Jackson Hole is now the home of the International Film Academy (IFA), a school on a mission to teach professional filmmaking. The valley’s relatively isolated geography makes it an improbable location for such an institution, but its unparalleled natural beauty and proximity to two national parks provide visual inspiration and myriad topics.
Recently the Journeys School campus served as base camp for the IFA’s week-long pilot course. Film director Danny Ledonne, aided by Jackson media expert and instructor Carl Shuptrine, led the class. Ledonne is a third-year MFA candidate at Washington D.C.’s American University. The week’s course, geared for adults, included former JH Film Institute staff, Teton County Library employees, college students and broadcast media grads looking to improve skills. Students got hands-on experience with cool, high-end Panasonic P2 tapeless HD cameras and Final Cut Pro editing systems. With only a week to plan, shoot and edit, the class began shooting on Day 2, spending the first day considering possible topics, viewing documentary film clips and discussing story lines and emerging trends.
What is the definition of a documentary? Ledonne says that as long as a film’s topic is non-fictional, it’s a documentary. “There are as many possibilities for documentary topics as there are topics in a library’s non-fiction section. Biographies, auto-bios, opinions, history, nature, it’s endless.”
For instance, March of the Penguins is more about people than it is about penguins,” notes Ledonne. “The film’s nuzzling penguins suggest they’re romancing each other. In fact, they might just be cold.”
The class discussed Blue Vinyl, a story told by a daughter trying to convince her parents not to vinyl-side their home, a large issue observed as personal experience. Michael Moore, on the other hand, is a great example of an essay-style filmmaker, with one over-arching voice: his own. By contrast, director Alex Gibney’s Taxi to the Dark Side portrays the life of an Afghanistan taxi driver we know almost nothing about. But the film tells the story of his fate at the hands of U.S. government policies.
Jackson’s IFA class filmed and edited three short films: Paragliding the Tetons, Jackson Hole Rodeo Princesses and Yurt Simplicity, films touching upon three Jackson Hole lifestyle anchors: adrenaline pumping adventure, historic cowboy culture and sustainable lifestyle. The films artfully encapsulate each topic; all have potential for extensive story lines. And, the short films spotlight places and people many Jackson Hole residents experience less often than we like to admit. Rodeo is alive, thriving–and women aren’t rodeo window dressing; they’re competitors and expert riders. Yurt life appears serene, beautiful and communal. Paragliding presents as a bit terrifying, but in the hands of experts leaping off Rendezvous Mountain, paragliding is an “uplifting,” mystical experience.
Voice and perspective affect story tone. Point of view is the point of a documentary. Considering a film’s plot and direction, a filmmaker intuits audience.
Danny Ledonne emphasizes knowledge of material. “Ask yourself large questions about your topic’s appeal. What are the big unknowns? Who are you speaking to? What’s compelling? Above all, know your story.”
For information, contact the Film Academy of Jackson Hole via [email protected] or phone 914.774.1323.
The University of Wyoming Art Museum has posted the date for its next 20:20 event: Wednesday, September 23, 7-9 pm, at Cheyenne’s Little America. This event is open to all Wyoming artists, arts organizations and educators. 20:20 is held in conjunction with the Wyoming Arts Council’s Arts Summit.
The program provides a super speedy platform for arts practitioners to alert the state to their own projects and ideas. Presenters use Powerpoint, showing images for 20 seconds. As the University notes, this is a great networking opportunity. Sign up is first come, first serve and is open to all writers and performing artists as well as those in the visual arts.
Deadline for submissions is Wednesday, September 9. For more information or to sign up, please contact Art Museum Assistant Curator Rachel Miller at 307-766-6621 or [email protected].
(The following is reproduced from Cayuse’s release! Time is/was of the essence.)
The show will be on view until August 15th.