For the last several years I have been lucky enough to teach sections of Intro to Film at the University of Illinois. For the most part, this class includes topics like learning film vocabulary (the names of shots and editing techniques, for example) and exploring generic patterns.
I decided several semesters ago to conclude the course with a project on filmmaking that would bring all of these ideas together. Either alone or in pairs, students would pitch a one-minute long film. The time limit had two purposes: 1) it would ensure that students didn’t “bite off more than they could chew” by pitching a project that they could not complete. And 2) it would ensure that students had to be economical and creative about what they chose to include so that they could tell a complete and fulfilling story in just one minute. They would then use either their own equipment (smart phones, web cams) or equipment on loan from the Undergraduate library (Go Pro cameras and other various models of camcorders) to execute their vision. At the conclusion of the project, we screened all the films in class and the top three films as voted on by the students won a bit of extra credit. The student filmmakers also had to write up a short post-film reflection in which they discussed what techniques they found worked well for their projects and what techniques wound up being too difficult to execute, what elements they discovered they needed during the course of shooting and what elements they thought were vital that wound up on the cutting room floor.
I’ve tweaked this assignment in several ways over the course of the last few years, and I’m proud to say that this year’s crop of films was the best I’ve ever gotten!
With their permission, I would like to share some of my favorite student films from the Spring of 2015. They span all types of genres, from documentaries to romantic comedies to animated shorts to horror films to parodies of famous directorial styles.
“Fortune Cookies” dirs. Ryan Leonard and Jessica Watson
“The Fox and the Crow: A Respun Tale” dir. Daniel Pugliese
“A video adaptation of “The Fox and The Crow” as (mis)told by James Meehan’s TaleSpin”
“An Ode to Directors” dirs. Bradley Paterson and Kevin Wang
“The Creator’s Curse” dir. Tiberius Engel
“Small Happiness in Life” dir. Keng-Yi Lee
“STATIC” dir. Artemy Shumskiy