|The Weekend Film School founder, Joe Mefford
Think you need a year to learn how to make a movie? Four years? A long apprenticeship? At New York City’s Weekend Film School, aspiring auteurs can learn the tools they need—both creative and professional—to stop talking about movies and start making them… and, according to Joe Mefford, it takes them all of 48 hours.
It sounds far-fetched, but in just two days students are introduced to every aspect of the moviemaking process—from writing a script and storyboarding it to scheduling, budgeting, shooting, directing, editing and even distributing the final product. And the program was founded with indie projects in mind, utilizing only the equipment that is affordable—and most helpful—to independent moviemakers.
At the end of it all, students emerge with not just a finished short, but a handful of goodies, too. The program was founded by screenwriter/playwright Joe Mefford, who is also the president of ScreenStyle.com. Every new student receives a gift package of free software, books and coupons worth more than $1,000 (it even includes a complimentary one-year subscription to MM)!
When we spoke with Mefford recently, he let us in on just what happens during The Weekend Film School—and what students can expect to learn.
Jennifer Wood (MM): The Weekend Film School seems to be all about keeping it manageable, both in terms of time commitment and class size. How much can a student really expect to learn in just one weekend?
Joe Mefford (JM): A student can learn enough to shoot a small project, such as a short film—or even a feature—with a manageable script and budget.
MM: You limit your classes to a maximum of six people. How do think this aids in the learning process?
JM: We want students to be able to interact directly with the teacher. It’s really not possible when class size is too large.
MM: Do you have any sort of educational—or technical—prerequisites for your students? Are beginners and experienced moviemakers equally welcome?
JM: Classes are designed for beginners. However, one can be experienced in one part of filmmaking—such as screenwriting—and find the rest of the elements of the class valuable.
MM: I know that the program is all about “learning by doing,” and that each student will make his or her own short film. Can you take me through a typical weekend, and the activities and lessons that students will engage in?
JM: Our class if very hands-on. Students will actually write a short scene, draw a storyboard, learn the camera and different shots, edit a short piece, direct actors and set up lighting and audio. This is not a class where you sit at a desk and take notes.
MM: What sort of equipment do students work on? What equipment and/or facilities are available to them?
JM: Students will work with equipment that is affordable to the average indie filmmaker: Canon and Panasonic digital cameras, Apple G4 laptops, Final Cut Pro, professional lighting and audio. We train on the same equipment indie filmmakers generally use.
MM: It’s interesting that part of your instruction focuses on the legalities of moviemaking as it relates to rights and permissions, unions, etc. So many film programs—especially short-term ones—fail to prepare students for the “business” side of show business. Why did you feel it was important to address this?
JM: Too often, filmmaking and screenwriting programs focus only on the craft and not on the business. If moviemakers want to sell their film, find distribution or get picked up by a festival, they need to understand the business before they start filming. If they wait until the film is finished, it can be too late.
MM: Where have your students gone after The Weekend Film School? What are some of your success stories?
JM: Our students have gone on to work on their own projects, including short films, documentaries, writing projects for television shows and editing jobs. We want students who come to our class with a goal to shoot a film. It makes our job that much more fun.
MM: Who teaches the classes?
JM: Our lead instructor is Alex Meillier. Alex has over 10 years experience teaching filmmaking at the New York Film Academy, DV Dojo and through several colleges and extensions such as USC Film School and NYU. Alex is also a featured instructor on digital filmmaking at The Apple Store in New York City. He’s an NYU Film School graduate. I am our secondary instructor.
MM: Where can people find out more?
JM: They can go to www.screenstyle.com and click on the “Classes” section. They can also call us at 917/887-6607.