As the fall semester ends and Bucknell students scramble to finish final projects, some face an additional kind of pressure: preparing their work for a public audience.
When the lights dim at the Campus Theatre on Dec. 5, these undergraduates will premiere their original short films on the big screen. The free event, which begins at 7 p.m., is the culmination of the Introduction to Film & Video Production course taught by Rebecca Meyers, lecturer and academic film programmer.
"It's very nerve wracking for the students," said Meyers, who has organized the fall screenings since 2013. "But it's also a really exciting, rewarding moment when their hard work leaves the classroom and actually goes into a theatre."
Over the course of the semester, Meyers' 15 students received increasingly challenging film assignments. The final project, which stresses visual storytelling, must be three to five minutes long and completely devoid of dialogue — but these films are far from silent, as students found creative ways to express meaning through sound. Alex Gao '19 experimented with radio voiceovers to advance the storyline of his piece, which he describes as an emotional reflection on nature.
"It's much more than a final project for me," said Gao, who majors in environmental studies and English-film/media studies. "I wanted to use the synergy of my two majors to influence others and this is the perfect way to do it. We're still not reaching a critical threshold with environmental awareness and I think the emotion of film is the most helpful way of reaching others. You can see someone's heart and emotions change as they watch and I really like the power of communicating that way."
Students handle every aspect of the project themselves, from the concept, planning and writing to shooting, editing and designing sound. The style and subject matter of the films is as different as individual students, says Meyers and ranges from thrillers and mysteries to comedies and not-quite-nonfiction.
Jessica Henson '20, who plans to declare majors in both English-film/media studies and English-creative writing, likes the process of translating her written work into visuals and experimenting with angles and perspectives. "My favorite part is editing and seeing how my clips turned out after I finished shooting," said Henson, whose film explores how people interact with water. "Making sure my story comes together as I envisioned it is stressful, but really exciting."
The annual screenings generally attract a couple hundred viewers. Maxwell Kane '18, an English-film/media studies major, has shown two of his films at the Campus. After each screening, he reviews his filmmaking process and thinks about ways to improve his next project. Kane's latest work, a creative honors thesis, focuses on family relationships in a broken home. It took months to solidify the script, storyboard and casting, he said and unforeseen obstacles in the form of music-licensing snafus and difficult-to-obtain props complicated matters.
But seeing his ideas turned into actual footage and sharing it with others is well worth it, said Kane, who plans on going to medical school or pursuing film production after graduation. "No matter which career path I choose, the filmmaking process has taught me a lot about responsibility and the time commitment needed to reach a goal."