Introducing: the BC Arts Council’s Student Arts Contributor of the Month
This year, as part of our mission to support the arts on campus, the Arts Council blog is featuring one BC student a month who is making a significant contribution to the arts beyond the classroom. Whether it’s volunteering, raising awareness, getting published, or just making some seriously cool art, we want to acknowledge the artistic endeavors of our students both on and off campus. Katlyn Prentice, a senior in Film and Communications, is our Student Arts Contributor of the Month for October. We caught up with Katlyn in Devlin Hall’s film suite to talk about her work with the Directors’ Series, why studying film is important, and the ending of Breaking Bad…
Let’s talk about your film projects. What sort of films do you like to make? It’s difficult to portray the relationships between people, so my short films tend to focus on the solitary person and their relationship with themselves. My first project here was literally just someone walking: it’s about this boy who walks to the reservoir. The underlying narrative is that he’s gay, and he commits suicide because he isn’t able to be who he is, so he jumps in the reservoir. It’s about representing those complex things in very simple formats. My thesis project was about a boy who wanted to be a model. You don’t know exactly what’s happening in it, but you can kind of infer — it’s more about the mood rather than the narrative. I think that’s important for a short film, because people want to put so much story into five to ten minutes and that’s very hard.
Would you say that short film is a genre in its own right, rather than a mini version of the full-length film? Do you need to approach it differently? Definitely. Sometimes when people are trying to make their short films, they have this whole screenplay of 100 pages that they want to condense into 10; I mean, how do you do that? So, instead — take a section of it, take the mood of it, take the main point, and present it in a way that isn’t a standard back-and-forth film, but make it this, sort of, mood attempt.
Do you think the short is more experimental than feature-length? I kind of joke about it being one big montage …But not an ’80s themed montage… No, there were no costume changes, but it’s very much a glance at someone’s life; that’s what I’m trying to do. I think intention is really important. A lot of people just put a camera up, and, say you’re filming this conversation, you’d have a camera pointing to you, a camera pointing to me, but how do you manipulate that slightly to make it more interesting? How do you put the camera somewhere to change that basic set up? You’re literally and figuratively looking for a new angle? Yes. I don’t want it to be a straightforward movie, I always want there to be intention behind where I put the camera.
The big thing that came through with your nomination for SACM was the Directors’ Series. Could you explain to us what that’s all about? It’s a group of student filmmakers — and you don’t have to be a film major to participate — and it’s out of class, and we just come together and make short films: we write them and then we film them, and they’re screened at the MFA. We have it scheduled for December, but it might be January depending on how busy everyone is this semester. [Editor’s note: keep an eye on the Arts Council Facebook and Twitter for updates on the Directors’ Series.] So we get to break out of the confines of the classroom narrative story or documentary that we’re required to do. You can literally just go film clouds if you want to film clouds. So it’s very much, what do you want to show as a filmmaker? I’ve been the lead organizer this year, recruiting people and scheduling meetings, and booking the MFA, that kind of thing. It was almost full last year, which is great, because it feels good to be supported by the community, especially when you’re in a major that people are like “oh, that exists?”
How did you establish a relationship with the MFA? It’s a great space for screenings. Carter Long, a professor here, actually works at the MFA. The Directors’ Series started as “BC I love You,” and we turned it into the Directors’ Series because we didn’t to limit ourselves to just BC topics. So, that continued relationship with Professor Long meant that we were able to work with the MFA.
What would you say to someone who couldn’t see the value in an arts degree? And what’s important about the arts in general? I’m from Oregon originally, and I grew up in a “Government town,” where the standard is you get a degree to be an accountant, or to be a nurse; your degree = the job you’ll have. So I was very nervous about telling people I loved film, and that this is what I wanted to do, and it wasn’t until about junior year of high school that I admitted it to everyone …It’s like coming out of the closet… Exactly. I’ve loved TV shows and movies since I was a little kid, but it wasn’t until then that I decided. Coming to BC and studying film and communications, I realized that how you see the world is almost always influenced by media. Even just walking through campus, there are posters and advertisements everywhere. People can’t just ignore it — every time you listen to the radio, every time you turn on the TV, every time you view, hear, or read anything like that, you’re receiving a certain perspective through media, film, television.
