UFVA 2013 Highlights

Yours truly and his pal Savvas Paritsis (now of DePaul University), on the final day of the conference.

Yours truly and his pal Savvas Paritsis (now of DePaul University), on the final day of the conference. Photo taken from a cell phone – excuse the quality . . .

I have just come back from my third UFVA (University Film and Video Association) conference. This year, it was at Chapman University, in Orange, CA. If you would like to see my notes from the past two conferences, here are some useful links:

From 2011:

From 2012:

For 2013, instead of writing up the conference by theme or by day, I’m just going to describe some of the highlights – the workshops/panels, etc., that I found particularly informative – and list some of the web links and presentations that the speakers provided.

Before I do so, however, I just want to express how much I have enjoyed the last three conferences. It has been a great joy to meet and speak with my peers in the field of teaching film and video production and studies. Attending UFVA every year exposes me to new ideas and opens my intellectual, artistic and technical horizons. I am profoundly grateful that I made the decision to sign up in 2011.

I arrived early in California, on Saturday, July 27, and headed out to 29 Palms, 2 1/2 hours east of Los Angeles, to hike in Joshua Tree National Park for a few days. Here are my photos of that trip, and of my return to Los Angeles, where I spent one night in Santa Monica with my old film school friend Savvas Paritsis (pictured above, with me, on the final day of the conference). The first photo in the collection is of me and a college buddy of mine, Jason Patent. Upon landing in the Orange County airport, I posted my status on Facebook. Amazingly, Jason, who lives in China, and whom I had not seen in years, had also just landed (his wife’s family lives in the area). He saw my posting, replied, but I had already put my phone away. Not to be deterred, he guessed, correctly, that I might be renting a car, and tracked me down at the Budget desk. His wife Colette showed up, and we ended up having a wonderful conversation for over a half hour. I knew then that this was going to be a good trip.

So what were the highlights of the conference, for me? You can take a look at the full program and see what you might have liked, but here is what I found most interesting, from what I saw, in order by day . . .

Screening 2C, 10:30am-12:15pm: 

The University SitComSeasons 1 & 2 (F, 90 min., NR)
“The University”, a SitCom produced in the Film/Video Department at Stevenson University, was created in 2011 to bring traffic to the university’s website. Produced by faculty and students working together, it follows the misadventures of bumbling videographer Hank Howard as he makes a promotional video for the school.
While my screening – like so many – was sparsely attended – it was nevertheless a great pleasure to showcase the great work my students have done over the last two years working on this extra-curricular project. You can watch the series on Vimeo.

Panel 4E, 3:30-5:15pm: 
Best Practices In Documentary Storytelling – Teaching Beyond Talking Heads and B-Roll
The panel will explore successful techniques and exercises for teaching documentary storytelling at both the undergraduate and graduate level in an effort to elevate students nonfiction films to a place of engaging narrative.
Yes – this was a panel on which I served, but I’m listing it because I was so very fortunate to hear my illustrious fellow presenters. What follows are my notes:

1. I went first, and I offer you a pdf of my PowerPoint presentation.
2. John Schmit
Talked about the utility of of Michael Rabiger‘s “Scenic Intentions”
John likes to plan in-class activities for students to film, which teaches them how about coverage.
  • Tent Setup
  • Table Games
  • Climbing Wall
3. Aubrie Canfield
With her students on study-abroad trips, these are the steps she uses in the filmmaking process:
  • Step 1 – Define World
  • Step 2 – Story Summary
  • Step 3 – Outline Structure (five-parts, thinking in scenes: character, conflict, stakes, arc, resolution) – Campbell’s Hero’s Journey
  • Step 4 – Shoot Scenes
  • Step 5 – Paper Edit – recreate outline from footage actually shot
They bring narrative story techniques to doc filmmaking
4. Melinda Lewin
There are no longer just linear distribution outlets (multi-platform distribution)
Identify “the engager” in story
Presented trailers for 2 films made by her students: Unhappy Country and The Revisionaries
5. Jan Krawik
Shooting ratio is a problem, more so now in digital world than on 16mm – too much footage
Always ask, “Why does this want to be a film?”
She doesn’t like word “b-roll.” How about “Foundation footage” or “visual evidence” (Melinda Lewin)

WORKSHOP 5L, 8:30-10:15am:
Futureproofing for Filebased Workflow
File-based workflow is here and 4K is right around the corner. This workshop will help you prepare for and use file based workflows including 4K editing, monitoring and playback”
Jeff Way, AJA Video Systems / Sebastian DiStefano, Adobe
This was a really useful technical workshop where I learned a terrific amount about the file-based workflow systems offered by AJA and supported by Adobe. All photos were taken on my iPad in a dark room, and so are not all that great.
1. Jeff Way
Use Ki Pro Rack as a VTR in a broadcast set-up. Hook up to a broadcast switcher.
Stand-alone device, but can also hook up to a computer or monitor.
Migrating away from PCI Express slots to Thunderbolt
Already, USB 3.1 and Thunderbolt 2.0 are on their way.
New Apple Mac Pro will be a Thunderbolt device, with no slots (PCI)
AJA IO XT is Thunderbolt device
AJA T-Tap – thunderbolt in, HDMI/SDI out
“Debayering” – get RGB data from RAW image
4K monitor out of China, for $999, due this Fall – amazing possibility!
4K is supported (Apple Pro Res 4:4:4) by AJA devices
H265 compression is on its way – to be used for 4K Netflix streaming
With 4K, you can get “2 shots for the price of one” (shoot wide and then reframe): end of cinematography as we know it?
Ki Pro familyKi ProKi Pro MiniKi Pro Quad (dual SSD drive bays), Ki Pro Rack
You can record, simultaneously, an HD file to camera’s internal CF/SD cards, and a 4K file to Ki Pro – nice!
Kona cards = MAC on a PC
2. Sebastian DiDtefano
Adobe Creative Cloud (CC) = 2 new codecs over CS6
In box with Premiere are Apple and Avid codecs
In SpeedGrade, ProRes 4K can be slow, but in Premiere, you can reduce viewing resolution to play back in real time.
In SpeedGrade for CC, you can make color-grading “look files”
LUT = Look-Up Table for color definition of a color space: complete color gamut of space you’re working in.
Issues for students shooting in 4K: hard drive speed and storage
Putting 4K footage into 1080 timeline – you get all that extra frame, and it plays like 1080
CC has audio syncing built in (PluralEyes like capabilities)

