May 2, 2013

Students Take Films to Cornell Cinema

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On Sunday, May 12 at 7:15 p.m. in Willard Straight Theater, students who participated in Film 3770: Intro to 16mm and Digital Filmmaking and Film 4780: Intermediate Film classes will have their final projects screened at Cornell Cinema. This semester’s crop of movies is of an uncommon variety.

Projects in the Intermediate class this semester range from a black and white neo-noir shot on actual film with a Bolex camera, to an incisive documentary on the little-known jobs the people of Ithaca perform in the wee hours of the morning. Other projects include a dance video with manic energy and an exploration on the nature of insomnia. Even more interesting are the stories behind the making of these productions, and the ideas that inspired them.

“To understand insomnia better, I researched about its various symptoms and treatments. I also spent more time crafting the mis-en-scene, since the visual is equally important to the content,” says Keima Udoka ’14, who made a fiction piece on a character struggling with sleeplessness. Many narrative filmmakers in the class, including Udoka, have cited auteurs as diverse as Stanley Kubrick, Werner Herzog, Quentin Tarantino, and Christopher Nolan among their creative influences. When it came to her film, Udoka also drew on influences from her life, explaining, “the idea was inspired by a couple of friends of mine who had recently experienced some form of insomnia. I was also interested in the subject of dreams and wanted to incorporate the two subjects into a narrative.” Her film was shot in color and digitally, as were all the other projects in the Intermediate class, with one exception.

Ryan Larkin ’14 edited his film, Masquerade, by hand on a table, after shooting it in black and white on 16mm film with a hand-cranked camera. Working with celluloid is a rarity among student filmmakers, and necessitates constant care and precision while shooting. The reason is three minutes’ worth of film can cost around $20 to develop, which means a director can only afford precious few takes, particularly when paying for them out of his own pocket. Larkin had this to say about the filming process: “A whole lot of planning [went into it]. A whole lot of calling people I’d never met and asking for favors out of the goodness of their hearts. A whole lot of worrying whether I’d made a mistake while handling the 16mm film. It’s a miracle everything came together as well as it did.”

While most of the students chose narrative fiction pieces as their form, there are several documentaries from this class that will also be gracing the screen. Joyce Wu ’13 produced Five AM, which is, in her words, “a documentary that chronicles activities happening in the Cornell community between five and seven in the morning.” Wu added, “I made this film because I was looking to portray a side of Cornell that people rarely get to see … I have a new-found respect for all of the people who regularly start their days when the rest of us are still asleep.” The people Wu interviewed for her doc include workers on a dairy farm who care for cows, members of the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps on campus, and employees at Collegetown Bagels.

George Moujaes ’14 also created a documentary, only his had a more music video-type vibe. He had this to say about it: “My film is about queer performances, existences and politics. I was inspired by the experimental setting of my Intermediate Film class as well as the strong ethical concerns raised in my Feminist Theory class.” When it came to the making of the dance portion of his movie, which, as full disclosue, I was involved with, one of Moujaes’s chief concerns was getting the movements up close in the frame. The choreography for the dance routine, performed by Moujaes himself and three other dancers, was also very elaborate. “[We] practiced choreography to encourage materialism and kinetic expression in the LGBT social community,” he says.

Other projects from the Intermediate class include a piece about a librarian, and a narrative that explores the relationship between a man and the Father at his church. There is also a fiction piece about a girl who struggles to fit into her community, and finds solace by paining, as well as a mashup composed of five well-known directors’ filmmaking styles applied to the same trivial scenario. There are nine filmmakers total in the course, which is taught by Tara Nelson and guided by the technical expertise of Randy Hendrickson, who is in charge of all the filmmaking gear. 16mm and Digital Filmmaking students are presenting equally promising final films at the same exhibition, which is shaping up to be a memorable event.

Tickets can be purchased at Willard Straight and cost $5.50.

Original Author: Mark DiStefano

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