Learning, Networking, and Teamwork – My Practical Take on the 2017 CWVFF (Part 2)

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Monday morning started bright and early, with excitement in the air as the 4th annual CWVFF began! After hearing an opening keynote from Philip Telfer (founder of MediaTalk 101 and the CWVFF), the workshop teachers each gave their pitch for that morning’s sessions. The selection this year was really good, and it was hard to choose which one to attend!

All three days of the guild were so full of amazing teaching – both on a technical and spiritual level. I love how they added more this year on subjects such as managing schedule and budget, and also art department. The main keynote sessions were great as well, and I really enjoyed hearing from speakers such as Stephen Kendrick, Dallas Jenkins, Ken Carpenter, and others.

Here are a few snippets from workshops I attended:

Producing and Assistant Director sessions:

Andrew Bolzeman – Hiring a production manager sooner than later saves money. Last minute decisions tend to be expensive. Figure out what’s needed for schedule and budget and fight for it. It’s also important to understand paperwork (accounting, contracts etc.).

Balance the project – the cast, the crew, the equipment, etc. should all point towards our ultimate goal (i.e. don’t spend all the budget on the latest gear but then not have good crew to run it).

Luke DeBoer – Put people over the process. They will forget what you did for them but they won’t forget how you made them feel.

Scheduling is doing the right thing at the right time in the right order.

When you go location scouting, dress nice, have all the info printed out ahead of time, and make sure to take notes on details such as parking, power, bathrooms, airports/extra noise, etc.

Production Design and Art Department:

Matthew and Marcela Shaw (thanks to Courtney G. for sharing her notes with me!) –

To be a production designer, you must have organizational, communication and people skills, and also a keen ability to plan ahead, foresee problems, and adapt when issues arise.

Pre-production is the most important. Some tips to think of ahead of time:

  • Tell your location’s owner to take anything irreplaceable off the premises.
  • Talk to the AD and make sure you can get on location enough ahead of time.
  • Own a vehicle that can haul a trailer, and keep a trailer full of tools and equipment on set to have on hand.
  • Look at the backgrounds of films. Study how each element spoke of something about the character’s lives or the environment.

Once you’re on set, be sure to:

  • Take photos of every single set, almost every take.
  • Keep a record of where EVERYTHING is stored, in case of pick-ups or re-shoots.
  • Store your props (with duplicates) separately from set dressing!
  • Always have more food than you think you need (for the set). Make sure you ask your actors for food allergies and what food they like.

Directing and Acting:

Dallas Jenkins

For the actors:

For your audition, be on time, spell correctly, have good grammar, and be comfortable and confident. Preparation is everything! It’s helpful if you come into it with knowledge on the the director/producer, and after you leave to reach out and say thanks. Be serious about it, keep it simple, and don’t act desperate. Remember it doesn’t hurt to ask questions!

Once you’re on set, a couple of tips would be to ask your fellow actors questions, and rehearse with them when you can.

For the Director:

For the audition, make the actors feel like you want them to succeed – speak encouragingly, and start out with a relaxed, 5 minute conversation to help them feel comfortable. Let them do the scene how they prepared it first, and whether or not you like the audition, give an adjustment no matter to see what they can do with it.

For working together on set, be curious. That leads to questions, which leads to knowledge, which leads to relationship. Studying how to work together, have good relationships, show love, and build trust is the most important. One way to build trust with actors by giving them correction. Never give a correction to an actor in front of others, and let your actor go first – the first take or two should be theirs. Don’t be afraid to admit when you’re not sure about something. And remember, the director is the immune system of the film!

Throughout the week, it was great to be able to network with other filmmakers, talk about potential job opportunities, and also be stretched to grow in my craft. One of the main goals of the guild and festival is to strengthen and build connections – I really enjoyed getting to see old friends and hear about new ideas!

Thursday afternoon was the start of the festival, so mid-morning we drove over to the conference center to set up the academy booth. We were excited about our new brochures, and also the C-47s we brought along to give out! Everyone had a blast trying to tag each other with those. We made a lot of great connections with the Academy and Motion University, and it was neat to have almost all of our teachers at the CWVFF this year (we missed you Carol)! That evening we got whoever we could of the staff and alumni and went out for an Academy/Motion University dinner. I may be biased, but I think our team is totally amazing, and I can’t wait to work together this summer!

Between the booth, talking to people, and everything else, I only got around to seeing a few films but I did really enjoy them. I think the one that I had the most fun watching was The Resurrection of Gavin Stone. It was a blast just being in a room full of other people who got the comedy – a lot of laughing went on in that room! I also really enjoyed the unique story of Fourth World. It was encouraging to hear from others and see that the quality of the films seemed to have gone up this year, especially in the short and promo categories. There was definitely some stiff competition!

Friday evening I enjoyed going out for dinner with some of the Rubber Ducky crew. It’s hard to believe it’s been so long since we shot that film. Working with that team was definitely one of my highlights of 2016. It really is true that film is so much more about the people than the project!

Saturday was the last day of the festival, and it was hard to believe how fast the week flew by. It was also the last day of having our booth, and we enjoyed all the people who stopped by to get their pictures taken.

That evening excitement was high as we all got dressed up to attend the award ceremonies. I had entered a promo I directed, and we also had the Foltz Trucking film in from the academy, along with several other films Andrew or I had worked on. None of those placed for an award, but it was really neat to see the ones that did win. Congratulations everyone – it was well deserved!

After the award ceremonies we of course went out for the traditional ice cream! It was so fun just to go out with friends one last time to talk about life and be encouraged. I’m so grateful for each person who worked so hard behind the scenes to make this guild/festival possible. I think I can speak for everyone when I say that it’s been a huge influence – and very often a life changer – for those who attend. I’m excited to see what God continues to do with it, and I hope to see you all there next year!

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Assistant Director

Hannah Kenney is assistant director and co-founder of the academy, and enjoys working with people. She likes to exercise both the right and left side of her brain by running the scheduling and communications, but also doing behind-the-scenes camera work and editing.