PANEL 7E, 1:30-3:15pm:
Anatomy of a Film
Story is told through many prisms in a collaborative endeavor like the production of a feature film. Presented by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences,
three members of a production and post-production team (participants to be announced, pending their availability) will discuss how they interact with each other to create a complete and successful story. 
Randy and Norman brought in filmmaker Destin Cretton, along with his producer Asher Goldstein and his composer Joel P. West, to talk about their latest film, Short Term 12 (opens 8/23/13).
AMPAS has lots of resources for students and educators, including the Nicholl Fellowship, which Destin Cretton received in 2010.
Destin Cretton first made short film about the experience of working at center for at-risk teens, also called Short Term 12.
He made 8 shorts, of which the last was Short Term 12, which won a jury prize at Sundance.
Producer Asher Goldstein’s script notes to Destin didn’t try to solve problems, but were vague enough to point out issues and inspire, instead.
     • You should never give a note based on what you would do, says Asher.
Destin was having trouble finding investors, even with Sundance win for short and the Nicholl Fellowship, so he made I Am Not a Hipster first, to prove he could do a feature.
These guys were smart and funny, and the clips and trailer from their new film look amazing. Looking forward to it. It was inspiring to hear them talk and tell their stories.

PANEL 9E, 8:30-10:15am:
Interactive Storytelling in the Transmedia Landscape
As interactive digital stories gain more prominence with mainstream audiences, do we, as media makers, need to alter our narrative strategies to accommodate this growing form? In this panel we will explore the effectiveness of audience engagement in online interactive narrative, followed by a robust discussion with attendees.
This was a really well-conceived panel with thoughtful presentations that each gave a different perspective on transmedia storytelling. Since everyone of the presenters uploaded their PowerPoint presentations to the UFVA website, I have linked to them, below, rather than providing my own notes.
1. Jennifer ProctorThe Problems of Interactive Narrative
Twitter handle = @proctor

Jen’s presentation was far-ranging, far-reaching, and fascinating. Here is a pdf of her PowerPoint.

2. Kari BarberOklahoma’s All-Black Towns

Kari used her own recent experiences creating interactive online materials as research for her new documentary as a template for her thoughts on the subject. Here is a pdf of her PowerPoint.

3. Jane McKeever: Interactive Storytelling for Theme Parks and Gaming

Taking the panel in a new direction, Jane gave us a fascinating look at how interactive storytelling works in theme parks and gaming. Here is a pdf of her PowerPoint.

4. Kemp LyonsThe Princess Is in Another Castle: What Can Conventional/Online Interactive Storytelling Learn from Successes in Gaming?
Finally, Kemp ended the panel by continuing the discussion of gaming and its influences on narrative. Here is a pdf of his PowerPoint.

WORKSHOP 13K, 8:30-10:15am:
Interactive Tools for Teaching Production and Film Studies
This workshop will introduce attendees to interactive, online tools to enhance teaching both media production and media studies courses. Tools covered include Mozilla’s Popcorn Maker (video mixing, annotation, and interactivity), Voicethread (video commenting and annotation), and Zeega (interactive authoring).
Again, Jen Proctor came through with a brilliant summary of a fascinating topic. I had actually gone to another panel first – one that didn’t work for me – and I am so happy that I got up and left (sorry, panel presenters!), as Jen’s presentation of the materials, below, will be extremely useful to my teaching this fall.
Here are the four main web links that formed the basis of the workshop:
Voicethread allows comments on video.
Jen uses clips from YouTube, but you can upload your own content directly
It also allows public AND private comments
One can use keepvid.com for ripping clips from YouTube and Vimeo.
Voicethread costs $99/yr/instructor or $999/yr/dept.
Mozzilla Popcorn Maker – launched in London in 2012 at the Mozilla Festival.
Hands-on annotation of video clips
Allows one to have pop-up windows at specific spots. Jen’s students thought that this made for a good pre-writing exercise.
100% cloud-based
Media/events columns contain tools for annotation
You could make audio commentary in SoundCloud and then upload it to Popcorn Maker – you can then lower volume of original clip.
You can add maps and logos to the video – work in layers, as in any video editing tool.
Assignment – have students prepare a Popcorn video as a pre-production document.
Popcorn has no privacy settings.
Zeega – less useful than it used to be (they made it more mobile friendly)
You can add animated gifs. You can create animated gifs in Photoshop. You can also find online resources – there is even a gif tool in Zeega.
You control pacing of presentation.
You grab your audio and video from other sources (I believe you create text within the program, however).

PANEL 16E, 3:30-5:15pm:
Creating and Teaching the Web Series
In this panel, we will discuss the benefits of having a web series project in the curriculum, particularly the web series as a good vehicle for teaching students how to create in the short form and how to embrace a larger, serialized structure. 
I came late to this panel, as I had, once again, started out in a different panel that did not work for me. My notes, therefore, are brief. As a faculty member who oversaw his own students’ production of a SitCom series (see the beginning of this blog post), I was particularly interested to see how other people do it.
Cal State L.A. is a grad program with many already-working professionals from the local Los Angeles area. They produced the SitCom as part of a structured course.
The SitCom they presented is Weather or Not (www.itsweatherornot.com)
School signed contracts with students and the students retained the rights.
Alan Bloom suggests I try reading Directing and Producing for Television: A Format Approach, by Ivan Curry (Focal Press), for my own SitCom productions.
Wish I had seen more of the presentation, but what I saw was worth seeing. The conversation that followed the panel was highly participatory.
Thanks to all who gave of their time, brilliance and energies to make this year’s UFVA conference a success.


I’m tired after another full day and tonight’s final banquet at the Adler Planetarium, so I will try and post today’s blog without too much annotation.

Today was the day that that Stevenson delegation (plus one guest) presented our panel.

Here is the prezi that I made, that covered both the intro and my part of the presentation.  And here is the outline I prepared to go along with it.

