Tag Archives: screenwriting

COMLIGHT

A Laboratory for Visual Storytelling: COM’s New Cinema and Media Production MFA

By Michelle Marino
MS Journalism ’15
BU College of Communication

We hear a lot at COM about the shifting media landscape. Every day, new technological advances are making it possible for us to produce and consume media in ways we never have before. Keeping up with technology is essential, but no matter what industry you’re in, one thing is clear: telling a compelling story is at the core of everything we do. COM’s newly re-launched MFA in Cinema and Media Production, spawned out of this philosophy, provides an advanced degree for students interested in taking film beyond its fundamentals and honing their storytelling skills.

“What we have come to realize is students now are much more technically sophisticated,” says Jan Egleson, Associate Professor of the Practice in Film & Television. “In the old days, film school’s function was to teach people arcane technology. Students today are much more adept at using equipment but they still have the difficulty of telling stories. That’s where we’ve been pushing the program.” Though the new MFA does also involve technical skills, they mainly function as support tools for the film’s overall objective. “The focus is storytelling and the skills of fiction film-making,” Egleson says. “You’re working with actors, breaking down scenes, and structuring a story to convey it visually.”

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Prospective candidates for the program, which launches in Fall 2015, are required to come in with a baseline of both technical and storytelling skills. Whether they’ve learned it on their own or through an undergraduate film program, they must demonstrate they’ve already mastered the basics to apply to the films they’ll work on during the course of their MFA. When accepted, students already know their designated film making role, whether it be director, producer, or cinematographer. This fall, three producers, three cinematographers, and six directors will join the crew. Before first semester, students are asked to pitch three film ideas, which are continually honed and vetted until arriving on one film concept that will be the focus for the duration of the program.

As the film landscape continuously changes, so do the types of films students will work on. “We’re platform agnostic,” Egleson says. “If you come in and say I want to make a web series – ten, 10-minute webisodes – you can do that. If you want to make a 30 minute film, that works. As long as you can convince us of the clarity of your vision we don’t care what the platform is. That’s the shift.” If you’re dead set on working towards a full length film, you might work on a section of it or a shorter version, says Egleson, which is how many full length features get their start.

CMPBlogPhoto4The new Cinema and Media Production MFA will continue its adaptive response to the new world after the switchover from conventional film to digital media. “Once that happens, it becomes very apparent to everybody that the focus needs to shift to the ideas behind this stuff. It’s very liberating,” Egleson says. “It means we can now be a laboratory for visual storytelling.”

Are you excited about the new face of the MFA in Cinema Media Production or have you thought about applying? Do you think it will support the changing film making landscape? Learn more here.

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Behind the scenes: Film/TV and Journalism grad students work together

By Nikita Sampath
MS Broadcast Journalism ’16
BU College of Communication 

On various Fridays throughout the semester, BU’s Film and Television department at the College of Communication hosts free premier screenings of innovative film and television programs. This screening series is part of the department’s Cinemathèque: meetings and conversations with filmmakers/television-makers. The series’ curator is Gerald Peary, a cinema professor at Suffolk University and a long-time film critic for the Boston Phoenix. He chooses his BU programs based on his extensive contacts in the professional film world and from his travels to film festivals around the globe.

For each featured production, a special guest  (the producer, filmmaker, etc.) is invited to COM for the screening. During the screening, film students quickly escort the filmmaker to a brief interview shoot.  Afterwards, a Q&A is held to provide more information to the audience regarding the production process.

Setting up the interview.
Setting up the interview with Journalism and Film/TV graduate students .

However, it wasn’t until after this year’s first screening that the After this year’s first screening, the Cinemathèque team decided they wanted to shoot interviews with the featured guests. Clearly, figuring out the production technicalities for these interviews would not be an issue, but what they did need was someone who could ask the right questions.

Without much thought, fingers pointed in the direction of third semester Broadcast Journalism graduate student, Alistair Birrell. “I thought it would be a good way to hone my interviewing skills,” he said.

On Friday, October 24, Birrell interviewed filmmaker Frank V. Ross, during the screening of his film, Tiger Tail in Blue. This was Birrell’s second interview of the semester for Cinemathèque.

Allistair Birrell interviews filmmaker Frank V. Ross.
Alistair Birrell (MS, Broadcast Journalism ’15) interviews filmmaker Frank V. Ross.

