Connecticut Film Student
Last weekend was a reminder of the incredible journey filmmaking can offer. As a husband, father and professor when my responsibilities end at CCSU, I film in hospitals and with artists. However, sustainability has always been about the skill, being trustworthy and telling truthful or meaningful stories.
The explosion of cinema technology has created a mass market of college and university film training programs. But buyer beware – such accessibility has also lead to questionable Film/TV training programs at some colleges, and students may pay the toll.
Since most people shoot and edit basic video, many traditional communication professors (with only basic knowledge of production) are now teaching Film and TV Studio classes. The usefulness of these classes is rarely questioned within a liberal arts institution. However, when professors lack professional production experience and have no peer-reviewed work, their students may be entirely under-prepared to enter a complex and competitive field. Don’t let this happen to you!
If Film/TV production is your area of emphasis, by the time you graduate your production portfolio, stories, and skills should impress practitioners within the industry. Conversely, It will be quite easy for industry professionals to spot fundamental flaws in your portfolio. With one quick glance, they can determine whether you are on automatic camera settings, if camera movements are motivated/skilled, and a host of other technical, aesthetic, and content issues. Will you be ready?
To reach your potential in film/TV production, ask a few questions before signing up for classes. Doing so might save you an abundance of time, effort and tuition fees!
QUESTION #1 – INSTRUCTIONAL VALUE
Does your professor have current peer reviewed work in film production?
As an invested film student, your production classes should be taught by film educators who either have current peer-reviewed work in film/studio production, or a substantial history of peer-reviewed media within the genres they teach.
In too many cases, university professors teaching production (and administrators scheduling these programs) do not understand the industry standards, roles and knowledge that students will need to find real jobs in filmmaking. All too often, film professors with only basic production knowledge are relying on “media theory” or “history of film” classes they previously taught to justify the production classes they currently teach. This is a problem.
A university production program that lacks teachers with substantial experience, technological literacy, and peer-reviewed work will leave gaping flaws in their students’ producing abilities.
EXAMPLE: For the past decade, it was common that within one studio production sequence all cameras were locked on automatic mode, lights were in fixed positions never to be moved and/or focused, and the set (background) remained entirely unchanged and unexplored. Only the most rudimentary functions were taught. Forget color, lighting angles, placement, patching, programming, nuanced directing, ideation, etc., as those foundational aspects of production were never covered – likely because the professor had little experience. That’s a whole decade of students taking classes that disregarded the primary tools of production. It’s almost malpractice!
QUESTION #2 – STUDENT OUTCOMES
Ask where you can view previous student-works (excluding internships) from production courses your professors teach.
That request should be enthusiastically welcomed by film/studio programs with replicated outcomes. Rather than hearing a program’s sales pitch – as you’re offered the Hollywood dream – view an abundance of student work from the program of your interest. That act alone can reveal the quality of instruction and the technical and story development skills you will likely receive in your training.
At its most basic level, you should be impressed with the majority and maturity of work students are producing. It should look and feel professional (not perfect). Production/storytelling is quite difficult and takes time and practice. Instead of viewing one or two exceptional works, look for consistency and quantity of impressive student productions. If actors are involved, is the acting believable, or does it look cartoonish and amateur? Is audio rich and clearly understood? Can you hear audio in both speakers? Does the camera move or jerk in odd ways that removes you from the story? Be critical! Don’t ignore red flags.
On the other hand, if a professor claims to focus primarily on story, that can be legitimate — particularly if they have peer-reviewed work. But verify those claims with the work his or her students produce. Is the subject matter handled maturely? Are students taking risks with the topics they engage in? Are they seeking out complex issues and characters? You’ll want to feel a sense of engagement throughout the film’s entirety.
Consider and compare multiple film programs before choosing where you will study.
You will see vast differences in how production is taught and therefore, how well students perform. By assessing multiple programs, including professors’ achievements and students’ accomplishments, you will be far better equipped to make an informed decision about which program will be right for you.
Production is difficult. At times, it will frustrate you as the mass of mistakes you’re sure to make in these classes can and will feel overwhelming. It is a slow and grueling process to gain production literacy. At times, your emotions will be your own worst enemy. But if you have the desire to tell stories, you will ignore these set-backs. Proper film training in higher education should build skill as your stories and directorial tactics mature. Embrace your mistakes as you’re slowly guided to correct them. Your skills will sharpen, your knowledge base will grow, and you will enter the professional industry ahead of your peers.