After the panel, I had coffee with Kevin Dole, a director I met at last year’s UFVA conference, since there were no panels/workshops/screenings, etc in the second session of the day (it was award ceremony time, and I chose to skip it). Kevin is a longtime Los Angeles-based director of commercials who is working on shooting his first feature film, Kiss the Frog. It was nice to catch up, and I look forward to seeing the film when it is done.

I then had lunch with my friend Savvas Paritsis and with G.T. Keplinger at the Eleven City Diner, which was fun.

Then two more panels, and finally the banquet.

What a day and what a week! I enjoyed myself, but I’ll be happy to go home tomorrow!

This is a record of my notes, taken during the UFVA 2012 sessions that I attended today.

PANEL 13K, 8:30-10:15am: Final Cut Schmo: Why “Flexible” And “Adaptable” Are The 2 Most Important Qualities Of The 21st-Century Media Education Model

Christopher Reed, Stevenson University, Moderator

Love The One You’re With: Lessons From Apple On ‘Flexibility’ And ‘Adaptability’

Brett Levner, University Of Nevada Las Vegas

Leaving Final Cut Studio, But When And To What?

Dina Fiasconaro, Stevenson University

Writing And The New Technologies

G.T. Keplinger, Stevenson University

Is Bad The New Good On YouTube?

You can look at the prezi and the outline that I linked to, above.

Here is the photo I had Savvas take after the panel (from the crappy camera on my phone … ):

(from l-r: G.T. Keplinger, Brett Levner, Dina Fiasconaro, me)

We had a great group in attendance, and a very lively discussion followed.

I learned a new word, thanks to Brett Levner – a “predator:” a producer + editor. Love it!


PANEL 15K, 1:30-3:15pm: Our Conversion Story: Forward Thinking, Slow Moving, Fine Tuning The Balance Between Tradition And Innovation At NYU

The range of challenges and triumphs associated with transitioning a large department’s signature film production class into an all-digital version while keeping the spirit, intensity and traditions of the original.

Rosanne Limoncelli, New York University, Moderator 

Rick Litvin, New York University

Peter Rea, New York University

This was the “Sight & Sound” film class conversion story


It’s the passing of an era: going from Arri-S to Sony FS-100, and from Steenbecks to AVID

  • signature class
  • 5 films in 1 semester (limitations)

We wanted to switch away from infrastructure that was no long supported

Once decision was made, would need one year to make the conversion and educate and inform everyone.

To be consistent with tradition of the class, we needed people to “earn” what they would accomplish

  • Zeiss prime lenses (28, 50, 85)
  • light meters
  • b&w
  • disabled on-board mic

Production, post and projection would have to all be compatible

It would have to remain manual, physical, systematic, and working with tools that require collaboration (part of tradition)

We needed feeling of being able to touch the tools

To convince the faculty, we framed argument as:

  • what happens if one reversal lab closes?
  • the 6 spare projection bulbs disappear?
  • what happens when suplies for Steenbecks disappear?

3 options:

  • do nothing
  • shoot film, post video
  • switch to all digital production and post


There is still film at NYU, just not in this intro class for sophomores

2 biggest programs @ Tisch are undergrad film/tv & theatre

Freshman year:

  • language of film (history)
  • script
  • 2 colloquia
  • a sound or some kind of visual course
  • no film production

“Sight & Sound” is the primary intro course. It’s divided in 3 – “film,” “studio,” “documentary” – students choose one of 2 second ones.

Meets twice a week for half a day

In adapting to new digital format, they kept the syllabus workflow from the film years (although students finish faster)


Prime lenses a good longterm investment


In defense of slowness of process to convince Deans.


Needed a robust camera to replace the ARRI-S

[à propos of nothing, but I didn’t know this, God of Love was shot on the RED]

In class, being able to freeze frame on a project image is a very lovely surprise (different form film projectors)

PANEL 16G, 3:30-5:15pm: Transmedia: One Story, Many Media

The modern narrative property cannot exist in one media alone. From film to television to games to webisodes to novels to comic books, and beyond, any major media property that expects to stand out from the crowd has to do so
on multiple platforms. Traditional single media, or simple adaptions – where
the storyline from one media piece is adapted into another media – is rapidly becoming old school. In its place is the idea of transmedia storytelling, where one giant, encompassing, engaging story is told across multiple media, with each platform telling its own contained story, but at the same time only part of the larger story.

Michael Niederman, Columbia College Chicago, Moderator 

Tom Dowd, Columbia College Chicago

Joseph Steiff, Columbia College Chicago


What is “transmedia?” … One story across many media


  • Multimedia – uses multiple media as part of a presentation
  • Crossmedia – marketeers use “crossmedia” when they want to talk about pushing a brand across multiple media
  • Transmedia – really just “multimedia” – to use multiple media to tell one story
  • Transmedia storytelling/narrative – take one master story and tell is through multiple channels (Producers Guild of America definition) a 3 or more narrative storylines within the same universe, and not the same as repurposing (adapting) material from another platform. Must be original. Narrative continuity across multiple platforms. Interactive endeavors to unite uss across platforms.
  • East Coast Transmedia – smaller, more intense, ARG-driven
  • West Coast Transmedia – writ large, driven by movies tv games


  • Transmedia requires mass media
  • The Wizard of Oz (1900) – books, stage, film, tv, comics, games, lectures across country by L. Frank Baum

Michael Niedermann doesn’t think transmedia really didn’t start until TV

  • And you have to talk about Disney when you talk about TV, ‘cos Walt “got it.”
  • After 1950s: Toys, games, books, clothes, comics – urge always there because of $$$$$
  • An opportunity to generate additional $$$$ from a property
  • All about the marketing
  • The “Roddenbury Urge” to make a universe

Now, it is still about the $$$$, but it is conceived from the start

Lucas understood that the value (thanks to Star Trek) of the universe lay in the toys.

Star Trek – ability to perceive a universe in an intellectual property at heart of other source materials. Star Trek engaged in a completely new way with the fans (conventions!).

What 1950’s merchandising did was allow fans to take the world home with them (deep impact).

An ideal idea source for transmedia treatment:

  • Big Canvas
  • Consistent universe
  • Big supply of story fodder
  • Other validation/core audience

What works best?

Star Trek as a property marked the emergence of transmedia: “organic transmedia” (it just happened) – first big modern property that overflowed its medium. Arguably birthed the mass-media sci-fi/fantasy industry.

