Film students learn through challenges
"This is a strange class," says Eric Faden, associate professor of English. "There are no books, no lectures, no papers, no exams. Everything learned is from experience rather than memorization."
He's talking about "Film and Video Production," a course that melds hands-on video production technique with creative spunk. "In the 21st century, it's easy to make a movie," Faden says. "But it's hard, very hard, to make a good movie." Making it more difficult, Faden adds "obstructions" to the film assignments to help students learn through experience.
In one project this past spring, "The Broken Mirror," students were asked to make the "perfect human" in one continuous tracking shot. The camera could not stop, and no film edits were allowed. In addition, the lens had to be on maximum telephoto and auto-focus had to be turned off. The result was an eerie, goose-bumpy video experience.
In another project, the students were instructed to make a documentary on the "perfect human" within five miles of the Bucknell campus. The film had to be exactly two minutes in length, and production values had to emphasize "exquisite" light, camerawork and sound. No clichés or musical crutches could be used, and students had to direct their own film and work as crew on two others. One result was "Patrick," a celebration-of-life story about an accident victim who survived a coma and, despite the odds, walked again.
The final class project was to produce two public service announcements for the Electronic Frontier Foundation in San Francisco. The obstructions: Two weeks, no budget, broadcast quality. The resulting PSAs received national exposure through Boing Boing TV and were shown on Virgin America's in-flight video program.
The experiential learning and the obstructions presented for each film pushed the students to their creative limits, says junior Kristen Bucaria, a film studies and political science major. "There were failures and trials, but I left the class with a full understanding of film production."