Monday, May 10, 2010

Learning By Doing

Last week, I had the opportunity to be a guest at Cabrini Connections' Video and Filmmakers Club. If you are unfamiliar with Cabrini Connections, as I was, it is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing a volunteer tutoring/mentoring program for teens in the Cabrini Green neighborhood.

When I arrived, the president and CEO of Cabrini Connections, Dan Bassill was being interviewed on camera by some of the young filmmakers for a video for a Year-End Dinner. Afterwords, Dan gave me a run down on Cabrini Connections and the citywide Tutor/Mentor Connection, and then Shuling, a mentor, introduced me to the filmmakers.

I have to admit, I was a little nervous. I don't have much experience working with youths, but they made me feel right at home. The task for the day was to shoot the first of two short films from a mini-assignment. The film should have no more than 2 characters, consist of 6-12 shots and have an unexpected ending. The writer and director of the short was Reggie. The short was called Lost, and it was about a teen (played by Marquise) who meets a mysterious woman from his past (played by Brittany). The camera operator was Melissa. Audio was done by Kierre and Yahshua, and the narrator was played by Anna.

One of the best ways to learn filmmaking is by actually creating a story, picking up a camera and doing it, and that is what these young filmmakers were doing. Learning by doing is key because it allows you to learn from your mistakes. What they were lacking in experience, they made up for with energy. In the future, the young filmmakers will benefit from being able to go and watch how other sets operate. I know I learn something every time I am on a set.

While the shoot was going on, another filmmaker, Sean was storyboarding his short that will be shot at the next meeting of the Video and Filmmaker's Club. I'm looking forward to seeing what comes of it. I also had the opportunity to make a cameo as an extra in the short. I don't get in front of the camera too often, so that was a treat.

On set, it is a challenge for an experienced director to get ideas out of his or her head and executed by the cast and crew, so you can imagine how difficult it can be for a first time director like Reggie. Saying that, Reggie was able to get all of his shots completed and most importantly the cast and crew were having fun. Filmmaking should be fun!


  1. Thanks for the visit and for the post! I look forward to seeing the finished products.

  2. Thanks for the visit. When we talked you mentioned your background in engineering or physics, I'm not sure which. It reminded me of another volunteer who joined us about 8 years ago, who was a physics grad student at UIC. He got hooked on video through the group, and went to New York City to get a grad degree. Now he is teaching video and working with producers like Spike Lee!

    Shows how the lives of volunteers, not just students, are changed by Cabrini Connections. Thanks for joining us.

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