Fanzines were emerging at the same time as Star Trek‘s ratings failure and cancellation. It was the syndication that “made” the show. TVs in college dorms helped.

  • Playing with ideas big and deep: race, tech, etc.
  • Raised questions that fans wanted to explore and DISCUSS!
  • Illusion of depth that needed filling

1975 – Franz Joseph Schnaubelt (an aerospace engineer) – Star Trek Starfleet Technical Manual – fan-driven transmedia. People who came afterwards used THIS as source material …

At the same time, Star Trek novels start to come out – it becomes a “franchise.”

Fans are discussing continuity and truth of storyline.

Star Trek + moment in culture + media = Transmedia

People who were weaned on Star Trek eventually became its masters (fanboys grow up to become creators) – Dr. Who as another example.

Where do we find Q&A in Transmedia narratives?

  • Plot/Story
  • Time/Place. Society/Culture
  • Characters – History and Motivation – the “Luke, I am your father” moment made backstory important
  • A sense of meaningful information in the gapes or just around the corner.
  • Meaningful is key

Modern transmedia storytelling is about mythology

Stories and mysteries across multiple media

Star Trek Countdown links the Star Trek reboot to the known Star Trek universe.

And now there is a series of comics/graphic novels that re-tell original series stories with the situations from the re-booted situations.

Teaching Transmedia storytelling

  • sequential vs. simultaneous
  • materials that same to work best are high-concept action

Book: Transmedia Storytelling: One Story – Many Media (Focal Press, 2013) – no link available yet.

And that’s all folks, from the UFVA 2012! Thanks for reading!


Today was a very different kind of day for me, as everything that I went to see, or participated in, was “chosen” by previously made commitment. First off was my colleague G.T. Keplinger’s Sony workshop, which I had originally proposed and then passed on to him. Next up was the natural follow-up to that capture-based workshop, which was Charles Roberts’s ingestion-based workshop. Charles is the workshop coordinator at this year’s UFVA conference, and had been involved in early discussions with G.T. and me about the nature of the Sony workshop. I felt compelled, therefore, to attend his workshop (which was great). Then I had the screening of my documentary this afternoon, followed by the screening of my respondent’s film (to which I responded) in the session afterwards.

At the end of the workshops, I briefly attended the “New Media” reception, where I spoke a bit with Tania Khalaf, from the University of North Texas (who is here with an interesting-sounding film, Journey to Hope, which I could not see since it was playing at the same time as my own film). She told me about a vendor she had seen earlier today, who was selling a piece of software called scayl,which allows for instantaneous transfer of large files between two computers via the web (or cloud, or internet, or whatever you want to call it). I’ll have to check it out.

Then, at the end of the day, my colleagues G.T. Keplinger, Dina Fiasconaro and I went to dinner together at Gino’s, where we had some good Chicago-style deep dish pizza. 

And now it’s off to bed, since tomorrow we (G.T., Dina, Brett Levner from University of Nevada/Las Vegas, and I) are presenting our Final Cut Schmo panel. 

This is a record of my notes, taken during the UFVA 2012 sessions that I attended today.

WORKSHOP 9Q, 8:30-10:15am: SxS: Sony Super 35mm + Stevenson Students

G.T. Keplinger, Stevenson University

Stevenson University students recently shot a short film on a
Super 35mm PMWF3K camera & documented the process with the NEXFS100UK. In this hands-on collaborative workshop, learn why Sony’s Super 35mm cameras are great tools for the classroom.

Unfortunately, I did not take any notes, as I was too busy participating in the conversation. We were lucky to have Jody Eldred with us, as he was able, as an accomplished cinematographer, to talk about why the Sony F3 camera is special (especially for the price point).

We also had Kevin O’Connor, Sony’s Account Manager for the Greater Chicago area, on hand to provide the equipment.

I was happy to run into Harlan Bosmajian at the workshop. Harlan and I used to work together, years ago, at the New York Film Academy, He now teaches at Emerson College in Boston.

WORKSHOP 10P, 10:30am-12:15pm: Surely you Ingest! XDCAM Tapeless Workflow for Safety and Flexibility

Charles Roberts, Fitchburg State University

A hands-on demo of ingesting tapeless Sony XDCAM content using Avid Media Composer and Adobe Premiere in a safe and resilient way.

This was a terrific workshop. I learned a tremendous amount. Charles gave those of us unskilled in AVID just enough info so that we could quickly adapt and apply the media management lessons he was teaching us. I am now far less concerned about my own transfer to AVID. I hope to be able to lead by example in making Stevenson University truly “software agnostic” in its approach to teaching editing. If I can master Premiere, Final Cut Pro X, and AVID, within the year, then I know our students can.

Here is what Charles taught us:

Tapeless Acquisition & Workflow

You have to know where you’re going to end up when you start. “Workflow” is what keeps your whole system operating.


AMA = AVID Media Access

Starting with Media Composer 5, AVID started treating all file formats the same – it’s just a file wrapper, after all.

With AVID now, you can have a system where AVID brings everything in and controls it via its database (AMA, or AVID media databasing), or you can have it treat the project just as metadata (à la FCP or Premiere), called “project linking.” The decision you make is what determines your workflow.

In AVID, unless you’re working with proxies, you are limited to 1080p or lower.

Do no harm to metadata.


  • XDCAM – great workflow – metadata and media in the folder
  • H264 (DSLR) – pros and cons – not a lot of metadata there
  • AVCHD – where XDCAM was 5 years. “Not ready for big time yet.” Codec is very processor intensive (never edit with it)

Redundancy rule – you can’t erase a disc until you have three copies (then you can delete the “third,” which is the original on the card)

To copy disc – option-click and drag to duplicate and then rename.

