Film FSP students present music videos in Loew

By Jessica Zischke | 11/6/12 11:45am

The lights dim, and a computer mouse clicks. Music fills the auditorium, and three stories unfold on the screen. The stories are so complex and the cinematography so compelling that you lose yourself in the images and the sounds. This is the product of 10 weeks of hard work, 12 bodies moving constantly and much emotional and physical stress.

“At the end of the summer, at the Screen Academy Scotland, we had a screening of the final music videos which was attended by faculty, band members, cast and students,” Ruoff said. “Coming back to Dartmouth, I knew I wanted to do something that would share with the community what we did in Edinburgh.”

As one of the first times the students were back together with Ruoff since the end of the FSP, the event also served as a time for them to be reunited and to look back on their time abroad with each other and with the audience.

“It was definitely fun to have all of us reminiscing,” Alex Stockton ’15, who attended the FSP and is student assistant to the department, said. “Each of us got something different from it, so I think it was good that the audience could hear our different perspectives.”

The event included a brief overview of the FSP by Ruoff, followed by a viewing of the music videos. After this, six students who went abroad spoke about their experiences before Ruoff introduced and showed four sequence shots, which were the final project of a cinematography class students took. To wrap up, the music videos were aired one more time and the audience was then invited to ask the students questions about the process of making them.

Each music video — the dark and dreary music video for hip-hop artist Stanley Odd, the bright and happy images accompanying an equally peppy song by brass band The Horndogs, and the romantic and somber plot of a love lost in indie band The Last September’s video — are astoundingly impressive for the 10-week period, seeming much more like the work of professionals than college students.

“All of us are really proud of what we did,” Stockton said. “Some of the bands are using the videos to launch their albums, so we really took the project seriously.”

Ruoff and the students who spoke said they believed that the event was very successful, and hoped that those who attended gained something valuable from this event.

“I wanted to have the chance for everybody and anybody to see the videos and see them projected in this beautiful room,” Ruoff said. “I hope anybody who might consider applying to a future film FSP got a good taste of what this one was like.”

However, there should be more opportunities for the greater Dartmouth community to view the music videos and other work that the students completed in the near future.

“Hopefully film professors will send it out as examples of student work and the Hopkins Center for the Arts will want to show these at events next fall for first-year students,” Stockton said. “I don’t think this screening is an end-all event; this is definitely a stepping stone to getting the film department and our work out to larger audiences.”

While in Edinburgh, all of the students took three courses at the Screen Academy Scotland — one on digital cinematography, one focusing on film festivals and one in which they learned about music video production. Professionals taught both the digital cinematography course and the music video course.

The primary project for the Summer term was to complete a music video in teams of four for a local band. The Dartmouth Film Department worked with the Screen Academy to find three bands that would be interested in having the students produce a music video for them to use alongside the release of their upcoming albums.

“The music video course was about making a professional video in a real environment,” Stockton said. “Each of us made pitches for the bands to select, and we handed them over to the bands for them to use as their new albums come out.”

Students were able to decide which band they wanted to work with most after hearing the songs —Stanley Odd, The Last September or The Horndogs. Then, each student pitched an idea for the music video, and the band members decided which idea they wanted to see come to life.

“Students did pitches like the ones the professional instructors would give in the real world, and the bands were the ones who decided which idea they liked,” Ruoff said. “It wasn’t necessarily the best pitch that got selected, it was the one the band wanted.”

The band picked an idea, and the creator became the director of the music video. Each of the other three members of the group were designated to be producer, cinematographer or editor.

“The director was in charge of the group’s concept, while the producer did all of the logistics — finding locations and equipment — and there was a cinematographer who did all the camera work and the lighting,” Christine Bettencourt ’13, who went on the FSP, said. “Then, the editor, which is what I did, does all the post-production work, taking all the footage and putting it together.”

Over the next few weeks, the groups went through pre-production, filming and post-production for the music videos. Although this was an extremely short timeframe, it was a crucial aspect of the entire experience.

“All along the way the professors were showing us how it’s actually done in the industry and tried to make the experience as close to reality,” Stockton said.

Not only did students learn valuable lessons about completing similar projects in the real world, but also gained more knowledge about their specific interests and working in a group.

“I discovered that I really like editing music videos,” Bettencourt said. “I also realized how hard it is to work in groups creatively. It was hard to spread around the creative responsibilities because there’s so much overlap in terms of who does what.”

Ruoff is currently working to resubmit this FSP and is hoping to eventually have two options for students to go abroad within the department — a Winter term FSP in Los Angeles and a Summer term option in Edinburgh, each occurring every other year.

“The film industry is growing increasingly globalized, so students should have experience living and working abroad,” Ruoff said. “I was really happy to do it once and it would be great if it got renewed.”

Jessica Zischke