured that I didn’t sleep well at all. I found myself only getting a few hours each night. I was exhausted and by the end of the week I was ready to just pass out. Which I did.
It is really great being in class though - I have seven mandatory classes:
Elements of Dramatic Narrative
Fundamentals of Directing
Practical Production 1
Directing Actors 1
And one optional, but highly recommended class:
Secrets Of The Short
I’ve learned a lot already but film isn’t something you can learn in the classroom really. You can get direction and inspiration but the whole point of the MFA is the practical experience and creating things, then learning from that.
For the start of the second week, I had to write a short script without dialogue, where one character tries to accomplish a goal. I also had to do a media-sync exercise in Avid (a video editing software), and then I had to write a script that I could shoot myself for a Directing exercise (due this coming Wednesday).
It feels like a non-stop flow of things, but as long as I’m aware of what’s coming up, and I set a certain time aside each day to do work, then I can hopefully stay on top of everything.
The Directing exercise I did over the last week was quite intense for me. I accidentally directed a short back when I was doing One Short Film A Week with some peers in Toronto and the writer/director could not make it, so I was asked to direct ~30 minutes before the start time with no prep work. It didn’t turn out terrible, it just didn’t end up great. But it taught me how important Pre-Production is. I did a very small short last summer for the TIFFxInstagram film competition where they asked for 1-minute submissions on Instagram. I wrote it as a reflection piece on my time alone while Olivia was living in Ghana.
Besides those two small and poorly-planned experiences, I really have not shot anything.
I reached out to a second-year directing student whose 8-12 I admired and asked for guidance on how to approach the exercise. He told me to use as minimal of a crew as possible - just me, the camera, and the actor - and to keep it simple. Then of course he sent me his first exercise and blew me away with how amazing it was. Simple as hell but horrifying and well done. If it were mine, I would have submitted it to festivals.
When it came to approaching mine, I wanted to feel prepared. I wanted to plan the whole shoot out and ensure that I had my 2-page script mapped in a way that made it impossible to miss anything, while moving as quick as possible through it.
I stayed up way too late making cue-cards with the shot list mapped out, referencing the script lines, the costume markers, and ultimately the shooting order (non-linear). It was all worth it though.
Right before I was supposed to start shooting, a friend from class Josh (sorry Josh, there is an NYC Josh as well, but not a Josh Josh. Never another Josh Josh.) asked if he could help. I was feeling a bit nervous so I took him up on it after having told myself I would follow what the second-year student had told me. I am so glad that I took him up on his offer though. He was essentially my AD and really helped keep me on track and thinking purely about the performance and getting the shot rather than trying to track where we were in the shotlist and how we were progressing through the scenes I wanted to get. He kept me on track and focused.
I have yet to do the edit of the short film so we will see how it turned out in the next few days. I didn’t focus on lighting or on sound, and really just wanted to learn how to tell a story visually while getting comfortable with the camera gear. I think I accomplished that at the very least. I have a lot more to learn about shots and cinematography, but it’s a start. Next time (two weeks from now!) I will focus on honing that a bit more and getting nicer visuals.
There are a bunch of other things to say about what I’ve been up to the last two weeks but I think I’ll leave it there for now and write some smaller updates throughout the week this week.