I Went Back To School To Be A Video Creator — And This Is What I Learned

photographed by Mark Iantosca.
If you're anything like me, you have a mental list of passion projects that continually swim around your brain but no clear plans on how to make them a reality. Some are wild and fantastical (like my effect-driven, lady-pirate film set on the coast of St. Lucia entitled: The Lost Isle Of The Sea), while others are completely tangible but require a lot of work (a short-documentary about how bra-sizing really works).
The sheer number of ideas is very much out-weighed by excuses for not pursuing each individual creation; as video-making always felt like something I simply could never pursue. The people who are successful in this medium have the support and resources to make their dream projects come alive. I’m constantly broke, and I definitely don’t have access to the equipment I thought was necessary to make a short film. I’ve long had a defeatist attitude that if I couldn’t produce something that was perfect, why bother? Look at all the celebrities who produce indie films, or breakout stars with family connections in the industry. There was no way I could compete.
Then I realized, it doesn’t matter. I was making excuses for not wanting to put in the work. The pilot for It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia was shot on a camcorder. Broad City was originally an semi-out-of-focus web series. Make what you want to make with the resources you have. Inspired by Refinery29’s Shatterbox Anthology series, first-time filmmakers were able to create their passion projects with the commitment of pushing real, female-driven stories to the forefront. I have long wanted to make my own videos without nervously trying to comprehend every icon on a camera or quitting out of Premiere Pro when I didn’t understand next steps of the program. I had plenty of creative vision, but not the skills to fulfill them.

girls gone mild ?

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This is where continuing education came into the picture for me. This past summer I took a digital video production course at The New School in New York City through its Open Campus program. The curriculum condenses a semester-long course into two months of hands-on experience in an intimate group setting.
I was actually pretty nervous before the class started — I haven’t been in a classroom since I was 24, and I certainly haven’t had homework. But this felt different than college: I had to balance my demanding full-time job with a fast-paced class. Phoning it in wasn’t an option. The class came at an odd time, as I was less than a month out from my grandfather passing away, and really wanted to create a small project about grief and our close relationship. It meant too much to me to slack off — so I create a short short short short piece about the connection between grief and routine: a project that actually helped distill my bereavement.
The class met every Tuesday and Thursday for approximately three hours — allowing for both studio time and in-class film projects so we could become familiar with the equipment and software. We moved quickly, often leaving the classroom to shoot in the field. I learned all about microphones, sound design, the importance of narrative, and how to get the perfect shot. I overcame my anxiousness and dived into each tiny icon and its functions.
The class at the New School wasn’t just about learning how to operate a camera properly, and getting over my fears of using Premiere Pro. I was surprised to learn how quickly I can jump-start my creativity. I often found myself overwhelmed at the beginning of class, but having a safe space to learn helped me find confidence in my ability. Regularly, I left the class inspired, and pleased that I could apply so many of my learnings to my day job. The ability to offer up more inventive ideas on short notice is a valuable skill, no matter what kind of day job you have.
It’s been a few months since the class wrapped up, but I’m still buzzing from what I learned. After eight weeks of handing in homework and submitting project-after-project, I walked away with a comprehensive and transferable skillset that can go beyond a job. And I’m no longer intimidated to just make art. There’s inspiration everywhere — from incredibly vivid street art to my own contemplative moments — and I constantly want to pull out my iPhone or portable camera just to take a simple video. Now that I’ve got the small projects mastered, maybe my lady-pirate film isn’t as farfetched as I once thought.

About Shatterbox

Refinery29 is thrilled to be showing this Shatterbox Anthology film. Just 7% of 2016's top films were directed by women. Refinery29 wants to change this by giving 12 female directors a chance to claim their power. Our message to Hollywood? You can't win without women. Watch new films every month on Refinery29.com/Shatterbox and Comcast Watchable.

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