It’s 10:30 PM. I’m sitting in a dark room illuminated by a monitor displaying dozens of video clips. Two of my classmates—no, co-producers—sit beside me, scrutinizing the video feed for continuity errors. We’re all exhausted; it’s been hours since we booted up Adobe Premiere. And yet, there’s a palpable sense of excitement that rushes through our veins, pushing us forward.
That’s film studies, in a nutshell.
In many ways, the Film Studies Department is one of Conn’s best-kept secrets. That’s not to say that people don’t know about it—I’ve lost count of the number of people who’ve told me how they’ve always wanted to take a film class at some point in their college career. It’s just that, with so many opportunities and classes to choose from, those desires to take a film class are often abandoned in favor of classes that will fulfill a general education requirement or a degree prerequisite. And that’s a shame; being a part of the Film Studies Department is one of the most unique and memorable experiences I’ve had during my brief time at Conn thus far.
I took Film 101 during my first semester and was pleasantly surprised by the level of intellectual stimulation that it offered. Our goal was to engage with film on a deeper intellectual and critical level. In other words, I found myself taking an English literature course and “reading” complex and challenging films on a weekly basis. This came as a pleasant surprise; English was always my strongest academic subject in high school, so the course was comfortably familiar during my transition to collegiate academics. Actively searching for form, function and meaning within a two-hour work was engaging, and candid class discussions about themes, symbols, visual metaphors and mies-en-scene elements were guaranteed to occur during the following class. As the semester progressed, I knew I had found my niche.
The real draw of film studies, however, wasn’t analyzing movies—it was making them. Once I passed Film 101, I eagerly took advantage of the opportunity to enroll in Film 210. As my classmates and I quickly discovered, “directing a film” is much easier said than done. Between coordinating actor schedules, writing screenplays, renting out professional gear, making shot lists, drawing storyboards, shooting footage and editing everything together into something coherent, there’s a lot to keep up with.
Less than three weeks into class we were assigned our first narrative short film. The deadline? Three-and-a-half weeks away.
To say that time has flown by since that first assignment would be a massive understatement. These past few weeks have been stressful, nerve-wracking and taxing on both mind and body. And yet, I’ve enjoyed every single moment of the creative process.
Each film is your baby. If I’m to extend that metaphor further, they act like your baby, too. They require constant supervision, isolate you from loved ones, force you to develop inhuman levels of patience, make you want to tear your hair out, and get messy quickly if you’re not careful. But, like raising a baby, the good moments outnumber the bad—and those good moments are unlike anything else I’ve experienced. Nailing that shot, which you thought would be next-to-impossible to achieve, is euphoric; editing it into the final product is even more amazing. Finding connections between disparate shots and connecting them to create the illusion of fluid, continuous motion is tedious, but it’s all worth it once you see the finished result and can let out a “YES!" Working with your fellow classmates can be frustrating, and you’ll often see the worst in each other—but when things click, they really click, and you’ve created a bond that can never really be broken. When you have to let go of a film, it’s tough; there’s so much more you could do, so much more you could fix. But you’re proud of what it has become under your influence and excited about its potential to resonate with audiences.
End flashback, smash cut back to Olin Editing Lab. I look at the screen, then at my co-producers and smile—there’s still a lot more to be done.