The College of Communication at BU focuses heavily on giving students a well-rounded education. For the first two semesters, everyone must take general COM courses to introduce all fields offered within the college. We also take a variety of liberal arts courses, and not only does this style of introduction help solidify our choices of what to study, but it also gives us more to work with when we do start focusing specifically on our given majors. For me, this was the best way to get started at BU, but now that freshman year has come and gone and I have finished up most of these requirements, my time as a Film & TV student has truly begun.
From the first day of class I started learning the inter-workings of cameras, the history of film, the structure of most plot lines and characters and how to create some of my own. New information was flying at me fast. I was brand new to most of it, and the lessons were both exhilarating and daunting. For one thing, I could definitely feel myself improving. For another, I could not imagine myself creating some of the masterpieces I saw before me, whether they were professional scripts or impressive student films. Was I capable of doing anything like that? If so, how?
It all hit me just two weeks ago. As the weekend approached and I reviewed my calendar, I realized that my first film for Production I was due within days of my first script for Storytelling (an introductory screenwriting course). I had to think of a story to write, characters to build, script-writing structure to perfect, and more. I also had to organize a shot list for my silent short film, reserve equipment, gather and prepare volunteer actors, find time to film, refresh my knowledge of different, effective filming techniques, and edit it all together. To say I was overwhelmed was an understatement. This was not merely “a lot to do,” but this was a lot of first-time creativity. “Your script is your baby,” my Storytelling Teaching Fellow (TF), Felipe Medina (we just call him Felipe) would say, and as we all know, the process of having a baby is not a smooth one!
But I had to get it together. It was my first time trying projects like these, and I told myself it was ok to make mistakes. After all, making them now would help me learn how to avoid them when it really mattered, and I knew my fabulous professors were all on the same page.
To start, I broke down each project into smaller, conquerable tasks. I watched some short films for ideas and reviewed my textbooks and notes for helpful information. Then, I focused on organizing the shots of my silent short film, specifying where I wanted each shot, who was in it, how I wanted it, and why I wanted it. This took a while, but once it was finished, a huge weight had been lifted from my shoulders. When broken down into parts, shooting suddenly seemed possible, and I was excited to get started with my actors the next day.
The Storytelling script, on the other hand, did not come quite as easily. I spent three hours in the Warren Dining Hall outlining six different story ideas. I went to office hours and was told that my story had too much for an assignment that was only meant to be eight pages. “Save this idea for a longer piece,” Felipe said, dooming me to start from scratch yet again. I tried writing another and got distracted again and again. Days went by and my script only grew by a few lines of dialogue at a time, and by the morning of the due date, I was stumped.
It had to be finished and emailed by Sunday at 1pm so Felipe could review it before the class…did I mention that? The entire class would be reading the script aloud before providing direct feedback. The critiquing process is effective, necessary, and incredibly helpful, but that does not make it any less scary! By Sunday morning I still was not satisfied with the work I had completed, and at 8:30am, I plopped myself in the library, stared at my mediocre start of a story, and highlighted the whole thing. Delete.
Just before 1:00, I typed the final directions into my brand new story. I had been writing for four hours nonstop, weaving together a bizarre plot which I had not expected to write. It was different than anything I had written before, and that made me nervous. Why had I created such a unique story with strange characters and a ridiculous plot? But despite my nerves, it was too late for anything else. My brain had not started working well enough until crunch time, so I had to send it in.
A few days later, everything was finished. My film had been shot and edited, my script was turned in, and the days finally came for the classes to critique. I tried to tell myself that even a negative reception would help me improve, but the worries settled in nonetheless. With anxiety in both cases I watched as my movie and my script were loaded onto the screen before the class. On one hand, I could not wait to find out what they thought of my work. On the other, I was scared to death.
For both the script and the film, the reaction from the audience was like nothing I could have expected. They laughed, they were engaged, and they connected with many aspects of the stories. My script, of course, had some flaws, but I realized that every first draft would! The whole class was able to help throw around ideas to improve what was already there, and I left the Storytelling discussion with the desire to sit right back down and add our new improvements. My Production 1 professor, Professor Padrick Ritch, provided incredible feedback for both myself and my classmates, pointing out what worked and what could have been better while staying positive and constructive. My first critiquing experiences were incredible. Having an audience of supportive, developing peers alongside an experienced professor or TF was the perfect recipe for an environment of growth.
After watching my short film, Professor Ritch gave one piece of advice which really stuck: “Trust yourself. You may not have all the technical elements of production perfected yet, but your storytelling instincts and your ability to connect with an audience is there. You know how to connect with the world around you, and if you trust yourself to do that, the rest can, and will, come.”
Through my daunting first exposure to Film & TV projects, I have learned to do just that. No part of this experience can hurt me. If I trust my creativity and soak up as much knowledge and experience as I can, I’ll set myself up to learn what I need in order to fill in the gaps. After all, I’m in the COM Film & TV program, where it’s hard not to learn all that we need to in order to be successful.