Wednesday, November 28, 2007

He built WHAT?

Some of us have been spending some pretty crazy hours at the mansion lately. Last night, I arrived around back in around 10:30 pm and headed upstairs to the East Parlor, where my office is located. As I approached, I heard power tools and smelled sawdust; for a couple of terrifying moments, I thought that one of my students had finally snapped, and s/he was taking out pent-up frustrations on the lovely hardwood floors or the VBC furniture. All I could think was, "Donna (our office manager) is going to kill me!"

Rounding the corner, I found that the ever-resourceful Blake was in the process of building a teleprompter. Yes, folks. Building. A teleprompter. A few days ago the TCOM kids worked up this incredibly brilliant scheme to make it look like folks were speaking directly into the camera while they read the text of Title IX; they inverted the text (backwards) on a laptop screen, which they then set up beneath the camera, and they used a mirror over the laptop (and under the camera) to reflect the words back to the subject being filmed. Apparently, that wasn't enough for Blake, who returned from Menards armed with enough materials to actually construct a base and frame to hold the laptop and the mirror.

Forty minutes later, Blake was calmly vacuuming up sawdust and the new apparatus was ready for shooting the next day. My point is simply this: that one of the best things about this semester for me is watching the students identify what they need, think through the problem, and then find ways to CREATE solutions. It's not unlike watching Dan and Adam match musical themes to bits of film, or watching the narrative team piece together a story out of a million jigsaw pieces of footage we have shot, or watching the students brainstorm ways to visualize an abstract concept that we want to convey in the film. I was just surprised that this time the problem-solving was so, well, tangible.

Given our struggles with finding an HD projector for the gala screening, I am half-convinced that I will come in tomorrow night and find Blake building one of those, too. . .


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