Want to be a filmmaker? Put in the work outside of class, students say
The best advice from AU’s film students and professors
Within the School of Communication, aspiring filmmakers can find an extensive amount of resources, including events with acclaimed filmmakers and mentorship from professors. But film majors and professors stress that while the school offers a great amount of opportunities, filmmakers have to put in work outside of class to make the most out of their AU experience.
Laura Snyder, a senior majoring in film and media arts, said that her best advice for her classmates and other upcoming filmmakers is to take what they learn in the classroom and explore it in their own personal projects.
“American University does a wonderful job at giving students the tools they need to succeed, but it’s up to you to make your passions blossom,” Snyder said.
One way to accomplish this goal is attending or submitting to local film festivals in D.C. One of the festivals students can enter is FilmFest DC, which is set for April 25 to May 5. The festival screens films from all around the world and encourages new voices, allowing students and young filmmakers to engage with different film techniques and showcase their own work.
Michael English, the managing director of content at Maryland Public Access and a SOC professor, thinks that those who want to go into the film business need to master basic skills first.
“One of them is learning what makes a good story interesting, relevant and timely,” English said. “Another is knowing how to tell the story in a way that is honest and accurate. That is an important obligation we have to the public.”
English went on to suggest that students read others’ published writing, watch as many documentary films as they can and take a basic journalism course in order to tell stories in a responsible and ethical way.
Researching different films and techniques are essential, but it’s equally important for student filmmakers to take their time, students say. Dhara Brown, who studies foreign language and communication media, said that based on her own experience, the most important thing she’s learned while at AU is that it is important not to rush into production.
“The amount of time and effort you put into research, writing, and planning will pay off in production and allow you to spend that time on cinematography rather than troubleshooting,” Brown said.
One of the ways to see how production works practically is American Television, or ATV. Meredith Bartley, co-manager of ATV and a senior majoring in film and media arts, said that the student-run television station provides hands-on experience that majors usually do not get until later in their program.
“ATV really has been the best thing I could’ve gotten involved in, because it gives you access to equipment, space and mentors right off the bat,” Bartley said.
Bartley said that ATV also provides experience for students who are not film majors but are interested in production. She and other students stressed that filmmaking is a collaborative experience that allows people to work together on a central goal.
“My favorite thing is that at almost any time of the day, you can be editing or filming a project and there will be somebody there to answer any questions you might have or help you get unstuck,” Bartley said.