Matthew Siemers and Thomas Lefler, Media Arts
The Six Week Cinema project had two main goals: A mentored film production learning experience and researching distribution for short films. Students face various obstacles when trying to create a film including funding, equipment, and crew. Six Week Cinema provided all these resources in one place in order for students to have an opportunity to work on projects with a mentored support system. Another obstacle for students is getting their projects shown. Our second goal was focused on getting these films to various audiences and finding out what methods worked the best in accomplishing this objective.
Over the course of the spring and summer semesters we produced six short films and three commercials. Each project had very specific limitations which include: a four page script limit, limited budget and equipment list, and one day of filming. Each film was started and finished within a six week period. We had a small cast and crew screening for each film to act as a deadline for each film to make sure it was completed on time. Over 150 people were involved in the various projects. Mentoring and training was provided by more experienced students. After each project was completed, students participated in a feedback survey and review meeting to assess their experiences within the Six Week Cinema program.
At the beginning of the fall semester, we held a film festival to showcase the films. We tried various forms of marketing to advertise for the festival including using the three commercials produced, a Facebook page and event page, online picture advertisements, word of mouth, and flyers. For each project, we awarded an MVP award to one crew member per project intended to legitimize the hard work beginning students.
Each project was also submitted to the BYU Final Cut film festival in order to get the films more exposure. After Final Cut, the films were released online on different days and times to discover the best time to release online content.
We have had a very positive experience with Six Week Cinema this summer. The feedback we received, both formal and informal, has been overwhelmingly positive. One reported that “It’s a fantastic opportunity to work with an actual production with deadlines, expectations, people to answer to, and a budget full of money that isn’t your own. It gives us a chance to get the real world-ish experience we need to actually be able to function in a film career.” And we received several similar responses. There were a few challenges over the course of the experience, but we improved the experience throughout the summer as feedback and needs brought things to our attention. Mentoring and training was the area that received the most adjustments and improvement.
Word of mouth was very important for the showcase festival. Two hundred people attended the festival, with more than half being people who were not involved with any of the projects, which shows that students were proud to show off their work and invite others to attend.
As for distribution, we also learned a lot. With online advertising you must post frequently and regularly in order to reach more people. Pictures drew a lot of traffic where videos didn’t attract as much. A video might draw 300 views, but an album of photos draws 3,000 views, making videos only about 10% as effective as photos. Each share resulted in at least two or three dozen new views and increased the possibility of new shares, so even just a few shares greatly increased the amount of views a video or a picture had. Releasing content in the morning or the afternoon generated more views than the evening or night, but content in the afternoon resulted in more shares.
Only two of the nine projects created were accepted to the BYU Final Cut Film Festival. Being present for the selection process allowed for a lot of insight into the reasons why only two of the films were selected. Festivals focus on length, production value, clarity on first viewing, tone of other films in the festival, and speculation on an audience’s reception of the piece. A well-made film could be rejected for any number of reasons based off the circumstances even if it is well received in other places.
Discussion & Conclusion
We found that small scale productions, with specific limitations, created a positive learning environment. Students felt free to experiment creatively and that they were able to push themselves because they were working in a low-stress environment. There wasn’t the fear or the pressure that is common with larger scale productions with bigger budgets where students are worried about taking risks and ruining the expensive project. The projects were also highly collaborative and students felt invested in the work, feeling their contributions were valuable.
Online advertising and distribution must be regular and frequent. Pictures are the best way to reach others and generate views. Videos are not nearly as effective as photos, but are still better than plain text posts.
The final products created, advertised, and distributed may be viewed at the following links:
This is War – https://youtu.be/xIW_sZliHEw
Space Race – https://youtu.be/GnsKPavXA6E
A Widow’s Mite – https://youtu.be/3i0T8nMitgY
Grandma’s Vase – https://youtu.be/2SRTFBcdpKA
Laundry – https://youtu.be/oauN4ugH9zI
All Aboard for Murder – https://youtu.be/Xr-AHMdIQgA