U. sees strengthening, expansion in filmmaking culture


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Photo by Photo illustration by Edwin Gano |

Karissa Gannon, a Mason Gross School of Arts sophomore, works on editing a film in the Civic Square Building in downtown New Brunswick. The film program has expanded significantly since The Center for Digital Filmmaking began their film certificate program in spring 2012.


When the Rutgers’ filmmaking community learned of School of Arts and Sciences first-year student Lindsey Williams’ interest in film production, she quickly became involved in a variety of small video projects on- and off-campus.

In terms of filmmaking, Williams has experienced an extremely productive semester so far. She just finished directing Rutgers Hillel’s “Days Without Hate” video — which has only been on YouTube for five days and has more than 900 views.

She currently works as a production designer for a New York University student’s thesis project, and in her spare time, updates her YouTube channel “Makemeupology by Lindsey Michelle,” where her laid-back style has earned her more than 1.6 million views on some of her makeup tutorials.

And just last week, the University approached her about directing a 15-minute documentary on homelessness in New Brunswick.

Yet if Williams enrolled in the University two years earlier, the Rutgers’ film culture may not have been strong enough to let her reach her full potential.

Since the Center for Digital Filmmaking introduced their Film Certificate Program in spring 2012, the University’s filmmaking culture has rapidly transformed and expanded, giving students like Williams the chance to exercise their talents with a tight-knit community.

Previously, filmmakers only had the opportunity to enroll in the University’s Cinema Studies minor to immerse themselves in curriculum-based film scholarship, said Zack Morrison, a School of Arts and Sciences senior.

These students often created movies as side projects, struggling to squeeze production time into the insanity that is college. Film clubs existed but had very limited resources and so student-made films had trouble taking off in a professional sense.

Yet now, the Film Certificate Program allows students to earn credit for their passions, giving them the opportunity to learn cinematography, animation, directing and more skills in a classroom setting taught by professionals.

“I feel that that’s just radically changed the quality of the work, the amount of work being done for the better,” Morrison said. “In the last three years, I’ve seen student projects just exponentially get better in terms of quality and the types of stories they’re telling.”

The presence of a filmmaking program has created a culture in and of itself. Between classes at Mason Gross School of the Arts and the annual Campus MovieFest each spring, Morrison said the same 50 to 60 people are constantly interacting and working together.

This community has a few Facebook groups for filmmaking and often uses it to connect with one other for help with projects.

“People are constantly posting ‘Hey, I need a group this day. I need a camera guy this day,’” Morrison said. “Everyone’s always trying to help each other out, because honestly the more we can get our hands on things, the better we’ll all get.”

Since Rutgers does not have as many resources as art schools, Williams said the community has become very self-motivated and passionate in working with what they are given. She would like to see the small community expand.

“Not a lot of kids know that they can be involved in it so easily. As I’ve met more people in the film community, ... I have learned there is a film community. It’s very unique. It’s very niche. It’s very tiny,” she said. “We really have to push ourselves since it’s a new and growing community.”

Yet Jessica Dotson, a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore, believes this film culture is amazing.

She lives with Williams in RU-tv’s Broadcast Communications Living-Learning Community on Busch campus and said it gives these students access to use equipment whenever she needs. With this availability, Dotson has completed more than 18 videos.

Currently, she focuses on launching her web series “Mental,” a dark comedy that follows a girl who was accidentally admitted to a psyche ward. Now, she is working on the pre-production process of a short film that takes a look at what a female god would think if she came down from heaven in 2013.

She said everyone in the film certificate program, RU-tv and the living-learning community crosses paths, and each one of them pushes one another to reach for the same goal.

“I am filming 24/7, and it create a close knit group between all three. People know people from every way in the community,” she said. “I’ve grown from just liking film and video to production.”

But some students like Matthew Riddle feel out of the loop, far removed from this bubble. Riddle, a School Of Arts And Sciences senior, did not have the opportunity to enroll in the certificate program because he was too far along in his academic career to complete the certificate and graduate on time.

He is the president of Screenwriters Community of Rutgers University and vice president of Knight Time Productions and feels as a divide exists between students in the Department of Cinema Studies and students in the certificate program.

“It’s hard because it’s not that I’m not a part of that. I am ... I come from a different place, and I learn different things. Cinema Studies is film theory, film scholarship. The digital filmmaking certificate program is getting behind the camera, learning how it works ... those two camps of film students don’t mix all that great.”

Correction: A previous version of the article incorrectly stated that Matt Riddle could not participate in the film certificate program because of his age.


By Alex Meier

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