While local colleges and universities boast a number of highly qualified film instructors, something of the “real world” goes unacknowledged. Often times film schools focus on the theory and history of film to the detriment of the technical production skills involved in the making of films. An education in the arts and humanities encompasses such a wide breadth of courses, it’s often hard to fit them all in to a Bachelor of Arts program, especially when the general education courses are taken into account.
So, where do you go in Kansas City to learn the technical aspects of filmmaking from local industry professionals? A new program sponsored by the organization, The Independent Filmmaker’s Coalition of Kansas City provides one solution; The IFCKC Project, A Working Film Classroom. Below are some of the Board Members: Maia Ades (Center in pic), Dan Handley, Alden Miller and Timothy Harvey, and Kimberly Igla.
This is a program designed to give students the ability to gain real world experience in a particular area of film production while still maintaining their regular lives, whether working full time in the industry, outside of the industry or a full time student. Anyone can apply and be accepted. The program is fully funded by the IFCKC and so is free to participants. Students will be working with local industry professionals in all areas, directing, cinematography, sound, lighting, production (set) design and hair and make up.
I was on set recently and had the pleasure of meeting many of the participants. Their current film in production, “An Urn for Calvin”, is directed by local Emmy Award winning director, Patrick Rae. On set, in a small downtown Kansas City house, I first met with Savannah Rodgers, a film student at the University of Kansas in Lawrence who was advised by one of her professors, Kevin Wilmot (co-writer of Spike Lee’s “Chi-Raq”) to get practical experience in the local industry. She began making her own short films in 2014 and soon afterward met director, Patrick Rae and began working with him whenever she could. She’s so thankful she met Patrick and has worked on many of his projects in a variety of capacities, from production assistant to assistant director. She is currently the assistant camera person for An Urn for Calvin, but answers a variety of production questions from any apprentice on set.
The sound mixer, Danny Bowersox, attended a local audio engineering school and now works in the industry regularly. Danny liked the idea of being able to mentor someone in a very practical, hands on way. He loves what he does, and understands the obstacles of breaking into the business. “It can be hard to meet people working in the industry in the beginning. People here in Kansas City are very friendly though and this is a great way to network.” His apprentice, Larry Lucky (great name!) agrees. While Larry currently mixes sound for reality television here in Kansas City, he wanted to learn more about sound mixing for film and jumped at this opportunity. Already a working professional, Larry brings his knowledge about sound mixing to the set, but loves the fact that he can learn specific skills for film that he would not otherwise get in television.
Not everyone on set normally works behind the scenes. Actors Mary Wilkens of KKFI’s “Shots in the Night”, and Kyle Adams wanted to help on the set because, as Mary put it, “I want to soak up knowledge and help out wherever I can.” A working film set is the Amazon Jungle of knowledge for filmmakers. Everything is there and most of it is useful! So for actor Kyle Adams, who is making his own short film, this is the perfect opportunity. Kyle is the film’s apprentice assistant cameraman, and is assured to learn plenty from the director of photography, Todd Norris and director Patrick Rae pictured below.
There is plenty more to come from the IFCKC’s Working Film Classroom, and more stories from behind the scenes as well. For now, we’ll await the screening of “An Urn for Calvin”, and remember that it is projects such as these that provide the much needed real world, hands on experience for anyone in the community to take part in, learn from, and enjoy.