Whether you’ve just finished your first short film shot in your backyard with friends and a consumer camcorder or your umpteenth feature film with professional cast and crew, you know that a lot of elements go into producing any film. Beyond camera, lighting, sound, and performance there are props, locations, and set dressing to consider. These can all be costly and at times difficult elements to bring together for a production. Unless we remove those elements from consideration. This is the premise of BRIC’s Black Box Filmmaking course beginning it’s third iteration February 18th.
BRIC is a Brooklyn-based community arts and education non-profit organization. One of its many functions is serving Brooklyn as the New York Emmy-winning Public Access Television channel for the borough: Brooklyn Free Speech TV. Brooklyn Free Speech has three standard definition and one high definition television channels (Brooklyn Free Speech 1, Brooklyn Free Speech 2, Brooklyn Free Speech 3, and Brooklyn Free Speech HD) available through Brooklyn cable providers or live streaming online.
In addition to broadcasting, BRIC provides the community with resources, gear, facilities, and training to members of the Brooklyn community who want to produce content for the channels. The training and media education programming at BRIC includes camera, lighting, sound, and video editing courses. The Black Box Filmmaking course is an extension of the existing programs that provides more in-depth hands-on education to members of the Brooklyn Community and is one of multiple programs, including a Documentary, Television, and Podcasting Intensives, offered by BRIC.
Black Box Filmmaking
The premise of The Black Box Filmmaking course is to give students hands-on experience with the basic elements of filmmaking while stripping away some of the complications that come into play with location, props, and set dressing. The resulting projects are a hybrid of black box theater and film.
This short video highlights work from the second year of the program in 2018.
The Value of the Black Box
Streamlining production for this class to remove or reduce the challenges of location, set dressing, and props offers an opportunity for students to focus. The challenge of the production becomes how to best capture performance more than dealing with these elements. It both brings the technical skills into a more clear focus while also putting students in the position of having to conceptualize how to represent different spaces in a black box.
What defines a room beyond the walls and the furniture? How does it sound? How is it lit? These are all challenges faced by the class when they have to try and make a television studio feel like a café, a school lunch room, a conference room, or a front yard. The black box format puts students in the position of having to solve the problem of representing what may not be apparent from the visuals.
How the Class Works
Over the course of five months students participate in the production of three short films written by Brooklyn-based playwrights. Students rotate through three teams during the pre-production and production phases: production team handling the logistics of the shoot, camera team handling lighting and shooting the film, and sound team handling the sound capture for the film. Students get hands on with these aspects of filmmaking and gain a greater understanding of the various jobs that go into producing a film. In post-production students share editing responsibilities and work together to shape the film. The intensive culminates in a special public screening of the three films in the BRIC Ballroom.
You can watch all the films produced in the first two years of the program here.
Community Media as Alternative to Film School
Film school can be costly and not a model that works for everyone. Community Media organizations across the U.S. offer an alternative for people looking to build their media skills, find a community of fellow media makers, and distribute their media via public access channels. Classes from Community Media organizations are typically more affordable than a degree program and offer continued access to gear and facilities beyond the class. Community Media works to democratize media by opening up access to the community at large, not just those who can afford the necessary equipment and facilities to create.
Following the Black Box Filmmaking BRIC course students will have access to BRIC’s Canon C100s, lighting gear, a professional audio recording package, and editing facilities. They will also see their work broadcast on cable and online on the Brooklyn Free Speech TV channels. Instruction on technique and equipment, opportunity to work as a team to produce multiple short films, continued access to gear and facilities beyond the class, and distribution of their work. For Brooklyn residents applications to join the Black Box Filmmaking class are still open through Friday January 17th, 2020. The class is Tuesdays February 18-May 17 6:30PM-9:30PM and Wednesdays May 27-July 15 6:30PM-9:30PM including two Saturday training sessions and three weekend shoots. The class is $150 for anyone not currently a member of the BRIC Community.
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