What a bummer?!?! While I am elated the academic year at Howard University has come to a close and I officially completed the first year of my graduate film school experience, something about this still feels incomplete.
When classes started in January, there was no way any of us could have predicted a pandemic would sweep through the nation and change life as we know it. Classes were migrated to a virtual format, the status of my unfinished film remains in limbo, the film I was scheduled to DP was permanently postponed and my freelance photography / videography gigs were suspended amid curfew and social distancing requirements. Oh, and it gets better … my positions at Live Nation and Landry’s were furloughed as businesses closed. I’ve yet to see a stimulus check or unemployment check and sadly, I’m stuck in a lease in Washington, D.C., one of the most expensive places to live in America. Putting it mildly, my life sucks right now.
Zoom classes are cute and all, but NOT when you are a film student. The program is collaborative in nature! We want access to equipment; we want to crew shoots. Working on group projects remotely with behemoth sized files and varying degrees of software access and system capability is no fun at all. I would have sat this semester out had I known it would wind up online. With talks of additional COVID phases, the likelihood of next semester being online, no program funding for the film program and graduate assistant positions reportedly slashed … an upcoming gap-year seems imminent.
The Cathy Hughes School of Communications, Department of Media, Journalism and Film (MJF) at Howard University presents its annual, invite-only, Year End Student Film Screening for 2019/2020. The screening is scheduled to take place Sunday, May 10th to Tuesday, May 12, 2020. Introducing G-Pilot by Briana M. Andrews is among the undergraduate and graduate student projects selected for feature at the screening.Briana worked as the Shreditor (shooter, producer, editor) and the mini-documentary features an interview, in-studio performance and music video featuring up-and-coming hip-hop recording artist G-Pilot.
Over the past month, I’ve had the opportunity to work on several exciting film projects. In addition to my personal ventures, I was on the crew for a few others, including student projects for fellow MFA candidates. There are two projects I’d like to share details on. First, because I am super proud of the outcome, and secondly, since both films were directed by women. In recent weeks, there was quite the uproar about the industry’s lack of gender parity and female filmmakers being snubbed by the Oscars and Golden Globes. Here are two projects from upcoming women in film to be on the lookout for:
The first project, Final Beat was directed by Elon Riley. I was the first assistant camera (1st AC / focus puller) for this film.
The second project Break Point was written and directed by Melissa Witherspoon. I was cast as the actress in this film; I’m usually behind the camera but I was able to flex some acting chops here.
I’ll share more details about release as information becomes available.
Grades were posted; I just completed the 1st semester of Howard University’s Master of Fine Arts (MFA M.F.A) Film program. In this golden age for diverse stories and digital expansion, this is an exciting time to study cinematic arts at THE MECCA, which happens to be sole HBCU with the program. I have a tremendous amount of respect for each student in my cohort and truly feel like I found my “tribe” aka crew. Although there generally isn’t as much of an emphasis on grades in graduate school for creative arts (since more importance lies with your completed body of work), I am proud of the perfect 4.0 GPA I secured this semester. It is imperative that I maintain solid academic standing since I’d like to teach courses in the future, and for now, have hopes of securing a TA slot and competitive internship positions in TV/film/media. This semester was remarkably challenging, but incredibly rewarding.
During winter intermission, I’ll be in New Jersey and New York completing freelance projects. Reach out for bookings and collaborations.
Some of the aspects I appreciate most about my MFA program is the emphasis on global perspectives, along with the screenings of international films. In my film history and film analysis courses, I became increasingly familiar with Pre-Classical Cinema, Soviet Montage Theory, German Expressionism, French New Wave, British Cinema (among others). I enjoyed learning more about Italian Neorealism; which is often heralded as “the Golden Age of Cinema” and one of the most important movements in film history. Italian Neorealism provided viewers with a with a realistic depiction of life in post-war Italy. Some of the distinctive features of this movement include the use of non-professional actors and filming on-location. I admired the emphasis on bare-boned storytelling devoid of the fluff and grandeur popularized by its American cinematic counterparts. It gave a dreary scene of the everyday conditions experienced by normal citizens in the aftermath of a fascist regime.
Although highly regarded as one of the most influential film movements, there isn’t much discussion about the origins and stylistic influences of Italian Neorealism. Personally, this movement struck me as a documentary-hybrid of sorts. I pitched this topic and completed a research paper to explore the factors that contributed to the popularization of this cinematic language, while drawing parallel to documentary film.
The films were created to appeal to our sensibilities with harsh reality and an emphasis on humanity. There are undeniable similarities between documentary film and Neorealism. It can be argued that both are visual mediums which provide an accurate depiction of life. For my research paper, the works of Roberto Rossellini and Vittorio De Sica were screened for primary research, and various sources were utilized to demonstrate the correlation between Italian Neorealism to Documentary style film. Both can be deemed anti-Hollywood film styles derived from political and social circumstances.