Movie and television productions rely on green screens to immerse the audience in a reality that is far from real. Actors run toward green walls that transform into mountain ranges, colorful carnivals or bustling city streets with the help of a little movie magic.
This summer, high school students are invited to Longleaf Studios in Jacksonville, which boasts the state’s largest green screen, to learn some of that magic. The Northeast Alabama Entertainment Initiative is sponsoring a weeklong film camp where high-school sophomores, juniors and graduating seniors will learn the business and technology of the film business from industry veterans.
“Honestly, you could almost call it a boot camp,” explained Chuck Bush, who has worked in the film industry for 30 years and will teach at the camp. “It’s an intense, focused, applied learning situation … We’re going to work these guys.”
Jacksonville State University’s artist in residence Jeffrey Nichols will join Bush in instructing the students. Nichols teaches several courses at JSU and also has experience as a Hollywood cinematographer. In past award seasons, Nichols was the director of photography for the Grammys, Emmys and BET Image Awards.
“He’s charming,” Pete Conroy, NEAEI chairman and the director of Longleaf Studios, said of Nichols. “Definitely a techie.”
From the beginning of the five-day camp, students will have the opportunity to handle professional film equipment in a hands-on learning environment. Bush said by the end of the week, the students will have shot and produced one or two short films.
“We’re able to put these great, cutting-edge tools in the students’ hands,” Bush said. “We have to teach them the rules so they can break the rules.”
Conroy added the camp will focus on teaching “above the line” skills, which are the creative aspects of filmmaking, like story writing, producing and directing. The camp will also teach “below the line” skills like lighting and post-production.
“We start feeding that passion (students) have of telling a story through a camera,” Bush said.
Students need more than passion to break into the film business, but thanks to social media sites like YouTube and Vimeo, Conroy says young filmmakers have unprecedented access into a global market.
“No matter where you’re coming from, everybody in the world wants to make a video,” said Conroy.
Bush echoed Conroy’s thoughts on the new accessibility of the film industry.
“Things are so easy right now. It’s really important because the cost of getting things out there is coming down,” he said. “The focus really has to be on the talent and knowing how to use what you have.”
The camp will be held at Longleaf Studios from June 17-21. The cost is $650 per student, but the NEAEI will provide 12 students with $300 scholarships. Conroy said the camp will cap enrollment at 18 students in order to provide one-on-one time with the equipment and teachers. Interested students can visit www.longleafstudios.com for more information.
“It’s going to be a blast,” Bush said. “It will absolutely make a difference in the lives of these kids.”