The Film Club at JPCatholic began in Fall 2017 under the moderation of Professor George Simon. George sees the Film Club as “an awesome place for students to collaborate, to create projects on a slightly bigger scope, that aren’t exactly senior-project level, but will allow them to experience the full process.”
To a certain degree, the club is meant to be a place of preparation for senior projects, with students going through the whole process, just on a smaller scale, and on a shorter timeline. a senior project is crafted over the course of an entire year, but a Film Club project will develop over the course of ten weeks. As George puts it, “It’s all meant to be similar to how the process would work in a real studio. What we’re trying to do is create a microcosm of how a studio system works.”
George expects that as the club grows, incoming freshman can get involved as assistant directors, grips, or other positions early on. Then, by the time they are doing their own senior projects, not only will they have completed a series of directing and production classes, they might have been a part of three additional professional level projects.
Many JPCatholic film students will create films on their own time to submit to the school’s quarterly film festivals, as a chance to showcase their storytelling, show off their skills, and have fun. Film festival entries are limited to checking out a basic Canon T3i, a ZOOM, a boom mike, a reflector and a tripod. When asked how the Film Club might impact and interact with these film festivals, George responded, “Some students will check out equipment and shoot a first draft screenplay within a two week deadline, and that’s perfectly fine. They’ll have fun doing that, but that’s a totally different experience from what the Film Club aims for.”
When a good pitch is made, with a great script attached, a copy is sent to both Professor Simon and Professor Riley to read over and give notes. Once the screenplay is perfected, it’ll be green-lit for production. At that point, one gets his or her producer, director, cinematographer, editor, and production designer together; those five will act as “department heads” for the film.
One will typically have five weeks of pre-production before shooting. In those weeks script breakdowns, shot lists, storyboards, and location scouting have to be done, as well as the location and talent release forms. Then, the potential filmmaker gives his pre-production materials to George so he can make sure they’re totally prepared.
Throughout the extent of one’s production, the five department heads have to come to club meetings. They share the progress, insights, challenges and questions with the rest of the club. Once the film’s been completed, the club will screen it and have a final discussion. By then, a new project or two will already be greenlit, and the cycle begins again.
As for the club meetings, George decided to leave them up to the Film Club Board: Chris Weingart, Keenan Wostenberg, Shayla Millman, James Barrows, and Veronica Argentieri. He explained, “It’s easier for you to meet at the Perch or Jude at 7 o’clock at night, than for me to hold a meeting at 12pm when people have class in half an hour, or at 8am where nobody’ll show up.” This may help students to feel a level of ownership of the club as it moves forward into the future.
George recalled the creative passion that went into a fan film made by Preston Yarger and Nicholas Alayo back in 2016 titled “SCOUT: A Star Wars Story,” finding it akin to the kinds of student films he envisions the club producing. “They went up to this incredible location up in the Redwoods, with their modest production budget going mostly toward art direction- costuming, props… and they leveraged all their creativity and talents so that whatever money they did spend resulted in an astounding-looking film on-screen.”
That’s the kind of work George is hoping the students will emulate. He hope that they’ll go into a project wondering how to choose location, actors, wardrobe, set decorations, and have a phenomenal story to create something that looks like it cost $50,000 to make, but really came down to resourcefulness and creativity.
“With these stories, I just want to see what these students are capable of when they’re given the time and creative support to come up with stories that will really be true to their own experience, to the kinds of stories that we really want to see at the university, stories that really explore deep fundamental truths about humanity.”
George also expressed a desire to see more stories that are “appropriate to short film format,” saying that, “I think often times the temptation is to try to tell a bigger story than a short film is really meant to handle. I hope the things students learn in the short form cinema class translate in the stories that they bring to Film Club.”
For those interested in the club and would like to find out more, be sure to to join the Film Club page on Facebook.