With the requirements that all instruction take place remotely, professors are finding innovative ways to provide guidance for their students. Nowhere is this more evident than with film professor, Bethany Miller’s, film classes. Since face-to-face instruction isn’t possible, Professor Miller has used technology to offer critique and direction for her students’ film projects. Read her words below to see how she does it – specifically related to a student completing his practicum.
In various classes that I teach, there is a lecture on Presentational Cinema. This film technique revolves around a singular, well choreographed, static frame. There is no cutting as the action is presented in real time. The audience is meant to feel like a fly on the wall observing the characters.
Brian Nguyen, a sophomore, was intrigued by this technique and wanted to try his hand at it for his practicum film. Brian is one of the most diligent and self sacrificing students in our program. He is constantly on set helping others and puts their films first so much that I encouraged him to film his piece at the beginning of our production cycle.
In preparation for the shoot, he elected to meet with me to go over the script as well as a complete Director’s Prep. In our optional Director’s Prep, students gather and present all their creative ideas for their film from Cinematography, Production Design, Safety Guidelines, Casting, and Shot Direction to get redirection and help from faculty.
He shot the footage during our spring break and within the next week, we had moved to remote learning. Now in the post production process, Brian sent me, via Google Drive, his first cut. We met over the phone to go over notes and then we repeated the process of Google Drive and Google Meet. It has been a riveting experience seeing the film transform.
Below are links to both drafts of the film – one before my notes and one after my notes. Because the film is Presentational, the normal notes I would give on rate of cutting or swapping out shots were not applicable. We mainly focused on the tone of the scene which can be transformed by several aspects such as the soundscape, dialogue, subtitles, and credits.
The voice of the actor didn’t seem to have a lot of expression which is understandable because the actor is actually Brian’s cousin who had never acted before. Normally, I would recommend bringing in the original actor to do ADR, automated dialogue replacement, but seeing as we were all now operating under quarantine, I had to think outside the box. Brian had taken Screen Acting with me last fall so I knew from our section on voice acting that he could do the voice over himself to breathe a little more life into the character.
I recommended it and the results are quite lovely. I still have a fondness for both drafts of the film as they each have their own strengths and now, as a director, Brian has more choices to tell his story. The final draft is still in progress and I am excited to see what directorial decisions Brian makes for his final cut. Once completed, we will be sending his film, Heritage, onto the festival circuit.
-Bethany Miller, Assistant Professor of Film, Southeastern University