With one year of the Film and TV program here at COM under my belt, I’ve been thinking recently about the lessons I learned in the past year and how I can apply them as I move forward in my career here, and thought I would share a few with you.
Connections connections connections
If there is anything that is stressed in anyone’s not just film and TV but COM career in general, it is making connections. Connections to your peers, connections to your professors, and connections to people in the BU and Boston communities are so important, even if you don’t know exactly why at the exact moment. It could lead to a chance to get on set for a Prod 3 film, or an internship, or just a mentor to help you through your COM journey.
Initiative Over Skills
Film and TV is different than any other major here at BU, in that extracurricular experiences are equally important as classes to truly get the most of your experience in the program and find a job post-grad. As a result, there are a hundred different opportunities to pursue extracurriculars and get experience outside of the classroom, whether it’s through BUTV10, short film clubs, film festivals, or other personal projects. However, there is one thing that stops a lot of people from jumping into these activities: they don’t think they have the skills. And this is a completely legitimate concern, as it can be scary to go onto a set with no previous experience. But the secret to this is that although skills help a lot, all anyone is looking for here is initiative. Initiative, wanting to be there and showing up day in and day out will always get you where you want to be at COM and along the way you’ll gain skills that will open you up to even more opportunities. All you have to do is take the first step. Personally, I started BUTV10 last year working for COED as a writer with not previous writing experience, and Bay State as a Production Assistant having never been on set before. And as a result of showing initiative and wanting to be there, I was able to produce COED this semester after a year of writing for the show and will be producing Bay State next semester after a year and a half of showing up and just trying to learn a little bit each time I got on set.
Be Honest with Yourself
Film and TV is overwhelming and broad. There are a hundred things you can do in this crazy industry we’re getting ourselves into, and sometimes it can be a challenge deciding which tracks you want to take. The key is to be honest with yourself and let yourself actually get a feel for what you think is right. Personally, I started out hearing about all the great things that are involved in production and how amazing cinematography was and so I told myself that would be the track I would take and that would be it. But a year in, I have come to realize that really, I am more of a writer and producer than a hands-on production filmmaker. And honestly, that took awhile for me to admit. It can be tough to shift and re-evaluate after you are so certain something is right for you, but in the long-run you are going to be so much better off. So if you discover that something really isn’t for you, just be honest with yourself and make the shift. It may seem stressful at the moment, but you’ll be happier in the long-run.
Well friends, I’m happy to report that the most important movie of the year, A Star Is Born, is available for viewing at several fabulous locations in the Boston area. As a COM student, you absolutely need to check out these theaters and, more importantly, ugly-cry over Bradley Cooper’s sultry voice and Lady Gaga’s sheer perfection. So here are the 5 best movie theaters where you can see A Star Is Born, because if you don’t see it, what are you even doing?
1. Regal Fenway
Just a ten-minute walk and one scary intersection away from Comm Ave, Regal Fenway is the perfect movie theater for you to enjoy the third and best iteration of A Star Is Born. Barbra Streisand who? This theater offers comfy reclining seats so you can relax as you violently shake when Bradley Cooper pulls Lady Gaga onstage in that scene from the trailer and she hits that one sustained note and your soul escapes through your eyes.
2. AMC Loews Boston Common
Get on the green line, hop off at Boylston Street, and you’ve reached this extravagantly huge theater that happens to be playing A Star Is Born TODAY at 11:30 a.m., 12:30 p.m., 2:45, 3:45, 6:00, 7:00, and 9:15! Also, check out AMC Stubs A-List, Moviepass’s slightly more expensive but economically sound sibling. It’s $20 a month to see three movies per week…. which means–you guessed it–you can see A Star Is Born three times every week!
3. Coolidge Corner
This historic theater has been around since 1933, and it’s been showing A Star Is Born since October 5th! You can also check out their “After Midnite” showings of inferior movies like The Exorcist and Scream in their original 35mm prints. Lame! Here’s a link to their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/thecoolidge/.
4. AMC Assembly Row
If you’re ever in the Somerville area, hit up this awesome movie theater! Like all AMCs, it is unnecessarily large, and therefore perfect for bringing your entire friend group to see A Star is Born. Not only that, when you need comfort food after Bradley Cooper makes you puke out your heart and then swallow it again, there’s a Trader Joe’s right next door! Amazing.
5. Kendall Square Cinema
Travel to Cambridge and check out this awesome theater, where A Star Is Born is actually not playing but I couldn’t think of a fifth movie theater . Actually, I changed my mind. This theater might be located in a really cool spot in Cambridge near some brunch places and vintage thrift stores, but it’s not playing A Star Is Born, so you should boycott this theater.
Over the past few weeks I’ve received some great news that is really going to impact my time at BU next year. My best friend (and sometimes my greatest nemesis) is moving to Boston this summer. My older sister, Madison, is graduating from college this June and then she’ll be headed my way to take on Boston with me.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned from her impending arrival, it’s how much I still have to do here in Boston. She’s constantly rattling off ‘we should try this’ or ‘let’s do that when I get there.’ It’s like she’s more familiar with the city than I am lately. For this reason, I’m really making an effort to get out into the city this semester, take the time to familiarize myself with the areas I don’t spend as much time in, and branch out.
An aide to this exploration is actually my Production 1 class. All Film and TV students have 4 required courses: Production 1, Understanding TV, Understanding Film and Screenwriting. Production 1 familiarizes students with different equipment and editing software. Another aspect of the class is filming 3 different ‘short film’ projects over the semester. While it’s a lot of work outside the classroom, it’s also a great excuse to get off campus and into Boston. I’m only three weeks in and I’ve already had so much fun going into the north end and over to the financial district to scout locations for my projects. It’s also helping me find a few things I’m excited to try with Maddie when she arrives too.
