New film course will remake sitcom, use new resources at College

by Amelia Rosch and Irene Cofie | 7/10/14 6:42pm

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Ciardelli said that new space in the VAC helped make the course possible.
by Natalie Cantave / The Dartmouth

In a film course offered for the first time, 16 students have tackled television production this summer, working on promotional sports clips and preparing to recreate an episode of a popular sitcom. The course, titled “Topics in Videomaking,” allows students to practice camera, sound and editing techniques in addition to production.

Advances in technology and the construction of the Black Family Visual Arts Center have helped make the course possible, film professor and audio visual specialist Peter Ciardelli, who teaches the course, said. Many of the pieces of equipment necessary for television production had previously been too expensive, he said, but the advent of software-based technology has made a crucial difference.

“The ability to do live camera switching is now something we can afford to get into,” he said.

Students’ work will culminate in a final project where they will film a sitcom episode live in front of an audience. The remake will likely be an episode from the popular show “The Big Bang Theory,” Ciardelli, who has worked on films including “Cast Away” (2000), “Collateral Damage” (2002) and “The War Tapes” (2006), said.

Ciardelli said he is particularly excited for this project because students cannot usually experience a live atmosphere while working on film production. He said that although he is still unsure how exactly the refilmed sitcom will turn out, the uncertainty of the project is what he hopes will make it an exciting learning experience.

“No matter what happens, we’re all going to learn a lot about how shows get made,” he said. “We really can’t go wrong. If it’s a freewheeling disaster, that’s okay. If we pull it off, that’ll be really awesome.”

Ciardelli said that actors for the sitcom will not be taking his class because he wants students to focus on production, not acting. Instead, theater professor Jamie Horton, who encouraged Ciardelli to design and teach the course, has strongly encouraged students in his drama in performance class to audition for roles.

The course offers an important opportunity for collaboration between the film and theater departments and in doing so emphasizes the cooperative nature of the arts, Horton said.

“In the world of the entertainment business today, that is hugely helpful to everyone,” he said.

In addition to the technical skills taught in the course, Ciardelli said that his students will also learn techniques like basic set, costume and lighting design, all of which will apply to working on the sitcom episode. He plans to split his class into two groups and have each group film half of the sitcom, as it would be logistically too difficult to have all 16 film the entire show together, he said.

Drew Zwetchkenbaum ’16, a student in the course, said he enrolled because he is interested in learning about the process of production.

“I have always been interested in writing, but it is hard to get work off the ground if you don’t know the mechanics of actually turning that material into a reality,” he said.

Jaki Kimball ’16, a computer science major who has modified her major with digital arts and is also taking the class, said that while she is more interested in pursuing a career in the gaming industry than in film production, she has still enjoyed the course.