In January 2013 Freehold offered a new workshop - Film Directing Class - whose goal was to give eight directors the skills and support to write, direct and produce their own 5 minute films. It was also the first time that Robin Lynn Smith and John Jacobsen would co-teach a class. Freehold has offered theatre focused Directors Labs in the past, taught by Robin as well as Tony award winners Bartlett Sher and Brian Yorkey, and the Acting and Directing for the Camera series taught by John Jacobsen, but this was the first attempt to combine the two disciplines in a single offering.
Having worked with Robin and John over the last few years as a student and production assistant, I jumped at the chance to assist them in creating the class. It was a little more complicated than I imagined. First we hammered out a syllabus from combined notes that Robin and John had made in a preliminary meeting. The challenge was that Robin and John had substantial course material – John’s story structure module from The Film School three week intensive and Robin’s past acting and directing course work. However after some thoughtful discussion they were able to pare the material down to the essentials. I tried to bring the perspective of a student to the discussion - documenting specifically what preparation was expected for each class, what the assignments were, and when were they due. Next we auditioned actors for the directors to work with. Working from the initial treatments provided by the directors for their five minute films, we matched actors to the characters.
I have to say watching Robin and John work was mesmerizing. If you've worked with Robin you know she won't let you get a single inauthentic word out of your mouth before stopping you to ask "what's going on here?" And if you've worked with John you know his moment to moment acting and story structure work lead to clear and affecting story telling.
Once the directors started shooting their films I became part Assistant Director, part rental manager (The Film School had lent us cameras and equipment that could be checked out), part actor manager, part casting agent, and part line producer. I've had a lot of experience on set over the last five years, acting, directing and producing, and was able to help some of the more inexperienced directors get connected and organized. One point I kept emphasizing to the directors was that team building was as important as any other skill they would learn. It was fun - but a lot of hours. And it all paid off when the directors showed their films at The Stuart Stern theater at the SIFF center.
So would I do it again? Wouldn't miss it for the world (my standard disclaimer: unless I get a call from Spielberg...). Robin and John and I have already started plotting the next installment for January 2014.
Freehold's Film Directing class with Robin Lynn Smith and John Jacobsen will be offered in our Winter Quarter 2014. We are currently offering a Directing and Acting for the Camera class with John Jacobsen which is a great prerequisite for individuals considering taking the Film Directing winter class.