Film boot camp: Video bugs strut their stuff
By Kimberley Liu
Make a film under two minutes long, the star of which is a boot.
This was the first assignment and half the inspiration for the title of Film Boot Camp, a summer workshop for Charlottesville residents interested in making films.
Film Boot Camp is the brainchild of two local filmmakers, Jerome Dane and Johnny St. Ours. Dane, 21, a student at Virginia Tech, was frustrated by the lack of a film community in Charlottesville and wanted to do something about it. When he asked around, St. Ours’ name came up as someone to contact. The 24-year-old St. Ours has made several short films, including two that were shown at the Vinegar Hill film festival. When Dane described his yearning for a local film community, St. Ours developed the idea of Boot Camp.
Film Boot Camp meets Friday nights in the parking lot behind Spencer’s and Eloise on South Street, a block off the Downtown Mall. The “silver screen” is two TVs hovering above a mess of wires and video equipment. The seating is rows of planks propped up on cinder blocks. And the theater? It’s the roof of a metalworks garage.
Participants bring films they have created for the week’s assignment, which last Friday was to make a film about love, under two minutes long, with no dialogue or other sound. Five aspiring filmmakers showed projects ranging from abstract graphics explosions with superimposed faces to a humorous sequence limning a man’s passion for his shoe. Each film was critiqued by others in the audience.
St. Ours says that the forum is supposed to discipline and direct wannabe filmmakers— giving additional meaning to the name Film Boot Camp. St. Ours himself notes that he loves films, has lots of ideas, but hasn’t produced anything in months.
“I’ve been talking about making films for seven years,” he says. “Boot Camp is about putting your camera where your mouth is.”
Despite several technical difficulties (one spectator commented that all the films were entitled “video calibration”), the small audience was enthusiastic. Dane says that most of the 40 or so people show up each week in response to posted fliers or word of mouth. Others happen upon the outdoor event by chance.
Stephen Nash, a dean at George Mason University, was taking a walk after dinner on the Downtown Mall and decided to stay for the duration of the one-and-a-half-hour workshop. Though he has no personal interest in filmmaking, Nash says, he still enjoyed the workshop.
“I learned a lot about film from seeing it in this raw state,” he says. “If I hadn’t been taking a walk by, I wouldn’t have known.”
The Boot Camp will last the entire summer, the assignments becoming longer and the results– ideally – better. Dane’s ultimate goal for the Boot Camp is to form filmmaking teams to work on advanced projects.
“There’s a lot of local talent out there,” Dane says. “We’re hoping to both recruit and teach people.”
Tyler McGill, a local deejay, screened his first ever attempt at film last Friday. The film featured McGill sitting in a deejay booth observing radio show hosts listening to a love song. At the end of the film, McGill stands up and the audience can see that his shirt reads “Viagra.”
Would McGill ever have made a film without joining the Boot Camp?
“Hell, no,” he says. “And now I’m going to do the program for the whole summer.”
Another audience member, Jeffrey Andrews, also has never made a film. His interest lies in composing movie soundtracks.
“This is about building a community,” says Andrews, “but seeing this makes me want to make a movie, too.” He plans to participate in next week’s project: a movie emphasizing light or color.
St. Ours and Dane have high hopes for their pet project. They expect to recruit bigger audiences, show more films, and involve a more “academic” side of the community. Mostly they want the participants to gain experience and the films to improve in quality.
In this spirit, at the evening’s conclusion, St. Ours amends the assignment to “a good movie emphasizing light or color.”
“We didn’t see anything worthwhile tonight,” he says jokingly.
Why the smile?
His film was the fourth one shown.