New Film Production Class Offers Professional Lessons
Fifteen West Bloomfield High School students recently visited New York City as part of a new class designed to give students field experience.
Kevin Walsh's new video production class at West Bloomfield High School is giving students a unique opportunity to learn outside the classroom — one that recently took 15 students to New York City to take part in a professional setting.
The one-class course, titled Field Production, was created this past summer to give students already experienced in introductory video productions coursework at WBHS an opportunity to film events that otherwise might not be filmed, Walsh said. Students visit various locations around town as demand arises for the filming of district events at different schools, such as the recent WBHS varsity hockey season opening game at Orchard Lake St. Mary's and a publicity tour with actress Arielle Kebbel.
"I think a lot of them have risen to the challenge of being independent contractors and I think they like working for someone besides me," said Walsh, who was given an Outstanding Person in Education award in April by his colleagues. "They’ll go to, say, the principal at Scotch (Elementary School), and touch base on available projects."
The class is available for students who have completed an introductory course and it relies on 24 hours of outside coursework per marking period (48 hours per semester). Students are responsible for making themselves available during the evening, signing up for projects independently online, visiting with clients to discuss the project, setting up, filming and editing.
The course has proven popular with students for many reasons, Walsh said, among them, students have learned using the same equipment used by other professional production companies. Through a 2004 graduate of the school's video production program, Walsh was able to arrange a field trip to New York City and give 15 students an opportunity to watch scenes being filmed at New York University.
"A former student of mine, Jason Potash, called me and told me he was filming in a lecture hall at a college, so, if I could fly them there, they could be extras in the film and spend a day with the crew. I had three weeks," Walsh said, smiling.
Potash, 25, who won the Student Visionary Award at the 2010 Tribeca Film Festival for the short film he produced, Some Boys Don’t Leave, is producing the full-length follow-up, Light Years. The film is scheduled to be released in 2012, according to IMDB.com.
"It’s not an opportunity that normally you’d be able to get. I’m not sure it’s something I would have done outside of this opportunity that was given to me through this school," said Claudia Levick, a junior.
Students visited Nov. 5-8, in the afterglow of the New York City Marathon and in the first weeks of the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations. They received an insider's tour of the Tisch Film School and saw several city landmarks. However, the consensus was that a full day of filming — 14 hours — that Sunday was the highlight.
"The group was phenomenal. They proved it the first day, at the shoot. Working for 14 hours on set is tough for anyone, but they were very efficient and it went very smoothly," said Steve Palizzi, an information and media center specialist at WBHS who was among the teacher-chaperones.
Walsh was impressed with the experience. "The best thing was, they got total exposure to how long a shoot can be. If you're an actor, or in their case, extras, you could be waiting for a long time. Of course, other people are working at that time," he said.
In addition to picking the brains of the cast and crew, senior Charles Ten Eyck had the opportunity to work as an extra in the film. Find him when the film comes out — he says he'll be "motiviating the shot."
"In movies, sometimes, the scene begins with someone walking past the camera, toward the main character, which is when the scene picks up in action. So, I was the person walking ... you probably saw my torso.
"It was a lot of pressure in small moments. In my scene, I had to walk from point A to point B just perfectly, and in your day-to-day life you never think about that. You have to think about each step," Ten Eyck said.
He added that he was razzed afterward by classmates for selling out as a "movie star."
"It was an inside joke for us, because Charles hates being in front of the camera more than anyone. He's more interested in producing and filming, which is great," Walsh said. "The crew and actors thought they were all college kids, based on their maturity."
Students said they were impressed in realizing that the same kinds of equipment such as cameras they are using to film district events were being used on set in New York. "It was really interesting to see the equipment being used in that kind of environment," said Joshua Grandetti, a junior.
Students received a tour of the Tisch Film School from Melissa Balan, a 2008 graduate of the West Bloomfield program and now a senior at Tisch.
"It was really great. She showed us a room where they make sound effects, which was a lot of fun. She showed us another room where they were editing film by hand, which was crazy to see," said Chris McClellan, a junior.