Make sure students never rename the BPAV (which you can rename BPAV if they messed it up)

AMA settings in AVID

  • When you create a Bin in AVID, it exists outside of the project, as well, as its own file.
  • Leave “Enable AMA Volume Management” on – always
  • Leave checked “When mounting previously mounted volumes, do not check for modifications to the volume”


  • use ACTIVE BIN (rather than VOLUME folder names) – manually manage
  • Create New – AVID assigned
  • Auto-mount recognized volumes

AMA Link – chainlink icon means it’s linked to the AMA volume – if link goes away, your media is offline

To clone between BINS – option-click and drag

To duplicate – command-d

Dragging just moves

TRANSCODE (in Clip Menu – Consolidate/Transcode option)

RELINK using TRANSCODE settings

Then you can RELINK using “Selected Items in All Bins


Once you change the folder name on root drive, you can only relink files individually, since it loses the directory (unlike in AVID or FCP) – you have to actually relink the first file

Check out these links:




SCREENING 11D, 1:30-3:15pm:

The Agony and Sweat of the Human Spirit (15 mins.)

D. Jesse Damazo, University of Iowa

A quiet ukuleleist and his talkative manager struggle to realize their artistic vision in this comic story of loss and friendship.

Smith College Book Sale (30 mins., Work-in-Progress)

Christopher Reed, Stevenson University
Respondent – James Joyce, Montana State University

The Smith College Book Sale was started in 1959 by the Smith College Club of Baltimore to raise money for young women in Maryland who could not otherwise afford to attend Smith. This is the story of the women of the sale who work to help other women succeed.

I will admit that I have nothing much to say about the first film. I did not understand it, nor find it very interesting, so I’ll refrain from commenting.

I was grateful for the people who gave me feedback on my own film, including my respondent, Jim Joyce.

Here is that feedback:

Jim Joyce:

  • Film should focus more on great academic tradition of Smith & women’s education
  • Right now film has “shotgun approach” to telling the story
  • It starts to gel when we find out that there are people who return to sale (buying and selling) every year, just as there are women who return to work for sale every year
  • Most engaging parts are interviews with women about how Smith affected their lives
  • Need to find framing device and spine
  • Need to find something accessible for our point of entry
  • How is film stylistically different at beginning, middle and end (how does it change)?
  • Maybe I should switch musical styles throughout
  • I still need to find one thread, and maybe also removed redundancies
  • Three points (from the “real” James Joyce): Spine, Beauty, Radiance
  • He wants me to put more of my point of view in the film – more Chris Reed
  • Hit us with the hook

Woman in audience:

  • Loved movie
  • Smith reminiscence section could be shortened or have images laid over it


  • Make sure movie is about more than just book sale
  • Cut 30-second trailer that would help me focus on what story I want to tell – it would give me my spine

Other woman in audience:

  • Why 30 minutes?
  • Try a 15-minute cut, then bring it back up by an additional 4/5 minutes
  • Focus on the little details of the book sale – that’s fun stuff


  • Wants to know why the book sale shifted away from Towson Armory, and when?
  • Have there beens up’s and down’s?
  • Found music annoying; hopes it was temp track


Thinks that the footage I have could me more than just a film – perhaps create a website where I could post all the Smith and book sale testimonials, as an accompaniment to film

SCREENING 12C,  3:30-5:15pm:

Shock (10 mins.)

James Joyce, Montana State University

Respondent – Christopher Reed, Stevenson University

Alienated from family and friends after a recent tragedy, Christie struggles with her place in college and life as she watches her roommate’s tortoise while finishing an engineering project started by her brother.

1996 (90 mins., Work-in-Progress)

Matt Meyer, George Fox University

A NASA physicist feels his life was derailed back in 1996, when he couldn’t save his sister from a high school shooting. So now, 19 years later, he figures out a way to go back in time to try to change things.

I tried to give Jim Joyce the same kind of substantive feedback that he gave me, but I won’t publish it here. His film and my film were strange bedfellows, and I think he would have been better served by someone with more of an experimental narrative approach to filmmaking. I might have been better served by a documentarian, but I felt he gave it a good shot.

The feature film that followed Jim’s film was interesting, as it was something directed by Matt Meyer from a script written by his students, and shot and edited over a 3-year period. It’s a bit of a mess (and still unfinished), but a worthy experiment in making movies with one students. The script held my interest over the course of the film, and the actress Haley Talbott was well worth watching.

Good night!


Today was another good day. Outside of the workshops I attended, I also had the great pleasure of seeing an old college classmate, Oscar Alcantara, for coffee at 3:30. Thanks, Oscar, for taking the time to see me!

I also wandered around the vendor exhibits a bit, and purchased some textbooks for my Department. Michael Wiese Productions has a great deal for attendees of the festival: $5 on all books, and when you buy 2, the third book is free – so, 3 for $10.

I bought 4 books:

The Complete Filmmaker’s Guide to Film Festivals: Your All Access Pass to Launching Your Film on the Festival Circuitby Rona Edwards and Monika Skerbelis

Riding the Alligator: Strategies for a Career in Screenplay Writing by Pen Densham

The Film Director’s Bag of Tricks: Get What You Want from Writers and Actorsby Mark Travis

and – the one that looks the most fun …

Make Film History: Rewrite, Reshoot, and Recut the World’s Greatest Films, by Robert Gerst (this one is not yet available on the Michael Wiese site, although they  were selling at the Michael Wiese table today.

This evening, we all went to Northerly Island, in spite of the thunderstorms. Here is a blurry photo of the Chicago skyline as seen from that location that I took with my cell phone:

And now …

This is a record of my notes, taken during the UFVA 2012 sessions that I attended today.

Screening 5D, 8:30-10:15am:

Marc Fields, Emerson College

Narrated by Steve Martin, Give Me the Banjo traces the colorful and contested journey of America’s quintessential instrument from its African roots to the present, with performances and commentary by Pete Seeger, Earl Scruggs, Bela Fleck, Mike Seeger and the Carolina Chocolate Drops.

This was a documentary film about the history of the banjo, and its transition from black slave instrument to minstrel show mainstay to folk and bluegrass anchor. Along the way, we meet many of the musicians who have helped promote the banjo and its music, including Pete Seeger and Earl Scruggs. I am a lifelong devotee of Pete Seeger, and always welcome any opportunity to see him in anything.

I found the film pleasant, with a decent collection of historical artifacts and talking head interviews. I was a bit disappointed at elements of its structure, such as the fact that we begin with the racist cultural legacy of the banjo as a minstrel show instrument, but then leave that behind after the opening, never to return to it. I think the film would have been stronger with a circular narrative that brought us back to the beginning after a journey through all that the banjo has done. I also wish that we had understood why Steve Martin, the film’s narrator, had been so drawn to the banjo, himself. The film gives that short shrift. But I enjoyed the film, overall, and the music.