To summarize, the camera is not a player-piano; it is a complex instrument requiring immense practice and guidance. Take the time you need to make a wise and informed decision about where you will study. The great stories you are entirely capable of telling will undoubtedly become your reality.
Posted by Jeff Teitler – Professor – CCSU – Edited by Betsey Chadwick
Prior to the pandemic, several members of CCSU’s production faculty ran a pilot program in studio production. Collaborating with Josh Therriault, an ESPN production artist and former CCSU Film graduate, we developed a comprehensive studio curriculum, collaborated with industry artists and developed the most advanced productions and curriculum ever seen within CCSU’s studo.
The new curriculum not only engaged CCSU film alumni, (as studio-mentors), but the changes also created a well-trained production team, which has been achieving unprecedented success ever since.
your work and national accomplishments are as inspirational and hopeful as it gets!
When you’re transgender, merely using the bathroom is a risk.” THE MEN’S ROOM – an intimate portrait on a need for privacy, dignity and respect.
This piece was directed by Abe Azab and features AJ Colella
In a new milestone, CCSU Film alumni and students produce with Grammy Award Winning Artist, Pharoahe Monch and Filmmaker/NYU Film professor, Tatjana Kretevski.
NEW YORK UNIVERSITY, GRAMMY ARTIST, PHAROAHE MONCH AND CENTRAL CONNECTICUT STATE UNIVERSITY?
With an unprecedented uptick in accolades and achievements over the last decade, CCSU Film students have been accepted to top tier film schools, are selected in film festivals, have been recognized by the United States Congressional Black Caucus, produce for ESPN, NESN, Luis Vuitton, commended by the Governor and the list goes on. But they are also connected to where it began…at CCSU.
In 2018, CCSU’s Film program wanted to test and re-invent our Studio Production curriculum. To do so, we called on CCSU Film alumni and current ESPN production artist, Joshua Therriault. Spending an entire summer developing and overhauling the way production could be taught, the pilot was so successful, it netted over 40 production contracts for our students and participating alumni.
Since that time, CCSU’s production team remains in close touch. So much so, that when CCSU Film Alumni Rashad Frett, a current MFA Film student at NYU reached out to Therriault to help produce Pharoahe Monch’s music video, Therriault knew what to do. He immediately sold the team on shooting in Bristol CT and engaged the producing students and alumni at CCSU. Knowing the skills they developed, the 3 day production directed by Kretevski, included, CCSU Alumni Arianna Thibodeau, steadicam operator, along with CCSU students, Courtney Rush, David Rawolle, Cody Charneski and Ricky Hamilton – all of which gained official credit in the music video. In fact, since the successful drop of Thirteen’s “Fight”, it has been featured in Rolling Stones magazine.
This work is yet another milestone in what a state university film program can do. Another music video in the works in the next few weeks, which will also use the CCSU pilot studio participants.
Posted by Jeff Teitler, Professor Central Connecticut State University
Unapologetically, Filmmaking deals with human issues, characters and conditions. It is a complicated educational process, requiring technical, aesthetic and directorial instruction.
With an industry-endorsed curriculum and unprecedented student-outcomes, last year, politics and university power-plays engaged in an all-out assault on film education, workforce collaboration and academic freedom. These actions illogically hurt our students, diminished their curriculum, tossed out alumni-volunteers and cancelled our film mentorship programs. (We will have much to say and film about this in the future.).
But fighting for student-excellence has its rewards. Today, we are so pleased to announce another CCSU Film student milestone. After completing her second Film class, Mya S. Gray has been awarded a prestigious UNITED STATES CONGRESSIONAL BLACK CAUCUS SCHOLARSHIP – 20/21. The scholarship is awarded to students who show “exemplarity potential or mastery of a visual art.”
These are the outcomes we fight for. They are achievable by all students, when proper processes, standards and qualified instructors are in-place.
IN HER OWN WORDS – FILM STUDENT, MYA SAREE’ GRAY
From a short film created in only my second film class, I ended up with a scholarship, the beginning of my skill and an experience that changed my life forever.
While I was taking my first film class at CCSU, I became pregnant. At that time, I also started getting hooked on filmmaking. I actually doubled up and produced two final projects in that first film class. As my pregnancy continued in my second film class, we learned new cameras, techniques and broadened our story telling abilities. It was challenging and I was pushed hard.
As a new filmmaker, I believe life’s experiences can fuel the creative process. I decided to create a story about the intimacy between a couple approaching the birth of their first child. I filmed and developed the same scenes twice a week for the entire 17-week semester. I filmed right up until the week I gave birth.
I practiced character motivations, lighting and camera control while being regularly mentored on improvements in my filmmaking.