While she still doesn’t understand that an apartment in the north end isn’t in walking distance to my classes on campus or that the t is our public transportation system not just a letter in the alphabet, she’s still teaching me a lesson or two. It’s going to be hard to sacrifice some of my binge-TV time (which I’m sure she indulges in just as much as I do) but I’m excited to dive into our little, (or not so little) Boston Bucket List together.
In the midst of awards season and with the Oscars right around the corner, it seems like all the talk around COM has been about movies, so I thought I should be a good film student and make my “Top 5 Movies of 2013” list.
5. Captain Phillips
Pretty much anything with Tom Hanks gets my stamp of approval, but this movie really stands out. Going in, I was a little worried the story was going to get the Hollywood treatment and seem too over the top. I was surprised though; while Tom Hanks does come off as a hero, they don’t make him a saint, and I actually even felt bad for the pirates at some point. Barkhad Abdi makes his film debut as the leader of the pirates, and gives one of the best performances I’ve ever seen. The director Paul Greengrass’ shaky-camera style from the Jason Bourne movies is in full effect here, and it works perfectly with the cramped shots inside the boat. For a movie where you know the ending going in, there’s an incredible amount of suspense.
4. Inside Llewyn Davis
I’m usually not a huge Coen brothers fan. I liked True Grit but beyond that, I feel like I just don’t get their movies. Inside Llewyn Davis was another pleasant surprise for me. The music alone is great, featuring Oscar Isaac, Justin Timberlake, and Marcus Mumford. Some of the tracks are depressing (fair warning, the whole movie is pretty depressing) but some are a lot of fun, like “Please Mr. Kennedy,” JT’s protest song asking JFK not to send him to the moon (yes, it’s as strange as it sounds). The movie is slow, but I was never bored. Personally I feel like it got shorted at the Oscars and deserved to at least be nominated in a lot more categories, if not win them.
Frozen is fun. There’s no other way to put it. The songs are catchy, the characters are goofy, and I haven’t talked to a single person who didn’t like it. It’s a new take on the Disney princess formula, and the characters are all so quirky and odd instead of being fairy tale perfect, and they completely pull it off. I guarantee you’ll walk out of the theater with a smile on your face, and at the end of the day, that’s what movies are about.
2. American Hustle
I’ve heard a lot of mixed things about American Hustle, people seem to either love it or hate it. I thought it was one of the best movies I’ve seen in a long time. The dialogue was quick and funny, a lot like David O. Russell’s last movie, Silver Linings Playbook. The cast is a who’s-who and everybody does a great job, most of them taking on roles that completely contradict their usual roles. (When’s the last time you saw someone go from Batman to a potbellied comb-over wearing con man so well?) There are lots of twists and turns, and the movie moves so quickly it doesn’t give you time to try and stop to figure out who’s conning who. Think Ocean’s 11 with goofier 1970’s hair.
1. Much Ado About Nothing
Ok so I know putting a black and white Shakespeare movie as my number 1 looks really pretentious but hear me out. Joss Whedon is about the only guy who could go from writing and directing the Avengers to a small project like this, and have both of them be so great. The story behind the movie is almost as good as the movie; coming off the Avengers, Whedon wanted to make a movie with some friends, so he got together with actors he had worked with before and in 12 days they shot the entire movie at his house. The whole movie feels like that too, it just seems like everyone is having a lot of fun instead of worrying about making a nose-in-the-air Shakespeare movie. I’ll be honest, I had to look up some Sparknotes at the beginning, but once it gets going it’s actually really easy to follow and a great movie.
Now a first semester junior, I have been putting off Production I for some time. I’ve had quite a bit of experience with production in the past, but always as a production assistant. I observed first-hand how much work goes into directing your own film. I’m currently enrolled in Production I and shot my final film this past weekend. It was even more difficult than I thought it would be, but in the end, it was a totally gratifying experience.
Originally, I thought the class was about learning all the technical aspects of making a film. But really, it is about learning to make a film, start to finish. While the technical side of the class is important, the biggest take-away for me will be learning how to coordinate a production. There is an incredible amount of planning that goes into it. Unlike most films you will ever make, Prod I requires you to make them on your own. Well, not entirely on your own. If you’re lucky like me, you’ll have a few stellar friends and classmates willing to help you out. But, you will call all of the shots. Literally.
A note for anyone taking a production class next semester – pre-production is key! I dealt with a million and one problems before I started shooting –actors dropping out, locations falling through and unavailable equipment, just to name a few. I found out 5 days before I my shoot that one of my actresses was a union member. Using her in my film would require paperwork, signatures and a $50 deposit – all due one week before filming. Oops! Luckily, I settled things with a very understanding woman at the SAG office. Because I was able to deal with these problems beforehand, the actual shoot went smoothly.
That’s not to say production won’t yield its own complications. Murphy’s Law is in full effect on most film sets. A pair of socks I bought as the focus of my film ended up being too dark to be seen on camera. My crew spent an hour in one scene trying to light them. My advice is to schedule yourself plenty of time to shoot. As my professor always says, shooting will take you three times longer than expected. I scheduled using this rule, plus added an hour in between location changes. I expected to be ahead of schedule all day, but I barely maintained it.
So even though I don’t plan on continuing with production, this class was an invaluable lesson in planning and budgeting (time, not money). I hope you all get the chance to get out there and make some movies!