An Adventure in Directing {a.k.a. the longest yet fastest first week of school known to man}

“Let’s make a travel blog!” She said. “I’ll use it in place of a journal!” she said. “I’ll keep track of everything and post regularly!” She said.

She being me.

And me being terrible at keeping this thing updated. But I have good reason! (sort of)

Why, you ask, was last week the longest and yet shortest first week of school known to man (or perhaps just college students who are accustomed to having a first week of school that consists solely of syllabi)?

Because I, like most of my classmates, was very, very busy last week. So the amount of exhaustion was never ending. And yet the first week was gone before I knew it.

After a day of visa applications, an orientation tour, and a quick tour of the city on Monday, I returned to school Tuesday morning excited to 1) have my first German class with the wonderful Hilde, and 2) start our first week of Directing class, more specifically, Directing for narrative films.

The professor spearheading the narrative portion of our class, Andrew Hood, is an absolutely splendid British man who uses his hand gestures to put inspiration and emotion and depth into everything he discusses, and (I reckon) to stir the creativity of young minds in order to create great films {this is meant both sarcastically and in the best way possible, because he has now become one of my favorite professors}

Which, after a somewhat long lecture, he sent us all out to do. On our first day of class.

Exercise 1: “Eye-to-Eye”

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They sent us out in groups of three: one director, one camera person, and one actor. We were supposed to film some sort of short sequence involving a man meeting his döppleganger. My classmates Billy, Nick, and I brainstormed over sausages, then headed back to AIB, where we used this old piano to film Billy’s piano duel with himself. Or rather, “Billy vs. Bill”

(Billy)                                                                                                      (Bill)

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That was rather entertaining.

Afterward the class all sat around on the couches (which I am starting to grow rather fond of), watched the videos, and gave our critiques.

Then Andrew hit us with our First small project for the semester: the Ice Cream script.

We were all handed the same script. There was no background, no names, nothing: just an argument over ice cream. We were to spend the night coming up with a backstory; a subtext the make the scene about something more than ice cream, because the next day actors and actresses from the Film Acting School in Cologne would be coming in to work with us on this project for the next three days.

I wrote something stupid the night before, and went in the next day slightly terrified as I had never worked with actors before. Ever. and these people would all probably be older than me and far more knowledgable about acting than I. And yet I was supposed to direct them. . .

The next was a bit of a whirlwind. My class was paired off into groups of two, and each set of directors was assigned two actors to work with.

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My friend Sydney and I were paired with Fiona and Freddy, both of whom were fantastic and morphed my scene from a stupid idea into something far better than I ever thought it could be.

We were given a few hours to rehearse the two versions of the scene that the directors had prepared, and then the actors performed both scenes for a panel of judges, who then chose 10 directors from the class whose scenes would be filmed the next day.

For some odd reason beyond my knowledge, my scene was chosen. And the next day we started filming. We reached our location in Bad Godesburg at around 11:30am, and we didn’t wrap filming until almost 9pm. We were all tired, frustrated, and ready to be done with the ice cream script. And then we stood in the rain waiting for a bus that may or may not come (but thankfully it did). And then my two incredibly patient actors had to catch the train back to Cologne, while Sydney lugged a tripod home, and I walked home in the rain looking like a homeless man on a spiritual quest because the boom pole I was carrying would NOT collapse (4 people tried. 4 people failed.). So it became my walking stick.

The next morning editing began, and it was equally as frustrating as the day before, if not more so. We had a finite amount of time, neither Sydney nor I had eaten, and we had far too many clips to paste together. In addition, the wacky, quickly-cut, almost-Tarantino-esque vision I had in mind just wasn’t coming across (at. all.) and my attempts to make it work only made matters worse.

In the end, we just threw together what we could to the best of our ability, exported it, and handed it to our professor. Everyone was 100% DONE at that point.

This shot happens to be my favorite from the shoot, and I think the
This shot happens to be my favorite from the shoot, and I think the “dammit” moment also perfectly conveys how done we were.
All the actors came back to AIB that day, and about an hour later we all sat down for a screening of the films we had made. They were absolutely fantastic, and ours actually turned out 20x better than my food/sleep-deprived brain thought it had.

By then it was Friday, everyone was exhausted, and we all just wanted to take a break from film for a bit. So naturally we went to the Biergarten by the river, where later that night I saw a “silent disco” for the first time ever. Weird stuff. And then after a relaxing Saturday morning Kelcey, Nader and I hopped on a train to Cologne to meet up with a group of our classmates, and spent the night eating, drinking, and dancing. (two highlights of the night: An Irish pub called the Harp, and my very first trip to a club). And that was my crazy long and yet insanely short first week. Which was why I was too busy to write this. But I finally did!

As stressful as this project was given the time constraints, it was still so much fun and I am so happy that I met and got to know these actors. I think it was an amazing experience to have; we were thrown out into an unfamiliar environment and asked to make a film. And we did. Working with Fiona and Freddy also just made me appreciate the art of acting so much more; going through their processes with them, digging into their character’s backgrounds and motives, watching their exercises and how they prepared for scenes; it was all so informative and amazing. I couldn’t be more grateful.

Huge thank you to Sydney Stuart, Fiona Lang, and Freddy Winterhager for all of your hard work. WordPress won’t let me upload the full scene, but here are some of my favorite screen grabs:

Screen Shot 2015-09-01 at 11.02.10 PMScreen Shot 2015-09-01 at 11.03.06 PMScreen Shot 2015-09-01 at 11.17.20 PM

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And here’s a picture of my class along with all the actors and professors (and Olivia!) 



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