The 72 Film Fest may be over, but between now and the next festival, new up-and-coming talent is constantly in the pipeline to provide fresh blasts of energy and creativity for the annual dash-to-the-finish movie-making event. Adam Frank just might be to blame. Formerly with Channel 19 FGC TV, for the past decade, Adam Frank has been at the helm of the TV and multimedia program at FCPS’s Career & Technology Center, training new generations in broadcasting and the industry latest in multimedia technology.
I got to be a fly in the wall of his room a few months ago. What is remarkable when you walk into his CTC class is how unlike a traditional classroom it is. The enormous space that marks out the production studio, the green room and the editing rooms translate into a functioning TV broadcasting and movie-making facility. “Kids are motivated to be here,” Frank said. “They have to apply and keep good grades to stay in the program.”
As the CTC news program was wrapping up, I was struck by how his students operated with such autonomy. They were already in their respective teams, planning and consulting each other on their latest projects. “There’s authentic collaborative learning,” Frank explained, “Students are problem solving together, a real-world experience.”
The creative process is always present and lurking around the room and easy to detect when it comes to the screenwriting segment of his class.
“Anyone can make anything, but you got to have a story. If you don’t have a story, it’s not going to work. It’s not going to work unless you have the simplicity of the story.” (That’s Adam Frank on getting students to conjure up everything they ever learned in their English classes up to now to come up with a decent, non-convoluted script that people can buy into and enjoy as visual evidence of their work.)
Frank is not shy about observing some of the amazing ideas his students have come up with. One of them, an 8-minute sitcom titled “Love Shack,” was entered into competition and won a regional Emmy Award from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences in July. Not too shabby. And though only three students got recognized at the award ceremony, Frank described it as a class win. (You can see their work on youtube at http://bit.ly/29PAqZk.)
If you’ve seen the latest thriller in the theaters, chances are a green screen was used to make the impossible come to life. Getting to play with green screen technology is just one of the perks of being in Frank’s class. There are, however, ground rules before students use it. For one, they must storyboard their plan for sequencing the shots. It’s all about organizing. No storyboard, no green screen. Though once students get their hands on it, Frank muses, “It’s not so much how to use the green screen, but what to do with it once you have it.”
From start to finish, conception to filming to editing, students are using industry standard camera and audio equipment as well as editing software that is technologically up to date. To stay on top of that, Frank collaborates with what he calls the Advisory Committee, a diverse group of local industry professionals and college professors that advises his program on what students need to be learning and using in order to be in sync with current multimedia operations. Which means from time to time, ground-shifting changes in the industry force the program to update.
One example: letting go of Final Cut Pro and learning to embrace Adobe Premier Pro for video editing. It was somewhat difficult to do, Frank admits, as he had been forever using Final Cut. However the hard reality was that most professionals had already begun to swing to Adobe, and the Advisory Committee’s recommendation reflected that for this current semester. “The state was looking for students to be college and career ready. They’re looking for industry certification. … This is the first year that we’re going to offer a certification in Adobe Premiere and our program is now the first Adobe testing center in Frederick County,” Frank said.
Factoring some of what keeps Frank in the game is when a graduating student return several years later to thank him personally. “Some of them say, ‘Hey I wouldn’t be here where I am without what you did for us.’” That’s what Frank described as his ah-ha moment, that he made right career move. But try this for a thank you: On the stage at the Academy Awards last year, Chris Dold, a 2010 graduate, gave Frank a shout as he received an award for Best Student Editor from his work at North Carolina School of Arts. Shortly afterwards, Dold sent Frank a picture of him onstage getting the award from none other than J.J. Abrams, the “Star Wars VII” director.
Frank’s other graduating students have gone on to working in vastly different multimedia fields. Some have carved out work creating commercials for TV. Others have tackled higher visible productions — one in particular was working on “House of Cards,” another for the Ravens, Frank said. He’s kept in touch with former students who have managed to find work in various cities like Los Angeles. But of course he doesn’t know all the students’ post-graduation outcomes. “It’s a tough industry,” Frank admitted. “You got to have as much as you can in that portfolio, get as good a foundation as possible to have a shot.”
One thing is certain: the creative forces unleashed in his class will be at a screen near you at some point in the future. Another certainty, his students are counting down the days until the next 72 Film Fest.
Roy Ghim is a founder of Western Machines (western-machines.org), which aims to bring indie music and film to Frederick. He’s a contributor to the FNP blogs Frederick Playlist and Bucket of Rock. He also writes about soccer, having penned for the New York Times’ online section “Goals” and the England-based online soccer publication In Bed With Maradona, as well as blogging about Korean soccer at taegukwarriors.com.