Masterful Moviemaking 101
summer class at UW-Stout puts filmmakers to the test
by Alex Tronson
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how it’s about time for a film renaissance in the Midwest. I mean, sure, Chicago sees some big-budget film productions, but I’m talking about right here – like right here – Chippewa Valley-style. Luckily, I’m not alone, and the folks over at UW-Stout have been cooking up a program to help kickstart the movement.
A couple of years ago, some of you local and student filmmakers might recall a four-week program offered by UW-Stout which taught the ins and outs of independent filmmaking. This summer, the UW-Stout Cinema Intensive program returns all beefed up with a new eight-week schedule and now offering six credits upon completion.
“What I’ve been hearing a lot from industry professionals is that ‘I wish I would have had a program like that when I was a student,’ which is how I actually feel, too.” – Kevin Pontuti, program director of UW-Stout’s Cinema Intensive
The program – which focuses on hands-on learning and industry-led master-classes, as well as technical and process-oriented demonstrations – is also open to community members looking to round up some experience or embrace a new hobby.
Kevin Pontuti, the program director of Cinema Intensive, feels that the open-to-all nature of the program is one of its greatest draws.
“Having more creative endeavors and opportunities for the community is always a good thing. Filmmaking is very interdisciplinary and collaborative,” Pontuti said.
“We have great music, acting and artistic talent in the area. Having additional collaborative opportunities just makes for a strong community.”
The 20-student program is comprised of two back-to-back, four-week sessions of DES-375/575 Digital Cinema Studio. Each session will include an industry-lead workshop, bringing in specialized equipment and industry partners to demo professional equipment and view student work. However, acquiring the right equipment – the kind sure to satisfy any film buffs – was one of the more difficult aspects of the program’s development.
“The format of the summer program allows us to bring in specific equipment for shorter periods of time. We just purchased 42 DSLRs for the library, which can be checked out by the students and are a great tool for creating films,” Pontuti said. “With the summer intensive model, we can rent more expensive cameras for four weeks of filming. That way, students know how to shoot with the high-end cameras without us having to purchase more than we need.”
Cinema Intensive boasts a more unique learning experience compared to other regional and more traditional film programs offered in cities such as Milwaukee, Chicago, and Minneapolis. It allows students to get their hands dirty, maximizing contemporary filmmaking technology and techniques including green-screen, CGI integration, and real-time pre-visualization, all while emphasizing artful storytelling.
It’s an exciting opportunity for the young, or even the more seasoned Spielbergs and Coen brothers in the region to explore the world of filmmaking, without some of the headaches that come with typical independent productions. Making a movie is hard work. It’s time-consuming and relies heavily on collaboration to make progress.
Cinema Intensive will provide uninterrupted and focused blocks of time for students to fully immerse themselves in their projects. It seems to me that we’re lucky that summers in the Chippewa Valley allow for beautifully photographed landscapes, without the worry of spastic changes in the weather or lack of daylight hours in outdoor locations.
Hopefully, with continued support and interest, the program can expand and build a larger community focused on filmmaking.
“We’re starting to build a creative talent pool that is already starting to attract more attention. I’m also just excited to see my students succeed and help expand their opportunities,” Pontuti said. “What I’ve been hearing a lot from industry professionals is that ‘I wish I would have had a program like that when I was a student,’ which is how I actually feel, too. So personally, I hope this provides that opportunity to our future and current students.”
For more information on the Cinema Intensive program, check out the UW-Stout Digital Cinema Facebook page or the program’s blog at uwstoutcinema.wordpress.com.