Every Wednesday evening, a group of students sit in a Scripps Hall classroom and add more assignments to their workload, though not for a class — for an organization.
Films and Stuff is an organization on campus that teaches its members the different components that go into making films. “Stuff” is an acronym for “storytelling through unique film forms.”
The group was created during Fall Semester 2016 and has about 50 members — 20 of which show up on a regular basis, Sami Edelstein, the president and a co-founder of Films and Stuff, said. Edelstein thinks the organization has become successful because of the nature of the projects and the ways in which the members are taught.
“We’re not just picking random things to give them,” Edelstein, a senior studying screenwriting and producing, said. “We’re looking at what they’ve done and seeing what needs work and then having an assignment that will help those skills.”
The group often does challenges that hone in on a specific aspect of filmmaking, Edelstein said. One challenge members participated in involved lighting. The winners of the previous project were given movies the executives of the group found in the bargain bin at Wal-Mart — such as Donnie Darko, Twilight and Austin Powers — and then formed filming groups. The groups then had to choose a scene from the movie and recreate its lighting.
“Each project we assign is used to enhance a certain skill set that we value for filmmakers,” Edelstein said. “We’ve tried to set up the club to teach them everything we wish we would have learned as freshmen and to really value storytelling over expensive equipment.”
Sam Houtchens, a freshman studying integrated media, won a script writing challenge before winter break. Her prize was to have the script produced as a film. The executives of Films and Stuff read over the scripts and gave feedback on the story and formatting, but did not give harsh criticism, she added, which would have been common in a classroom setting.
Jason Grafe, a freshman studying screenwriting and producing, likes how inclusive the group is, no matter a person’s experience. He said the organization is a great place to learn all of the positions on a film set.
“We really have become like a family in here,” Grafe, who will take over as president next academic year, said. “It makes working on set with each other much easier.”
When Films and Stuff completes a film, it often screens the movies for everyone in the group to see. Though it can be nerve-wracking, Grafe said it is nice to hear feedback from his fellow members and learn from the experience.
“There’s always something about a film, especially if you create it, that you don’t like about it,” he said. “So when you screen it, you’re kind of like ‘Eh, I wish I could’ve done that better.’ But overall, it’s really nice to see people’s reactions to what you make.”
Houtchens, who will be the vice president of the club next academic year, said she likes the educational atmosphere of the club and that she learns techniques she would not learn in the classroom.
“When you're in a classroom setting, you’re basically being talked at and you can only absorb so much,” Houtchens said. “It’s the only club that I know of where you get that creation time, and I think that’s really important. I learned everything I know from this club.”