Our theme from the last Kino was The World Upside Down, which is a bit how I feel with the training in Burundi this year. Normally, I work chronologically - teaching the basics of film theory and history, then moving into storytelling, then technical training, before taking the big step into production and post-production. The climax, of course, is always the film premieres, sometimes with an extended finale of outdoor screenings all over the city. But I’m teaching a more advanced screenwriting course this year (Level 2 out of a foreseeable 3) - and like all good act breaks, the action has now changed course. The emotional arc may be reversed, but the more relaxed grove of a classroom is already providing to be a welcomed counterpoint to the dizzying days of production.
Writing an entire feature film script is an incredibly daunting task in it’s own right. But it’s also a much more personal journey. Years can pass before enough blank pages transform into a fully fleshed-out story, with engaging characters, believable dialogue, captivating plot points and a compelling narrative. I see no value in forcing out Kino-style scripts under the pressure cooker of our two-week course, so the goal is to have a final document in-hand by Feb.15, 2013 - just over 7 months from now. The immediate plan, therefore, is simply inspire and educate, leaving the BFC’s third pillar (entertain) for a much later date.
One of the biggest panics at the recent BFC forum was how I could limit the class to only 12 people. After all, we’ve had over 100 students take our courses over the past five years. So I extended the limit to 20, which as it turns out, was more than enough. The only entry barrier was that students needed to send me a short synopsis of a story they thought would make a good feature film. That narrowed the field to 14 applicants, which meant I was actually able to open the class to qualified students who never participated in our earlier classes. I went with the ones who have pestered me the most over the past few weeks. Persistence pays off people!
The downfall, I’m realizing, is that five years since I started is a long time between courses. The majority of my most engaged students have either left the country, are working full-time, or now have kids and family responsibilities that keep them from our classes. This means only three of the students are from my first crop of cinematic crusaders. Plenty of others expressed interest, followed in the end by regret that the timing just wouldn’t work. Others have narrowed down their interests (documentaries, cameramen, editors), which I admire and hope to be able to help in future classes.
Lysandre and I have been combing through the piles of books we brought to expand upon the daily schedule I’ve worked out for the class. We’re also trying to decide on the films we’re going to show that will help illustrate the points we’re trying to make. I opened, yet again, with the South African film Tsotsi, which I use every year. And then today, I took the rather bold an audacious step of screening Roman Polanski’s Chinatown. What can I say, we have to move fast if we’re going to get anywhere in two weeks.