Workshop 6N, 10:30am-12:15pm: The Joy of X; Learning to Work With and Teach Final Cut Pro X, Part 2

Bart Weiss, University of Texas, Arlington

A workshop to go over truths and myths of Apples Final Cut Pro X. This will be a hands-on demo of the software to show how to use this software in a university film program.

Here is a collection of my scribblings from the workshop. I didn’t do Part 1, but both Part 1 and Part 2 were really the same workshop, done for different groups.

Keyword function

  • Work faster
  • Esp. good for documentarians

Detach/separate audio vs. break apart

Good apps to manage transition/back-and-forth between FCP7 and FCPX

Boris Soundbite, another good app for FCPX

Watch Ripple Training videos (Bart prefers to Lynda.com)


  • Event = Bucket
  • Event = Former FCP7 Project
  • Event = Metadata + Media
  • Project = Timelines/Sequences

Make sure the EVENT gets placed directly on the students’ external hard drives

Proxy Media

Timeline exists within project

What FCPX excels at is metadata

  • Search for metadata
  • Use keywords as sub clipping

Match color

Option-] = cut tail

Option-[ = cut head

Timeline views, including “chicklet view”

L-cuts and J-cuts are VERY easy to do in CPX


  • Use ROLES as separate “tracks” on project, or at least groupings


Screenwriting 7M, 1:30pm-3:15pm:Works in Progress

Kalfou by Desha Dauchan – UC Irvine

Respondent – Shari Thompson, Howard University

2nd Respondent – Kyle Bergerson, University of Oklahoma

Haven by Dina Fiasconaro – Stevenson University

1st Respondent – Duane Byrge, Virginia State University

2nd Respondent – Dean Goldberg, Mount Saint Mary College

This was the first screenwriting workshop that I have attended at a UFVA conference. It was fun! The screenwriter brings 20-30 pages of her feature-length screenplay to the workshop, asks various people in the room to read, and then after the reading, everyone discusses the work, after first hearing from the respondents.

Both scripts in this particular workshop had good elements.

Unfortunately for Dina Fiasconaro, neither of her respondent showed up. BOOOOOOO! Not cool. Let them be barred from future UFVA conferences!

I didn’t take notes, since I was reading, so that’s all I’ll say about the event.


TOMORROW, Friday, 8/10, @ 1:30pm, @ Screening 11D, in room 502 in Luddington, my own film is screened. Wish me luck!


I paste, below, the photo I posted on twitter through instagram, of tonight’s AVID reception.

I have also typed up my notes to Day 1 in my iPad’s Evernote App, and here they are. Enjoy!

This is a record of my notes, taken during the UFVA 2012 sessions that I attend.

Session 1A (Plenary), 8:30-10:15amImagination is the 21st Century Technology

Peter Sims, Keynote Speaker

Bio and Info taken from UFVA 2012 Program

Peter Sims is an author, speaker, and entrepreneur. His latest book is Little Bets: How Breakthrough Ideas Emerge from Small Discoveries, from Simon & Schuster: Free Press. Previously he was the coauthor with Bill George of True North, the Wall Street Journal andBusinessWeek best-selling book. He also worked in venture capital with Summit Partners, a leading investment company, including as part of the team that established the firm’s London office.

 Peter’s keynote talk will address…

What do Thomas Edison, Chris Rock, and Jeff Bezos all have in common?

Answer: An understanding that the biggest ideas spring forth from a series of small discoveries, reworked to achieve a great result.

Based on over 200 interviews with successful creators and innovators, Sims demonstrates that the kind of linear problem-solving and fear of failure we were conditioned to embrace actively thwarts creativity. Whether it’s Steve Jobs or architect Frank Gehry or the “braintrust” at Pixar, there is no complete plan or vision at the outset. Rather, through a process of trying and failing in incremental ways, they gain critical information as they go from one small, experimental step to the next – which eventually lead to extraordinary breakthroughs. These so-called “little bets” helped spark the ideas that led to companies like Twitter and blockbuster movies like the Toy Story franchise. We can learn to think and work like those we think of as geniuses – failing fast to learn quickly, trying imperfect ideas, focusing on finding problems rather than solving them, and practicing highly immersed observation – to turn our own little bets into big successes.

My notes:

Peter Sims, while teaching at Stanford, stumbled into Stanford d.school – it wowed him

Contrary to popular belief, there are usually a lack of big ideas at founding of big companies. Those come later …

  • Pixar started as hardware company, then hired John Lasseter as designer (after he was fired from Disney) to make short films to showcase the hardware
  • Then, company was sold to Steve Jobs (The Pixar Touch is a good book)
  • Running company required faith, since it was bleeding money, but …

Little bets (experimental innovation), on unknown, lead to big bets (planning), on known

These are things you can afford to lose in order to lead to big opportunities

  • Discovery = afford to lose
  • Planning = expect to gain
  • Experimenting vs. Planning

Hewlett-Packard’s HP-35 calculator in 1972 is another “little bet”

  • 100 small bets, 6 breakthroughs: 6%
  • Make small bets that lead to innovation, then bet big

Mozart = prodigy, vs. Beethoven = experimental innovator

Jerry Seinfeld – failure vs. affordable risks (see the documentary Comedian)

  • Discovery requires making mistakes, taking affordable risks
  • For the people who want to create, you have to put yourself “out there”
  • Is it failure, when you fail as you’re trying to create?

The Onion headlines – 600 possibilities, 18 headlines: 3%

Frank Gehry (see other documentary- Sketches of Frank Gehry)

  • Not being afraid to say, “that is so stupid-looking, it’s great”
  • He works in a very collaborative environment
  • Playfulness
  • Shoots down illusion of the “auteur”
  • “Failing forward”

Experimental innovation

MUSIC = experiment, play, immerse, define, reorient, iterate

Fail quickly to learn fast – go from “suck to non-suck” (Ed Catmull)


  • PIXAR = “plussing” – best ideas can come from anywhere vs. …
  • HiPPO Phenomenon (Highest Paid Person’s opinion counts most)
  • PIXAR = “black sheep” = this revolution will be improvised

What can you do tomorrow?

