Like many colleges and universities, Chapman University and Dodge College take a very welcome, two-week long break for the winter holidays following the end of classes and exams in December every year. By this time, students have already registered and class schedules mostly finalized for the Spring semester, starting the first week in February.
However, sandwiched between these two full-length semesters, falls "Interterm" a one-month long break from the routine of classes and California sunshine. Lasting from the first week of January until classes begin again in February, Interterm provides an excellent chance for students and faculty to relax and reflect on the previous semester, with an eye to the upcoming Spring semester, as graduation looms on the horizon for some.
Students are encouraged to use the time to participate in one of numerous for-credit programs offered here at the school, away from California on one of our study abroad or cultural exchange programs, to get some real-world experience in a brief internship, to structure the time themselves in a self-designed, school-sanctioned program, or simply to enjoy the time off and recharge their creativity.
Here are some of the exciting programs students are engaged in already:
- The Sundance Class: Every year, a group of about 20 students are hand-picked by our Film Festival Coordinator, Derek Horne, to travel deep into the heart of Utah to experience the American film festival with the best reputation for discovering and making the careers of film students and indie filmmakers alike. Students are given backstage access to certain events, allowed to meet many influential filmmakers and industry executives, and – of course – the opportunity to screen many of the festival's larger titles. This year, we'll also have several student films from current and recent grads playing in the short film portion of the festival.
- Kilimanjaro Cross-Cultural Documentary course: For the past few summers, Professor Jeff Swimmer has lead a brief study abroad program for Dodge College students in Africa, titled "Destination: Africa." The course allows a small handful of interested students to engage in hands-on, no-holds-barred guerilla filmmaking, as the students are immersed in the culture, food, customs, and daily life of different communities across Africa. Offered exclusively to TBJ students, specifically those interested in the documentary format, this course teaches the practical principles of producing a short film with only weeks, in some cases only days, to plan, shoot, and edit their footage. Living with and among their subjects, students are charged with telling a story about people and places whose issues they have likely never confronted directly, ever aware of the difficulty – and necessity – of maintaining a professional distance from often troubling subjects that literally cannot be avoided. This semester's program takes students to the base of Kilimanjaro, the 4th tallest mountain in the world, where they will scale as much of the mountain as possible, documenting the journey through individual short films designed and executed individually. Variety recently caught wind of the expedition, and you can see some of the work of Professor Swimmer's classes here. We can't wait to see what exciting footage they return with!
- Location Filmmaking: Student teams will be filming their short projects here on campus this semester, as part of our hands-on "Location Filmmaking" course. After a months-long review process with heavy competition, student spec scripts are chosen from a pool of candidates, and teams of key creatives (producer, director, designers, etc) form just for the semester to plan, stage, film, and edit their projects in a unique, focused, four-week period. As opposed to designing sets from scratch and filming on one of our massive sound stages, the location filmmaking class encourages students to explore the world around them, choosing real-world locations as the background for their films. This kind of work engenders a very different kind of planning and execution, where real-world issues pop up at every shoot, and creative problem solving is needed to transform a space you have little control over into a working movie set. This semester, a team will be shooting on the RED camera ("A Good Man"), the TV crew will produce an episode-length pilot, and, for the first time, we'll have 3-D cameras and 3D editing equipment in use ("The Gift of the Maggie").
This is just a quick sample of some of the more prominent classes we have connected to Dodge this short semester. I'll be following up with each of these programs, and many more, as the month continues. I hope to bring you some behind-the-scenes images from the productions, good news from the Sundance trip, and hopefully some updates from the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro!