Two summers ago while participating in an acting workshop at the New York Film Academy in Boston, Maeve McDonald ’19 viewed the final showcase of some of her filmmaking peers. So impressed and moved by the caliber of their work, McDonald’s interest was piqued. This summer she decided to go behind the camera through a filmmaking apprenticeship at Real Art Ways in Hartford for six weeks. The program is run through the Greater Hartford Arts Council’s Neighborhood Studios, an arts education program for local teens.
In order to be considered for the apprenticeship, McDonald submitted a one minute film - the first one she ever created - about a young girl who was experiencing social anxiety at an event. The film, featuring some of her friends, was without dialogue, and the narrative was carried forward through an artful use of images and audio.
During the all-day workshops, McDonald was provided a solid foundation in the fundamental principles of film production. After the instructors focused on various elements such as editing, filming or storytelling and composition techniques, the students would watch a film that illustrated those points. Following a viewing of a landscape clip from The Shining, the group commented about the strategies employed to create the scene. Students spent the afternoons with a camera and tripod to practice the techniques that were discussed earlier in the day.
One aspect of filmmaking that captivated McDonald is the vital import of audio. McDonald shared that she watched an interview with a filmmaker who illustrated the main audio track that was composed with 50 audio tracks underneath of gunshots, yelling and insect sounds. “The audio may seem insignificant, but it plays a major impact in a film. When one element is missing, it changes the scene completely. Lining up the audio is very difficult, but when you get it right, it’s so satisfying,” McDonald said.
The final open-ended project for the class involved the students interviewing someone who overcame adversity in his or her life. From that point, the students were given the freedom to interpret the interview as either a narrative or documentary style film. McDonald interviewed her neighbor, an Irish woman who immigrated to the United States when she was 18 to become a nurse on her Canon Rebel 5. After 15 minutes of footage, McDonald pared the audio to its most essential. She traveled to Elizabeth Park and filmed clips of flowers and the sunset and placed those visuals behind the audio, editing with Adobe Creative Suite. When her neighbor reflected that material things ultimately are not meaningful in life, McDonald cut to images of flowers to represent that thought.
Currently, Maeve is enrolled in an art class at KO “Outside the Box: Innovations in Art” where the students can venture beyond traditional approaches of representation in art to discover new ways of interpreting and documenting the world they live in. One assignment is to document the weather. Some students are painting weather radar maps, but Maeve inventively elected to document the political climate and interview students and teachers about their viewpoints and produce a short film. She plans to employ her writing and filmmaking skills when she heads to college next fall.