Panel 2H, 10:30am-12:15am: Documentary Working Group Panel

Michael Raniger, Moderator

Mark Freeman, San Diego State University


  • Ethics
  • “Truth”
  • Risk

Book recommended: A New History of Documentary Film by Betsy McLane

Film recommended: No Subtitles Necessary: Laszlo & Vilmos


Going to school has replaced apprenticeships of yore (not much time)

UFVA journal has very little about teaching (but much abiut history and aesthetics) – shouldn’t there be more in journal that focuses on film/video TEACHING?


  • What must you teach, what must you ask for? [Les Blank’s Gap-Toothed Women]
  • How to get students get out of comfort zone (talking head + b-roll)?
  • Is it helpful to identify student clichés? What should we do about it?
  • How to avoid cliché – make them make film about someone who is at least 10 years older or 10 years yiunger than them (use distance)
  • How do we help students identify dramatic potential in everyday situations? Create dramatic tension
  • How do we get students to film in the “present tense”? Take risks? [Unpredictable outcomes]
  • How do we get students to have empathy for the subject? (develop empathy by having students introduce their classmates)
  • Try to have more people on the crew so that the director can spend time with subject before the shoot begins
  • How do you avoid the “mission/project-driven” schedule?
  • Spend time asking students what they want out of life. That will help them figure out what to ask of subjects. Maybe have them write about the subject … to help them process, reflect before and then after.

Restrictions help with creativity

Early pitching helps with navigating later critical feedback

Investigate the International Documentary Challenge: http://www.docchallenge.org/


  • Recognize drama in real life and catalyze it – don’t shoot it as just a “surveillance camera”
  • How do we teach ethics?
  • Use documentary to teach filmmaking and its rules (blend lines between fiction and documentary)
  • How to ride the line between journalism and profile.
  • Documentaries are constructed just like fiction, as soon as you make the first cut.
  • As far as ethics go, you have the editing process to see it through and decide where you want to go: Vernon, Florida, is good example to use.
  • Difference between empathy and sympathy (Bart Weiss)
  • Maybe have someone else edit your film
  • Think laterally around the subject


  • How should we prepare students to represent others, and to look outside their own age group?
  • Define the audience ahead of time? Know what the primar target audience? Specificity changes direction of film.
  • Eavesdropping exercise? Go out an listen to people in real life situations, and then create situations from these

Aubrie Campbell Canfield, from www.actualitymedia.org, was attending session – it looks like a great organizations for educators to work with.


  • Any special techniques for teaching students to give and receive feedback?
  • Are there any internet techniques? Online = google docs-type thing?
  • Maybe have groups give feedback and have the group “secretary” give the feedback.
  • Having a working proposal at the beginning helps give the film a backbone, otherwise the filmmaker can be destroyed.
  • Learn to be a diplomat – be supportive, but know what you want to say.
  • Maybe have the crit session with the filmmaker NOT present.
  • Show a lot of films for common reference. Have students watch films that are stylistically or thematically related to their own projects.
  • Don’t have a private audience …
  • Should we require a public screening of all work? Let them know from the start that there will be a public screening, if that is so (in such screenings, they always realize that film is too long and the sound is terrible)


Panel 3H, 1:30-3:15pm: Best Practices in Film and Academia

Joe Wallenstein, USC, Moderator – Safety and Student Filmmaking

Karen Carpenter, California State University Northridge – A Holistic Approach to Production Safety Training

Linda Brown, USC – Safety Is Safety Is Not an Afterthought: Incorporating Best Practices in Student Productions

Ted Wachs, NYU – Safety Crash Course (For Students with No Production Experience)


www.csatf.org (Safety Pass Program)

www.safetyontheset.com (Warner Bros.)

SAFFE is also good (http://www.safefirefx.org/)

Safety Course + Production Management Course

  • Scheduling
  • Budgeting
  • Location Scout
  • Risk Assessment
  • Day-to-Day


Student Production Handbook

Students attend safety seminar, and then they get a code for semester


General safety rules that apply to all productons, and some that apply to only some

Build semester to semester – what you can’t do at first vs. what you can do later (beginning to intermediate, etc.)


  • NYU’s safety program came about because of a student fatality
  • Safety also for equipment that the school does NOT own, but which we know students rent
  • Start as early as possible
  • Attempting to follow industry safety standards
  • You want to be PROACTIVE vs. REACTIVE
  • When looking at safety issues, consider the simple “small solutions” (closed shoes when standing in water, buddy to spot you on roof, scissors lift shouldn’t be used in winds over 15mph, etc.)
  • These safety issues help the students make better movies (get to do more takes and focus on creativity)
  • It also helps with insurance (what “risk management” needs to know is, are you in command of your shoot?)

SAFETY WORKSHOP: Tell the students, show the students, make them do it, make them teach it to someone else

JOE WALLENSTEIN – www.joewallenstein.com

  • You can’t ask too many questions about students’ shoots, you can only ask too few
  • You want to be “bondable”
  • Documentaries are not a “get out jail free” card
  • Member of the audience who has good safety manuals at his own school: David Price, Victorian College of the Arts
  • FILMSKILLS safety modules – some like them, others think the online aspect is not as good as hands-on workshops.

Screening 4A, 3:30-5:15pm

I went to this screening because I thought the films – all documentaries – would be interesting to me. I also thought that it would be nice to see how the respondents and filmmakers interacted, since I am both screening a film and responding to a film tomorrow.

But sadly, the filmmaker of the first film on the schedule didn’t show up (she was supposed to have a respondent), and the respondent for the second film was a no-show, as well.

So I just watched these two films, below, without respondents …


They weren’t terrible films, though neither was a perfect fit for me.

I thought the story that the director of the first one told about the making of the film was more interesting than the film, itself, which was limited by his insular (family-only) approach to telling the story.

I thought the second film was a very aesthetically unique portrait of the lives of these two women who died lonely. The film has some technical glitches which still need to be addressed, which I mentioned (such as the timing of the paint brushes and the sound design), but it has a lot of special touches which I enjoyed.

