Friday, February 15, 2008

Brooks students get into filmmaking


With trucks and generators lining the street, a crane towering above the parking lot and 35mm film cameras being shuffled up and down stairs, it was hard to ignore the hustle and bustle of a movie being made at the Brooks Institute Mason Street Studio yesterday.
While many passers by may have mistaken the scene for the shooting of a major motion picture, a sign taped to the gate out front set the record straight with the words, “Brooks Institute Student Film in Progress.”

But that’s not to say it won’t be major motion picture quality.
For the fifth consecutive year, Brooks has received a grant from Kodak that has allowed students to make short films the same way Stephen Spielberg would make a short film. That is with fancy cameras, sound equipment, actors and everything in between.
The only hitch is the students involved have a mere three days to shoot this year’s short film called “Hard Boiled Eggs.”
But time constraints aside, at the end of the third day, the students will have shot thousands of feet of film, know what it’s like to be on the set of a real movie and have something to show prospective employers.
“It’s a very cool project and we get to do it once per year,” said Judy Trotter, who teachers the 35mm Project course with her husband Tracy.
Trotter said Kodak’s initial grant, which consists of donated film and post-production work, gave birth to the project.
The Trotters fill in the gaps with cash from Brooks and a lot of volunteer help from their friends, which this year consists of about 40 professionals in the film industry, who donate time, generators and even the crane.
Trotter said she tries to get a professional mentor to help the students through every aspect of the filmmaking process. More often than not, she said participating students are able to lock down internships through the connections they make on set.
“In every category, we try to get someone for these [students] to talk to,” Trotter said.
“Hard Boiled Eggs,” which will also have scenes shot in Ventura at the Buena Ventura Studios, is a departure from past short films made by Brooks students, because it will include some violence.
During one scene, two men enter a diner, find the man they’re looking for and kill him. Trotter said the men are drug dealers of sorts, who transport the drugs in eggs.
“This is the first time Brooks has allowed us to do a violent film,” said Ryann Weller, a third year Brooks student who has helped with the 35mm project each of the past three years.
In order to get that permission, Weller said they brought on a “weapons wrangler” – a professional who handles the weapons whenever they’re used on set.
While many short films are made for the purpose of seeking out funding for possible feature length films, Trotter said the main goal with “Hard Boiled Eggs” is to give students some hard to come by on-the-job training.
“This is the biggest job they’ll be on until they’re on a really big job,” she said.
“It gives us an actual chance to see what a real set is like,” Weller said. “It really helps teach you things you can’t learn in a classroom.”
After graduation Weller said he wants to get into making video games. He said the process of making modern video games has progressed to the point where it’s similar to making a film.
Trotter said past films have been shot in-step with the Santa Barbara International Film Festival, while one of the 35mm Project films, “Lost Hope & More” was screened at this year’s festival.
The only thing the Brooks students don’t do is act. Weller said 11 actors, some of whom are paid, are hired on for the project.
But everything else is up to the students, with a little help from their mentors.
“We definitely get a chance to kind of do everything and anything possible,” Weller said. “We’re trying to set the bar of what student films could really be like.”

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