From page to screen: Students create film in cinema class

Caleeb Bell and Sidney Gomez (in costume) rehearse for their final film project. In Introduction to Cinema, students learn what makes a movie good, how to fake a punch and which camera angles create a mood.

Armed with cell phones and story ideas, a dozen students set off across campus to bring their films to life.

In the three-week summer class Introduction to Cinema, taught by H. Russ Brown, students became movie-makers as they worked in groups to create an idea, draft a story board and produce an action sequence.

“We learn communication skills because you have to be able to communicate what you want to do [in your video],” said student Breanna Clarke. “It makes you think outside the box more. You have to be original.”

An elective or fine arts credit, the class peeked behind the scenes of movies. Students explored blockbusters’ elements including soundtrack, foley (sound effects), camera angles and action.

“It’s been a fun three weeks. He gets everyone involved,” said student Sidney Gomez. “You get to watch cool movies. It’s something new every day.”

Students’ first project was to set a mood through a short wordless video using only visual effects such as body positioning and camera angles. Their classmates then guessed the emotion they tried to convey.

Students also went on a field trip to the theater at Mall of the Mainland to view "X Men: Apocalypse" and analyze its major action sequences.

“[H. Russ Brown] is the best teacher I’ve had. He makes you second guess your major [if it’s not theatre]. He makes learning fun,” said student Ashton Holmes.

After discussion, critiques and film-watching, students were ready for their final project – filming an action sequence.

“There had to be a chase, a fight, and a clear winner and loser,” said Brown. “They filmed them on their cell phones. Some students were able to edit their videos entirely on their phones.”

Beyond evaluating which movies live up to their hype, the class explores stories and ideas, teaching students teamwork along the way.

“There’s so much collaboration and learning to work with different people in group projects,” said Brown. “At the end they had a deeper understanding of the film-making process and how they can be used to produce change, whether that change is altering the mood you came in with or conveying a thought, or feeling or idea.”

For more information on theatre and cinema classes upcoming this fall, email hrussbrown@com.edu.

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