by Georgia Norton
I met Lovett film teacher David Silverman outside a community-center classroom, stepping out of his History of Film class where Psycho was playing for a room full of eager teens. They leaned back and settled in as the 1960’s thriller, famous for serial killer Norman Bates and the shrill staccato music from the shower scene, began behind the closed door. This class is one of the many opportunities for Lovett students to explore the world of film, whether appreciating the works of filmmaking legends or engaging in the process of making their own.
“I teach a ton of classes, but out of them all, I think Motion Picture Production is the one I wish I could do more of,” he began. Motion Picture Production is a popular one-semester course in which students learn how to film, edit, and create short films. It is also offered as an independent study if you want to dive deeper into filmmaking after your first semester.
Grace Harrison, a senior in the class, said that “I think the coolest part is just understanding what goes into making a film, which I really never understood the half of before.”
Mr. Silverman said the class is somewhat technical, out of necessity, “but it’s more about communicating a story through pictures,” he explained. “To me, as the teacher, someone who has story to tell is much more of a commodity than someone who wants to play with technology.” He looks for students who want to experiment with the film medium, and the end result could hopefully be a film that they can submit to the Lovett film festival or another around Atlanta.
On that note, Lovett’s annual film festival is another way for students to get involved with movies. The Lovett Film Fest, which usually screens 15-20 student-made films from around the globe, is a unique way to get involved if you aren’t interested in taking a class. Mr. Silverman showed me a few of this year’s best shorts, including a teen’s self-directed music video to an original song and a sinister animation entitled iRony (if you look up Radheya Jegatheva, the film’s creator, you can watch the trailer on youtube-- that alone gave me the chills.)
The films are all nothing short of awe-inspiring-- and they should be, as they are the chosen few out of the 15-20 best out of roughly 900 annual applications. “I send out an application in August,” Mr. Silverman said, “and spend the next 8 or so months making passes at those films to narrow down the list. Usually, I make the final decisions around spring break.”
Despite the competition from around the globe, there are still films from the Atlanta area and from Lovett itself that get screened. This year, the fest showed two films from Georgia outside of Lovett along with a film created in part by Lovett junior Dylan Shapiro and another by seniors Richard Nolen and Chris Ocana. Yet, Mr. Silverman still admitted he’d love to see more Lovett-based submissions in the coming years.
For those who have the vision and creativity but are less inclined by the time-consuming process of filming, editing, and recording, there’s the screenwriting class in which students learn the typical 3-Act structure of most feature films and work on outlining multiple shorts. At the end of the year, students break into groups or work as individuals, whichever they please, to hopefully create an entire screenplay of their own.
Mr. Silverman explained that screenwriting is a whole different form of writing. By only focusing on visuals and dialogue, students can tackle a story from new angles by getting rid of the extra “fluff.”
“I feel like it opens up new avenues when you stop worrying about grammar and all that. It’s a bit more athletic, a bit more like texting than MLA or whatever because it’s not literature-- it’s not meant to be literature; It’s meant to be made into a movie, to convey an idea. It’s a really cool artform,” he said.
Zoe Williams, a senior in the class, enjoys how “simple the writing is. I like it a lot more than writing a paper or something because it’s a lot less technical.” This year she wrote four screenplays, but her favorite was about suspected murderer Casey Anthony from the perspective of her two year old daughter. “I was really happy with how it came out. I had to think about the visuals more than writing in other classes, which was really cool and different.”
Mr. Silverman said he’s had students walk out of his class with their own feature film scripts, which is a marketable product. “I mean, potentially, granted that it’s a good product and it’s well written, you could take my class and then sell [your script] for half a million bucks. It’s totally doable.”
Even better, both the Motion Picture Production and Screenwriting classes get to attend field trips to Atlanta film events like the recent Atlanta Film Fest, where both classes sat in on professional-level discussions like the Psychology of Lenses, which taught about how lense choice can affect a film, and Film Financing, which gave students insight to international markets and indie-film marketing.
The final course we discussed was History of Film, which highlights how film, acting, and storytelling techniques have evolved over time and helps build an appreciation for the artform in the students less inclined to create their own. The class is important, as the films he shows have helped to define eras and influence cultures.
“It makes you much more interesting as a person,” he said. “Having seen Gone with the Wing, having seen Casablanca, it’s something you can talk about for the rest of your life. These are always going to be parts of what’s helped shape our culture and so it’s a really cool thing to, sort of have an understanding of.”
As for which of his classes is Mr. Silverman's favorite, his answer came less easily. “I mean there are moments,” he began, “in all of them. For example [Motion Picture] Production, it’s probably what I wish I had more time for. But screenwriting, I mean sometimes that’s my favorite though because when you find a story, and you love it, and it really gets going, I mean that’s exciting! Good vs Evil, I teach that class with Rev. Allen, and there are moments in there, too, where I’m like ‘This is the coolest class ever, and I mean History of Film’s great too, but...” He paused, as if he were trying to choose a favorite child, before simply saying that “Really, I love all my classes. They’re something different,” and I had to agree with him on that.