November 6, 2003

How to Make a Student Film

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Movie Making 101

Have you ever wondered how student films are made here at Cornell? Who are the people who come up with these ideas, wacky and original as they always are? How do these people get the money to finance this foray into cinema? Can I become involved in this scintillating process? Well, isn’t this your lucky day! This feature is all about the student film Trip: its journey from an idea in writer/director Tatiana Lamelarabell’s ’03, head to an actual fifteen-minute film.


So, you have an idea for a movie, what now? Well, write it down, get it out on paper, produce a script, and be prepared to tear your baby to shreds when you’re done. Ideas are wonderful and abstract things that don’t necessarily correlate readily with reality. Get your ideas down on paper and see where it goes from there. Most likely you’ll be making substantial alterations when it comes time to actually shooting. Your cast might want to change lines as they go to make the dialogue more natural, the story might have to change as you get new and better ideas, or you may even be forced to adapt due to circumstances beyond your control. For example: a large portion of Tatiana’s film takes place at a party. You might think that being on a college campus would make finding a party relatively easy. Unfortunately, real parties don’t make for very shootable sets, so Tatiana is pretty much going to have to make her own party. A little more work than previously anticipated.

Show me the Money

It takes money to make a movie, something that most students don’t have in abundance, especially artistic people looking to make a movie. Looks a bit like a vicious cycle, huh? Cornell isn’t exactly a conducive environment for burgeoning filmmakers, as they offer only two courses in film production. Many schools don’t even have that, so I guess we should be happy we attend a school where we can “find instruction in any study,” even though it might not be all that in depth. Though the two classes on production do teach you a lot and are taught by extremely knowledgeable professors, they’re tiny, only ten students each class, so they’re very hard to get in to. Where else can a student turn?

Well, that’s where IFMAC steps in, Independent Film Makers At Cornell: they can help. IFMAC is a fantastic organization composed of students and professionals who provide aid to wannabe filmmakers in all sorts of forms. Don’t have a camera to shoot your movie on? No problem, they can provide one. Don’t know how to use the camera they’ve provided? No worries, they have tech people to help you out, man the camera, and show you how to use it. Need money? They have that too! Cornell provides the club with funding to allocate to filmmakers as needed. IFMAC is basically one stop shopping for any troubles a filmmaker has when it comes to getting an idea from paper to film.

Calling all Unknowns

First of all, get rid of any notions you may have about the people involved in making a film. Perhaps you’ve had a chance to get to know a few theatre majors or taken a few acting classes: these are not the people in film. More often than not, people who are very involved in theatre here on campus have little time for eating, let alone acting in movies on the weekends, so they’re not the ones starring in student films. Rather, it’s anyone and everyone with the interest and time. Here, variety rules.

There are lots of people at Cornell who like acting but just cannot commit to the schedule demanded by th

Archived article by Sue Karp