Here are the films:

30 Years (12 mins.)

Richard Lile, Columbia College Chicago

Josh’s mother, Venita Loring, remembers what it is like to realize you are the mother of a murderer. Despite the viciousness of her son’s crime, she still sees Josh as a kindhearted, likeable young man who ‘wouldn’t hurt a fly’. However, Josh’s incarceration over the past decade has pushed Venita and her family
to the brink. With twenty years remaining on a thirty-year sentence, Venita continues to search for relief and a sense of normalcy in a life that has become anything but normal.

Leftovers (25 mins.)

Michelle Citron, Columbia College Chicago

Norma and Virginia lived together in Chicago for forty-five years. They died one after the other alone in their home, the vibrant lesbian community of their youth long gone. Leftovers explores the unforeseen trajectory of lives lived at the margins through the snapshots that Norma and Virginia left behind.


Netflix Instant Orphans

Howdy from the UFVA Conference in Chicago! I arrived yesterday, spent the night at my friend Savvas’s place, and checked in to the conference today.

I had the great pleasure of eating lunch with Savvas and an old friend, Polly, in Lincoln Square, which allowed me to see a new part of Chicago. After lunch, Savvas and I wandered around and discovered a delightful used bookstore, the Ravenswood. It felt like something out a different time – either that or out of a Harry Potter book. It was filled with delightful nooks into which one could barely fit. I ended up buying this:

It was Hepburn’s first book, and at only $6, was the perfect impulse buy. I can’t wait to read it!

Also in the store was a lovely Greyhound named Arjuna (you can see her photos on the store’s site), and she provided the perfect extra touch of love.

This evening, I walked around the city with my colleague G.T. We had diner at the Billy Goat, which was fun (and weird, given it’s location on lower Michigan, in what feels like a dark hole), although I confess to having no memory of the SNL skit that made it famous.

I am now about ready for bed, and looking forward to a great start of the conference tomorrow.

However … before I do, I wanted to write briefly about a curious phenomenon of our instant streaming, cloud storage age. With films and other media so easy to come by on services like Netflix, with no extra charges or penalties for how much or how little of them we watch, I find that I am much more prone to give up on works that fail to hold my interest after a certain period of time. While I am often glad that I can just move on – perhaps, one day, to return to the abandoned film – I also wonder about what is being lost. Art sometimes demands that we work through our boredom, or work through the  challenge of the piece, to discern the meaning within, and if we just give up because we’re not in the mood for the effort, well, I’m not always sure that that is such a good thing. Of course, much of what I list below is not necessarily “art” …

Here are some of my “Netflix Instant Orphans:”

Henry’s Crime (I watched 55 minutes out of 107) – this movie was just too low-key for it’s own good, although I enjoyed (sort of ) Keanu’s portrayal of a man adrift. But I kept stopping after 5 minutes as my own attention would “drift.” So, for now, I have given up.

Objectified (I watched 47 minutes out of 75) – I wanted this movie to be as engaging as director Hustwit’s Helvetica, and it just wasn’t. It lacks the intensity of focus and purpose of the earlier film. Whereas that movie used a seemingly narrow topic to make insightful comments about design, this movie tried to use the broad topic of design to make insightful comments about … design. It is just too diffuse to work as well.

Hey, Boo: Harper Lee & ‘To Kill a Mockingbird‘ (I watched 13 minutes out of 81) – not sure why I stopped. So far, this seemed like a good documentary. Perhaps I am just not that interested in the topic. I like the book and the movie that was adapted from it, but the mystery of Harper Lee seems not to intrigue.

Stander (I watched 32 minutes out  of 112) – also not sure why I stopped. I thought Thomas Jane was terrific, and I enjoyed the Robin Hood aspect of his character. Maybe it’s because he seemed too unfocused in his anger – perhaps I could keep on watching (one day), and see if he and the movie find greater purpose.

District 13: Ultimatum (I watched 22 minutes out of 101) – I loved the first film (this is a sequel), primarily because of the amazing feats of parkour captured on film. That, and the acting by people I had previously never seen was actually quite good, for an action pic. The camera did what it was supposed to, and I felt as I were watching something fresh. But as soon as I started watching this new film, I knew that that freshness was gone. The new director makes the camera, rather than the action stars, do all of the work, and that is a mistake.

30 Rock, Season 5, Episode 22, “Respawn” (I watched 13 minutes out of 21) – nothing much to say except that it was while watching this episode that I finally realized I had had enough of this series. Done. Too silly, too whimsical without any attempts at relevance to the known universe. Gone is the sharp satire of Seasons 1 & 2. Boo-hoo.    😦

Love Crime (“Crime d’amour”) (I watched 10 minutes out of 106) – who cares about these people? I don’t (and yet I love Kristin Scott Thomas, usually).

Point Blank (“A bout portant”) (I watched 12 minutes out of 84) – I like the French actor Gilles Lellouche, but the setup of this film left me bored and annoyed at how stupid everyone seemed. So I stopped watching.

What are the films that YOU, dear reader, have stopped watching in YOUR Netflix instant queue? And have you watched any of the films/shows mentioned above and enjoyed them more than I did? I’d love to know your thoughts.

And now, I’m off to bed. Long day and long week ahead!

Final Cut Schmo – my UFVA panel prezi

I leave on Monday, August 6, for Chicago, to attend the 2012 UFVA (University Film and Video Association) Conference. In addition to the film I am presenting (see my previous post), I am also moderating a panel, entitled Final Cut Schmo: Why “Flexible” and “Adaptable” Are the 2 Most Important Qualities of the 21st-Century Media Education Model. We will be presenting as part of Session 13K, Saturday, 8/11, at 8:30am, in Room 319, Luddington Building, Columbia College of Chicago, 1104 S. Wabash.

My fellow panelists, in order (after me) are:

Brett Levner, University of Nevada Las Vegas – Leaving Final Cut Studio, but When and to What?

G.T. Keplinger, Stevenson University – Is Bad the New Good on YouTube?

Dina Fiasconaro, Stevenson University – Writing and the New Technologies

After introducing the panel’s theme and panelists, I will start us off with this topic: Love the One You’re with: Lessons from Apple on ‘Flexibility’ and ‘Adaptability’.

I just spent all of today preparing this prezi. If you haven’t used prezi before, it’s kind of fun – the learning curve is steep, however …