Summer Shut-down Musings

A couple of thoughts regarding closing up your studio during the summer break:

1) DON'T DO IT--IF AT ALL POSSIBLE! Unless you're burnt out, on some fancy vacation you've (FINALLY) given yourself, or don't have access to the cage during the summer, you should utilize that gear to brainstorm for next year. It's an ideal time to test and play with concepts you may not have yet had a chance to try for yourself and not enough time or attention available.

Consider this: in many schools, much of the gear goes unused by your students much of the year. When a new budget comes in, what will you do with it? Purchase perfectly new gear and trash the barely-worn gear functional gear you already have? I certainly hope not --for both you and your students. Conclusion: take the time to learn the nuances of the gear so you order more effective gear next year. Spend your money better and purchase equipment that will be more appropriate and intuitive for your students--faster and easier to learn so more time is spent creatively, both in writing and set work.

2) Use the gear available to shoot a short idea that's been slowly bubbling up. It doesn't have to be magical. No one even has to see it. Go grab a couple of friends or family members (where appropriate and get them to be stand in's for your creative purposes. Come up with a way to translate this your students so they can begin to run their own sets with your supervision and manifest their own creativity while learning a bit more about how to treat others and general professionalism on set. Evan Luzi's www.TheBlackandBlue.com is a great blog and chronicle for his experiences and interest in professional efficiency on film sets from the perspective of a 1st Assistant Camera--a position in the thick of things on set.

3) Go enter a timed-deadline film festival or some related project this summer. Many occur around the country on various levels and it's a great exercise of focused adrenaline, patience, and endurance. That may be old news but it'll remind you exactly where you stand on various aspects of video production if some of them haven't been revisited lately.

Projects include:
a) 48 Hour Film Project (Houston and Austin 48HFP are sponsored by ikan via Ryan Aivalis, contact him for more information on how your local 48 can be sponsored)
b) Producers Guild of America Short Film Competition
c) Gorilla Film Festival
d) 24 Hour Film Project
e) Super Shorts film festival (Less than 3 minute submissions).

More can be found by checking google for competitions in your area. There are a variety spread amongst many local film groups in many cities of the country. Entry fees for these events (usually) are not too painful and great for teambuilding. If any of these interest you and fall during the school year, consider finding a way to have your students participate in them as a class team. Start early on this. Depending on the event, it may be the first time they get to see their own film shown on a big screen--just like their favorites. It's a great feeling and tremendously motivational.

4) A final note--if you have some studio space on campus, consider asking your VP if there would be a way to develop some new ideas using the studio during off time--this will grant you the freedom of a workshop already paid-for and permission to come and go as you please.

If, however, you need to or choose to close your cage--keep these things in mind:

1) Clean everything before you pack it up. Know the condition of the gear so it's ready to go with no down time at the beginning of the new year so momentum builds quickly--unless you're the type to encourage your students to fix the gear they want to use.

2) Inventorize what's available and acquire the rest before the new school year--this includes Gaff tape, HDMI or SDI cables, slates, C Stands, windex for that teleprompter (or a new ipad-based one). Heck, even get your students to help you, that way they learn more about gear they may or may not have used the previous year. This will also serve as a final reminder as to the quantity of gear you have and time to reflect on where you want your cage to grow based on the last school year. What worked and what didn't based on available gear? If you students get involved in this process it'll be great for feedback, too, and maybe get their creative juices flowing again so they come back next year with new achievements or ideas.

I hope that helps. Have a great summer--no matter what's planned!


AivalisRyan Aivalis is an independent filmmaker and producer based out of Houston, Texas. With a background in robotics and artificial intelligence and IT, Ryan went on to pursue a bachelors in Psychology to eventually enter the film and digital video world because of its shared emphasis on technology and art. He currently works in the Marketing Department of ikan Corporation.