Three short weeks filled with lifelong memories! Here, Jake MacDonald shares about his SVA 2018 Pre-College experience.
Sweat pours down your face as you enter the room. A long white table with chairs strewn about in front of you. Occupying those chairs are people you know absolutely nothing about and vice-versa. You make your way to an empty seat and awkwardly settle into the unnerving atmosphere. Your legs shake. Eyes dart from face to face, stranger to stranger. Not long after, the door swings open. An older man enters and scans the room. All eyes are on him. He presents you with a warm smile. “Hello!” he says. “My name is Andre Degas, welcome to your first day of SVA Pre-College.”
Okay, so maybe I dramatized my first day just a little bit. I’m a writer, so its a force of habit. I’d be lying though if I claimed that nothing in the previous paragraph was true. I was nervous and I didn’t know anybody. In fact, I didn’t know anything that would happen at this art school in New York. All I was sure of was that after three weeks I would walk out with a film I had contributed to in some way. However, by the end of it, I gained so much more.
Over the course of those three weeks, I got to work with many talented and creative people. The members of the filmmaking group were diverse in their backgrounds, personalities, interests, and ideas. When it came time to develop my script, which was selected to become a legitimate movie, I had an amazing crew to work with: Tomás, Leah, and Kyle. All three of them cared about the project just as much as I did. We did everything we could to make the best film possible. I’ll never forget the time I was writing lines of dialogue for an early draft and I looked up to see that Tomás was already working on storyboards. Then I looked to my side and saw Leah taking notes on script revisions. These people were no longer strangers, but dedicated colleagues and friends. They didn’t blindly follow me either. They never hesitated to bring up any edits or changes that they felt would better the film. Was I somewhat stubborn towards any kind of alteration? Yes. But when I took their notes into account, it made the script better by tenfold.
Several drafts and revisions later, the script was complete. It was time to move on to production. If I’m being honest, this part felt like complete and utter chaos, but I am grateful to have been a part of that mayhem. Why? The film industry can be a nightmare too. Think about it. If you take away all the glamor and spectacle, you have a lot of stress, drastic script changes, technical problems, and everyone’s favorite: time management. That was the name of the game, and time was rarely on our side. We had mere hours to film several minutes (which doesn’t sound hard, but in the world of film that’s no easy feat). The strategy on set became: “We can’t do that? Okay then. How can we do this instead?”
So, with those three weeks come and gone, what do I think about the SVA Pre-College program? It gave me exactly what I needed: a scaled-down version of film-college. The program put me in a creative environment which allowed me to tell a story, collaborate with others and get that story from script to screen. There was never a point in the process where I felt like an adult was holding my hand. If there were any shots to call, they were made by us. It wasn’t a summer camp. We were working on an actual motion picture. It made me feel confident in dealing with all stages of the creative process, both in my triumphs and my mistakes. Now that I have a better understanding of what it takes to make a film, and not just talk about it, I’m even more driven to make bigger and better things.
When our movie was displayed on a fifty-foot screen at the SVA Theatre, it was something we had earned. It was an incredible feeling; getting to see all the film’s parts come together into one cohesive whole. What was originally just an idea floating around in my head was now visibly projected onto a big screen. I think that’s a feeling that never gets old. In a way, this program hasn’t ended. As I sit here writing this article, I have a group chat with all my filmmaking peers. No longer strangers, continuing to build the relationships we started at that art school in New York.