With only a fifteen minute window, Birrell must make sure he steers the interview in the correct way. “Where are you from?” Ross asked Birrell during the interview. “I’m from Scotland, but we can talk about me later,” Birrell quickly responded.

Birrell prepares some of his questions beforehand.

After each interview, students on the production team edit the video down to around three or four minutes. All interviews are featured on the Cinemathèque page, so be sure to check out Alistair’s full interview with Ross.

Overall, this program is an excellent example of COM’s Film and Television department preparing its students with hands-on, practical experience for the ever so competitive entertainment industry. These are lessons no textbook can teach, yet something every student should experience.

Take a look at the 2014 Cinemathèque schedule here to see what will be screening over the next few weeks. Although these screenings are designed to primarily  benefit  Film and TV students, they are free for all BU students and professors as well as the general public.

Interested in applying to one of the graduate programs at BU’s College of Communication? Tell us which one and why in the comments below.

To find out more about all of the graduate programs available through COM, be sure to check out our website here.

 *Pictures by Nikita Sampath

 

 

Quad amputee and filmmaker: Will Lautzenheiser to be honored at Distinguished Alumni Awards

By Iris Moore
MS Broadcast Journalism ’15
BU College of Communication

At Boston University’s College of Communication (COM), the beginning of a new semester also means the start to another year filled with exciting events for faculty and staff. Yes, it is important to get your schedule right and books bought, but it’s also important you are made aware of the once-a-year, beneficial networking events happening right now.

This Thursday, September 18th at 5:30 p.m., the College of Communication (COM) is hosting the 2014 Distinguished Alumni Awards at the School of Management. The event, which is free and open to the public, will honor some of COM’s most accomplished alumni. Previous alumni recipients who have attended the event include: – Co-Host of Market Place Morning Report and American Public Media, Jeremy C. Hobson (‘04) – White House Photographer, Peter J. Souza (’76), – Bravo’s Executive Vice President of Development & Talent, Andy Cohen (’90). The list goes on. If you have time, check it out here.

This year, you may even be lucky enough to meet the BU COM alum who is making more than just movies, but medical history too. One of the four COM alums being honored at this year’s Distinguished Alumni Awards is filmmaker Will Lautzenheiser (CAS’96, COM’07),  who lost both his arms and legs to a deadly bacteria, three years ago.

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Lautzenheiser completed his undergraduate studies at BU’s College of Arts and Sciences. Eventually, in 2005, he made the decision to return to BU for graduate school at the College of Communication. Lautzenheiser extended his stay at BU when he became a lecturer at COM in the fall of 2007. During this time, he produced and directed the short film Just Like It Was, which won a CINE Golden Eagle Award.

In the spring of 2011, Lautzenheiser left BU for a teaching job at Montana State University in Bozeman, Montana. Ten days after his move, Lautzenheiser’s fight for his life began. While doctors struggled to diagnose Lautzenheiser, his organs began to shut down. Eventually, he was diagnosed with streptococcal toxic shock syndrome,  a bacteria that causes vital organs to shut down and infection that quickly kills muscle, skin, and underlying tissue. Lautzenheiser underwent 16 surgeries that removed both of his arms and legs.

This past June, doctors at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) approved Lautzenheiser for a bilateral arm transplant, a procedure that has been performed only a few times in the United States.

In an interview on WBUR’s Here & Now, Lautzenheiser talked about how he has been able to use stand-up comedy to help with the healing process. He has been able to use his incredible journey from over the past three years as material for his shows.

Lautzenheiser just completed writing and starring in the short-documentary, Stumped. Directed by Robin Berghaus, the film is about Lautzenheiser’s survival and rehabilitation as a quadrilateral amputee. It has been shown at multiple film festivals across the country and has received multiple awards, including “Best of the Fest” for audience’s favorite documentary at the Palm Springs International ShortFest. On November 6th, Emerson College will be airing Stumped at their Bright Light Series, as well as hosting a comedy set and Q&A with Lautzenheiser.

To learn more about Lautzenheiser’s story before seeing him on Thursday at BU COM’s Distinguished Alumni Event, check out these videos by BU Today producers Joe Chan and Robin Berghaus.

If you would like to make a donation to help Will on his road to recovery, please visit the Will Lautzenheiser Fund.