Each of Columbia's graduate schools tailors orientation to the needs of their incoming class. In order to acclimate 72 new graduate students, the film division of the School of the Arts has devised a unique program: its own film boot camp.
The students are divided into groups of seven or eight and must produce a short dramatic video within five days. This is quite a feat, requiring them to collaborate intensely. Students write a script in less than a day, assign tasks among themselves (including playing the leading roles), find locations, and shoot the scenes in an afternoon; and then edit their raw footage and files into a (hopefully) coherent finished work in the remaining time, often just a day. All of this is accomplished by unfamiliar people with unfamiliar equipment -- and for out-of-towners, often in this unfamiliar city.
But everything gets accomplished. On Friday, Sept. 2, the new graduate film class screened their first projects to each other, laughing and cringing at their own, and one another's, fresh works.
Dan Kleinman, acting dean of the School of the Arts, said, "We have been running the graduate film orientation as a boot camp for many years now and we know that it works." He said that graduate film students come to Columbia with varying levels of skill and experience with the tools of their craft, but with one common element: a burning desire to excel. They are understandably nervous on the first day, not knowing what will be expected of them. The boot camp helps them get to know one another, sets up a collaborative atmosphere, and gives the new students plenty of hands-on time with the equipment, the facilities and the city.
Kleinman observed, "It's a beautiful thing to see -- by Friday they are transformed. They have worked through their nervous energy and have something tangible to show for the first week of being here. They are relaxed and ready to begin the work at hand for coming term."