Michael Rosenblum
Michael Rosenblum

Part health club, part Internet café and part moviemaker
hangout, New York City’s DV Dojo is changing the way people approach
film. Taking a simple approach to digital film education, Michael
Rosenblum and company are taking their students from aspiring moviemakers
to working directors in as little as one weekend. Here, Rosenblum
talks with MM about his unique approach to teaching,
and why food, beer and moviemaking is an unbeatable combination.

Jennifer Wood (MM): First of all, can you
just give me a brief rundown of exactly what DV Dojo is?

Michael Rosenblum (MR): Think of the DV Dojo
as an Internet cafe for filmmakers. There’s a room filled with computers,
but instead of doing e-mail, you come here to make films. It’s a
bar, a cafe, a screening room, a production facility, a school,
a filmmaker’s hangout and much more. It’s hard to describe in simple
words, because nothing like it has ever existed before.

MM: What is your own moviemaking background?

MR: I was a producer at CBS News and quit 15
years ago, bought a small camera and started to travel around the
world making films.

MM: How did the idea for DV Dojo originate?
What needs did you want to fulfill that you didn’t feel were being
addressed at other establishments?

MR: I’ve run “bootcamps” all over the world
for broadcasters, where I teach people to use small cameras and
edit to make TV and film. I did one in Stockholm and instead of
running it at a broadcaster, we took over a bar and cafe in downtown
Stockholm for a weekend. The combination of food, beer and moviemaking
was unbeatable.

MM: When did DV Dojo open and how many “members”
do you currently have?

MR: We’ve been open for about a year. We have
several hundred members.

MM: Can you talk a bit about the membership
process of DV Dojo—something you describe as a sort of health club?

MR: The easiest way to think of this is as
a health club. Instead of nautilus machines to work out your abs,
we have G4s with FCP to work out your creativity.

MM: You seem to take a very non-intimidating,
beginner’s approach to the moviemaking process. Who are the clientele
you’re targeting with DV Dojo?

MR: What I’m trying to do here is to lower
the barrier on access to filmmaking. It used to be that if you had
an idea for a film, you would have to go out and raise a ton of
money, find cameramen, editors, etc. It just killed so many good
ideas before they got started. Here, we provide the gear, the training
and the space. All you have to bring is an idea and make your movie.
And if that one isn’t any good, try another.

MM: You have a variety of workshop timeframes,
from one weekend to four weeks. For people who want to learn more
about moviemaking but have limited time and can only take part in
a weekend course, what can they learn? In other words, if I know
nothing about moviemaking at the beginning of the weekend, what
will I have achieved by the end?

Digital video directing class
DV Dojo’s first digital video directing
class sets up to shoot a sit-com with instructors Manuel Billeter
and Alex Meillier at right.

MR: The weekend course is getting to be the
most popular. On the first day you’ll shoot, on the second script
and edit. By Sunday evening, we’re screening your first film. Okay,
it’s only a real short short, but hey—you did it yourself!

MM: How much more intensive do your classes
get as time goes on? What are some of your offerings for students
who are looking to invest one or four weeks in a DV Dojo program?

MR: It’s true that the more time you spend,
the more intensive the courses become. We have some people who have
been here for six months. They’re on their second features already!

MM: At every level—beginner, intermediate
and experienced—what are some of your course offerings? Who are
your faculty?

MR: This you can get off the Website, but the
courses run a broad spectrum, from directing to editing to scripting.
Our faculty are drawn from working professionals who are really
in the business.

MM: I see that a number of your courses
are presented in conjunction with educational establishments. Who
are some of the companies you’re currently co-presenting these classes
with—and who will you be partnering with in the future?

MR: We’ve cut our first deal with UCLA and
are negotiating with a number of other institutions at the moment.

MM: So, even at just a year old, DV Dojo
has already proven to be a success. Are you looking to expand—in
your current location or to others—in the near future?

MR: God willing! I think the most important
thing here, the thing that really drives me, is the democratization
of television and filmmaking. Writing is a deep and rich medium
because it is open to anyone who cares to try. And there is no penalty
for being bad. You want to write a novel, you sit down at a typewriter
and start to write. Maybe you make something great; maybe you make
junk. But that is where books come from. Because it is so easy to
try, anyone can—and should!

Failure the first time does not mean you have blown
a bunch of cash, just some blank paper. So try again. Great writing
does not come from graduates of writing programs, for the most part,
it comes from people who are driven by a passion to write, and so
just do. I want to take filmmaking and put it on an equal plane
with writing. Have a desire to make a film? Here’s a camera, here’s
[your editing equipment]. Go ahead. See what you can do.

For more information, visit http://www.dvdojo.com.