Friday, March 27, 2009

Teaching at The New School

About once a year, I guest lecture a digital video class for Philip
Kain at The New School. I talk to his students about producing, giving
a run down of what it's actually like to produce vs. what you can read
in a book. In college at Boston University, no one ever taught me the
ins and outs of producing. And I find that producing is a very
nebulous skill to teach in a class room. Since so much of producing
has to do with your own style - with trial and error and with
experience, I find the best way to learn is through experience I
equate producing to the training needed to become a doctor. You can
learn everything from books; however, if you don't start working on
patients, you'll never learn the subtle nuances and you'll never
develop your instincts. Thankfully, when producing, lives don't hang
in the balance. I'm not good with that kind of pressure.

That being said, there are things to teach that universities and
colleges graze over in classes. For the most part, I find that
professors are filmmakers that haven't been producing their own movies
for years, whether they ever produced them to begin with. The
fundamentals of producing remain the same, but with any craft - things
develop and change over time. Also, I find that few universities
actually offer full classes on producing. When I was at BU, there was
directing, cinematography, editing and basic production but producing
was only discussed as a topic point in a class. I guess students are
expected to learn in the field.

When I graduated college and came to New York, I held a variety of
jobs in film production before I settled on producing. I was working
at a television company at the time, and my then boss was hesitant to
take such a big risk when working with clients. Why should he hire
someone with only "book" experience when he's reporting to a big
company like Disney or Nickelodeon. I decided, the best way for me to
learn how to produce was to produce. I teamed up with a director and
set my sights on producing a film. Treating it like my own graduate
studies course, I was determined to learn everything from how to set a
budget, create a schedule, hire a crew, manage production people, work
in post production, enter film festivals and market my film. The
skills that I learned on one short, are the skills I use every day at
On the Leesh.

These skills are the bullet points I use when teaching. Whether it's
over coffee as a consultant or in front of a class, I talk about the
practicalities of shooting in NYC, getting permits, securing
contracts, hiring crew, covering your butt and much more. I find that
teaching about producing can be overwhelming. How to do limit the
lesson down to 2 hours? Typically, students look at me stunned and
ask a few questions but I can see that most of the lesson is going
over their heads. Julie and I have tossed around the idea of teaching
a full seminar on producing, but we haven't figured out the timing yet.

I enjoy teaching, and am grateful whenever Philip gives me the

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