Visiting a Shoot on Set with Advanced Television and Film Class

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Anne Whitehead

(This is the second part of a series. Read part one here.)

The first thing I learned about filmmaking while visiting Sheridan College’s Advanced Television and Film (ATVF) 3×3 shoot is that film sets can be cold. Especially in Canada, in the winter. That is because the Cinespace film studio now being used by ATVF students in Toronto’s east end is massive (100,000 sq. ft.), and therefore expensive to heat.

Today I tagged along with four busloads of students from our Media Fundamentals program on a visit to the set, where ATVF students were filming The Dentist. Upon entering the set, all visitors were asked to turn off their cellphones, and we then gathered around a specially installed rear screen showing the live camera view while the director called out “all quiet on set… and, action!”

In the two hours I was on set, I saw only one (the final) scene being shot. It opened with two young male ACTRA actors peering nervously into the trunk of a car, before a woman leaps out and accuses the men of trying to kill her with faulty dentistry. She lunges toward them with a paddle in her hand, as the camera swings back on a dolly to capture her flight through the set. Subdued by the woman’s anger, the men apologize and plead for their lives. The scene ends with one guilty man humourously whimpering over his lost marshmallows. The director calls “cut,” and then everybody sets up back at the beginning to take it again. And again. And again.

Between each take, there is a palpable movement among the crew as sound, lighting, props, camera, actors, everything is reset. Between takes is when the director explains to cast and crew exactly what she wants this time, while students on the sound board, camera and props have a chance to check in with Sheridan faculty and technologists on set to make sure they are doing everything just right.

Between takes is also when I have a chance to ask questions. Not wanting to distract students who are focused on the shoot, I ask a technologist for the nickel tour around Cinespace. I am shown the Greenroom, where actors hang out, which is not actually green. I lean against what looks like a very sturdy cement block, only to trip over myself as it slides out from under me, not cement but foam. I admire the details of the auto shop set, which was designed by students under the supervision of Production Design teacher Greg Chown.

You can watch a video tour of this year’s set here.

Since my visit to the Cinespace studio, the set has been “struck” and Sheridan’s Oakville campus Avid editing suites are humming with activity. Eight Producer, director and editor teams will complete picture lock in an intense three-day period, and then transfer picture into the audio mixing suites. Final sound elements will then be completed in January.

This condensed filmmaking process follows seven weeks of master classes, in which ATVF students specialize in a particular role, such as director, producer or camera operator. These 8 films will be unveiled to the public at TIFF’s Bell Lighbox sometime in the summer of 2014 as part of the graduating class’s screening and awards show (watch this space).

To learn more about Sheridan’s ATVF program, click here.

To learn more about our Media Fundamentals program, click here.

Sheridan College is offering a new Bachelor’s degree in Film and Television, opening in the fall term, 2014. To learn more about that program, click here.

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