Yeah, the arts help us understand the world, and understand ourselves. Your short films, and this focus on the individual — this significant capsule moment, and them trying to figure out the world — have a direct correspondence with that idea. Yeah, definitely. You read behavioral studies and realize how much our perceptions have changed through media, and you study propaganda — the arts are what made your propaganda films! And that’s the negative aspect of it, of course, but when you’re killing creativity, you’re killing what the world could be in the future. I mean, science, obviously, drives that kind of human progress, but what conveys those ideas to everyone? It helps people understand those complex things. Exactly. Like, CSI, you know, made everyone want to be a forensic scientist. So, it’s kind of like, “hey, everybody, this is what you can do in the world,” and we’re showing you through all these different artistic mediums.
I like that idea — that TV and film open up these possibilities. I remember talking to a friend and they were like “why be a film major?” and I said, well, because you can work in a hospital, or a court of law, or you can be a spy, all in film, without having the dangers of actually doing it. It’s kind of fun …It’s everything… Right. Someone made this argument, saying, “well, you don’t know what it’s like, you don’t know,” and I said, do you really think anybody knows what living in Game of Thrones is like? But people love it. I think if you’re creative you can imagine what it’s like to be someone in a situation you’ve never experienced.
Now that we’ve set the world to rights on why you should do an arts degree, there’s the all important question — what do you want to do after you graduate? The big goal is working for someone like HBO or Netflix, because I love film, but I think television now is taking the great aspects of film and making twenty-two episodes out of it. And I love that. Like, Breaking Bad just ended, right …Don’t tell us the end! I won’t. But the creators of that show knew it was going to be a very finite ending, and then you have really popular shows like Grey’s Anatomy that have been going for ten years, and it’s still a really good show, but they don’t know how to end. There’s something very lacking, in that respect. I’d love to work on stories that do have and end; I think they’re the most rewarding stories to tell — you have a long time to develop it, but it still ends like a movie would end.
You’re right — recently TV has moved into a new realm, and it’s great to see big-name movie actors going for TV roles, like Steve Buscemi in Boardwalk. You’ve got this scope to investigate and explore all the nuances of the story, and open them up in a way you can’t in a film, but then you still have that narrative arc, that ending. Yes, like, House of Cards is awesome, but I’d hate to see it go past two seasons, because I think it’d be too much. And then there’s the whole money side of things — they want these successful shows to keep going so they keep just making more — but I hope to focus in the future on: what is the story? Make it great, end it when it needs to end, and call it a day. Why can’t something just last for 20 episodes — a great 20 episodes — and that’s it? The tension between art and commerce. It’s something that will always have to be negotiated. Maybe there’s an art to that negotiation. Exactly, yeah, in trying to figure out where you find that balance.
What’s your fondest memory of BC so far? What’s the most valuable thing you’ve learned? I did look at some film schools, but what I liked about BC was that it had had this huge culture of learning about the world. And I think that’s so important — how are you supposed to go and make films about the world if you don’t know about the world? And that’s my mission, when getting an education, because I think you can teach yourself a lot of the technical stuff — you can figure out how to set up a camera, you don’t need school for that — and if you go to Emerson, for example, that’s what you learn. But you’re not going to get the worldly knowledge that’s going to help you write the next new screenplay or novel or whatever medium it is, and it’s very important to have a background to what you’re putting forth …Couldn’t agree more… So, yeah, as far as experience here goes, being a small community of film majors, we’re able to help each other and learn form each other. There isn’t that competitive edge that I think exists in film schools, because they’re all trying to be the next Spielberg or something. We just like to make films, and, hey, if we end up Spielberg that’s great. It’s more about cultivating the self rather than trying to show off all our technical skills.
Are you an arts faculty/staff member or student exec of a BC arts group? Sign up for the SACM mailing list to nominate a BC student! Email firstname.lastname@example.org with “LIST” and your role/position in the subject header.