In only two semesters, I developed an amazing result. So much so, the film I created won a visual arts scholarship from the United States Congressional Black Caucus for Fall 2020-Spring 2021 The experience and film education changed my life.
Blog by Mya S. Gray
Introduction by Professor Jeffrey Teitler
CCSU Film student and 2020 graduate, Tyler Helmbrecht is on the brink of success…This is his story.
TYLER: In the early winter of 2019, I wanted to create a short film centering on my work at McDonald’s. To be honest, I had never dedicated enough time to my filmmaking as sticking to one project was difficult. While I always carried my camera, like most of us, I had strong mental blockades that I needed to break. It was also challenging to not get discouraged throughout the process. But don’t!
In my McDonald’s film, I wanted to highlight my experiences as an employee, which also included a McDonald’s scholarship for my CCSU education as a filmmaker. On March 4th, 2020, I completed the first draft. It was forty-eight seconds long, cheesy and simple. Later, I had completed a second draft, which still needed work.
That’s when the battle began. There were long pauses in between drafts, which were supported with deadline extensions and regular prods to continue from CCSU’s Film program. But the more I filmed, the better my style, quality and message improved. As I said before, the process was tough, but much of it was mental.
During my last semester at CCSU, Corona virus hit and classes were no longer live. Feedback from CCSU’s Film program continued. Slowly, I plowed through…and then, after about 10 drafts, it happened. I finished.
As I uploaded the final version on YouTube, I did not list it. Instead, I sent a private link to my general manager at McDonalds, who sent it to her manager. Six hours later the franchise owner called my personal cell phone while I was closing the store. Within 24 hours, so many people had shared the private link, that it had over 500 views. So, I made it public. In doing so, I’ve connected with industry professionals on LinkedIn and even exchanged emails with the Senior Vice President of corporate McDonald’s – other higher ups as well. Because of this film, corporate McDonald’s connected me with their primary advertising firm and today, I am on my second interview for employment at that firm.
This process has allowed me so much more freedom and opportunity than I could have imagined. Like I said before, it took a lot of time and an infinite amount of effort and skill…but all goals were always in reach.
Written by Tyler Helmbrecht
Posted by Jeffrey Teitler
Professor – CCSU FILM
The heart of CCSU FILM’s achievement has always centered around the original ideas of our students While some ideas are controversial, others can be light-hearted and comedic. But more than dreaming ideas, our students regularly exercise, cast, explore, costume and rigorously develop the necessary skills to produce their ideas. The process is by no means easy….But it can be absolutely transformative.
We are pleased to announce CCSU Film student’s, Ryan Sehmi and Michaela Salvo are an Official Selection at the Women’s Film Festival in Philadelphia.
In his own words, CCSU Film student, Ryan Sehmi describes the process of creating this compelling piece below:
“Every 92 seconds, another American is assaulted. One of these American’s is Michaela Salvo. This issue is disgusting and a majority of assaulters, including hers, get away with it.
The story of making a film on this subject originated by Michaela’s struggle to create photographs based on her assault. As an artist, she wanted create images in ways that communicated her life and mental health following her assault… but she was struggling.
While I was taking a film class at CCSU, I began working on this film, but the film we created was far different than when we first started. Beginning with a shot of my subject curled into a ball, the first draft was terribly lit in our bathroom. I look back at it in embarrassment when comparing it to what we have now. The process to get there included exploring and creating about 10 different versions of this film, but it allowed Michaela and I to find her truthful story.
Whenever we talk about assault, which is too infrequently, we talk about how the person is a victim… but that is all we talk about. We don’t focus on that person as a human, what their passions are, who they are. We see a shell of a person and that is wrong. We need to look at these humans as survivors.
We decided the visual of this film would show how a person who has been assaulted copes with their experience. For my girlfriend, it was creating self-portraits. Therefore, we decided to create a film of her preparing for one of these photoshoots… even using her some of the imagery she had created.
This approach seemed more effective and our professor agreed. Each week of the semester, he encouraged and guided us through the rest of the project. Many classes, I would present a new shoot and edit of the project, which brought us painfully and slowly closer to our current film.
Finally, on April 23rd 2019, it was completed. This process opened me up to the world of using cinema as a tool for combatting social issues. If not for my love for my girlfriend and her collaborating with me to create something that could help along with the one-on-one advising from our professor, this film would have never been made and I wouldn’t be on the path of using art in this way.
92 SECONDS will be featured at the WOMEN’S FILM FESTIVAL in Philadelphia this March.