Film students will screen final projects

by Owen Shepcaro | 11/12/14 5:29pm

Documentary films and found footage films involve incredibly disparate processes. While documentaries are based on presentating fact, found footage films are based on distorting and altering pre-existing footage. Where one is logical and informative, the other is whimsical and entertaining. Tonight, two film classes — Film Studies 30, “Documentary Videomaking,” and Film Studies 47, “Found Footage” — will screen their term projects in Loew Auditorium.

The unifying force behind the screening of these distinct film genres is film and media studies professor Jeffrey Ruoff, who teaches both courses. Ruoff said the two classes are composed of a diverse group of students, ranging from members of the Class of 2018 with no experience in film to film majors who are more familiar with the subject.

The documentary films in tonight’s screening depict a wide range of topics. “A Fort Night” profiles The Fort, sometimes referred to as “Fort Lou’s,” a 24/7 diner in Lebanon. In “Bred to Herd,” student filmmakers depict border collie training at Vermont farms and the relationship between humans and animals. Another group focused on the College’s Native American House in a film called “A Way of Being: Breaking the Stereotype.”

Bennie Niles ’15 worked in his group to tell the story of David Vincelette ’84, who built a community called “shantytown” in Mink Brook.

“In the film, we give a portrait of the place and some of the struggles that he has been going through financially and with the law,” Niles said. “We’re trying to humanize this guy and give him a chance to have his story told.”

For her project, Amanda Herz ’18 created a music video to the song “Heart of a Lion” by The Griswolds, set to footage of Dracula.

“It’s this black and white, old, cheesy horror movie set to an upbeat song,” Herz said, adding that she paired the two to demonstrate that, according to modern standards, the film is not scary.

Caroline McKinnis ’18 said her found footage film uses footage from videos depicting android women to explore patriarchal fantasies of the “perfect woman.”

Because of the various experience levels within the classes, Ruoff said, the way in which each student negotiates the learning curve of film production is unique.

“There are a lot of different skills that go into the creation of a film, like editing and sound design, and students learn what they need to know as they reach each new step in the process,” he said.

Ruoff said that the nature of the classes resulted in a difference in creative approach. Students in Film Studies 30 work in groups of three to create a single documentary, while students in Film Studies 47 are expected to complete several assignments individually.

Niles said the process of creating a documentary film in a 10-week term is complex. Groups began by writing a “treatment” and presenting their idea to the class, he said.

“Going from there, we had to get comfortable with the camera and editing software we used to make our documentary, and then we actually had to go out and get the shots we needed for the film,” Niles said. “We finished by making a series of edits to refine the film and to try to tease out the nuances of the story.”

Niles emphasized documentary film’s profound ability to portray various forms of information.

Film Studies 47 is a very different class, largely due to its use of pre-existing footage.

“We experiment with the concept of using different footage that has already been produced and focus on editing and manipulating that to create something original from it,” Herz said. “It’s incredibly easy to change the meaning of an image based upon how you edit it or what sound is playing in the background.”

The screening will begin at 7 p.m.

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