See student films from this semester

As the film begins, there’s a party going on downstairs, but the camera is stationed in the attic, where it’s dark and dismal. As a college girl climbs the stairs to retrieve a photo album, a ghoul in gauzy white watches her every move.

The background noise is eerily similar to a scene from Harry Potter and the spare lighting and props evoke a bit of the Twilight Zone.

For Caitlin Cowie ‘11, Linda Barsi ’11 and Katherine Hatton ‘11, all Cornell film majors, the horror flick is their first attempt at that genre, but just a continuation of their love for creating movies.

The women are all students in Marilyn Rivchin’s “Cinematography: Acting & Directing for the Camera” course in Cornell’s Department of Theater, Film and Dance. Their film, along with many others from the class, will be shown during a special screening at 7:30 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 12 at Cornell Cinema.

Students have created projects that range from dramatic scenes to music videos, comedy and horror shorts.

“The students in this class are a diverse group of energetic and collaborative filmmakers and actors,” Rivchin said. “During the semester, they have progressed from shooting scenes on simple ‘sketch’ cameras to producing stunning high-definition video, mobile camera methods and a variety of lighting techniques — all while developing original scenes and short projects. We’ve packed a lot into this semester.”

Oliver Dudman ’11, also a film major, created a music video using eight actors reacting to various things being thrown, tossed or blown into the screen – from bubbles and balloons to buckets of water. In the video, he uses a mixture of black and white and color, slow-motion filming, unusual angles, colors and lighting to create a unified story.

“I’ve always loved creating things and film is very fulfilling in that way,” Dudman said. “I love music, as well, but there’s no other media that really truly moves me like film.”

Rajendran Narayanan, a graduate student in statistics, is working on a climactic scene from his full-length feature film screenplay about a young woman and man growing up in different social classes in a country ruled by a dictator. Narayanan comes from an acting background, but wanted to learn more about the film process from the other side.

Rivchin’s class is for advanced film majors and acting students, who spend the semester combining their talents to explore genres and styles. Part of that work includes developing original scripts, which they use to hone their acting, directing and camera techniques. This semester, they also partnered with an upper-level acting class to shoot multi-camera improvisational scenes based on character descriptions and story lines, but without scripts.

Many of these film students have benefited from the Cornell in Hollywood internship program, which connects them with alumni in various filmmaking and production companies.

Hatton, who will graduate this month, said she’s headed to Los Angeles with other December film graduates to explore career options there. She feels confident after her internship experience.

“I know that I love using film to tell stories because it makes storytelling accessible to everyone,” she said.

Rivchin adds that the internship experiences often lead to job offers and connections throughout the industry.

“It gives them a footing out there,” she said. “And they’ve become so bonded as a class that several of them are planning to move there together.”


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