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Short films with a familiar subject – Zachary’s story

A man holding a camera points the lens outward, directly towards the viewer.

In addition to our well-known 16 credit semester long programs in the US and abroad, HECUA offers one tightly focused part-time course in Minnesota: Making Media, Making Change (MMMC).

This is the second year for MMMC, offered in partnership with neighborhood access network SPNN. Students enrolled in the program explore questions of media ownership, access, and strategy, and learn from working artists, activists, videographers and social media experts. They are also given time in SPNN’s production studio to learn (or hone) the skills they need to create stories and short films of their own. This spring’s class just completed their first assignment, a one to three minute video that flowed from a prompt to create a “story of self.”

We’ll be interviewing two students from MMMC about what led them to the class, and their experience creating their own “story of self.” First up is Zachary Miller, a senior at the University of Minnesota, who is double majoring in Cultural Studies and Comparative Literature and Studies in Cinema and Media Culture.

We caught up with Zachary shortly after MMMC students presented their final story of self videos to their classmates. “I’ve been enjoying this class a lot because the projects are making me think outside of typical territory,” he reported. “This is my first time making videos that are more message based.” He told us that up until now he’s taken a more abstract, aesthetically-driven approach, and is inspired particularly by music.

Students in the class have a wide range of production experience, and Zachary is on the far end of that spectrum, with almost five years of experience. His interest in video production began early, with a two hour elective class his senior year of high school in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. “I spent a lot of time that year in an access studio like SPNN. That’s actually where I first learned to use [editing application] Premiere Pro.”

When Zachary started school at the University of Minnesota (Twin Cities) he dove into the world of new media creation, seeking out film theory and analysis classes with strong production components. “When I was a junior, for example, I took an experimental media class that focused on gifs and gif creation. That really improved my Photoshop skills.” Zachary put the skills he developed to good use – when he started the class he had 400 followers on the social blogging platform Tumblr, and by the time the class finished, he’d made it to a follow count of more than 3,000.

Zachary’s dual interest in analysis and creation of media makes him a perfect fit for the Making Media classroom. “I’m interested in both production and theory,” he says, “mixed media is particularly exciting because it springs from so many sources. It’s like a feedback loop. I’m fascinated by how we’re both consumers and producers.”

MMMC’s focus on message creation has pushed Zachary to imagine himself in another dual role: that of actor/director. “The Faces video required a lot of vulnerability as an artist to be in front of the camera. It was my first time working as an actor at all, and it required a ton of shooting, with multiple cameras. I used my GoPro in addition to the larger cameras that we’re allowed to check out from SPNN.”

All students in the MMMC class are trained in on how to use SPNN’s equipment, from cameras, to editing stations, to microphones and audio equipment. A major perk of the class for Zachary is that it offers students SPNN studio access for a full year after completion of the semester. “I’ll probably purchase a membership at SPNN when that expires – I’m looking for an apartment in downtown St. Paul so that I can be closer to that studio space.” For someone whose working philosophy is “always be making something,” that seems like a logical step.

You can watch Zachary’s Story of Self video, Faces, here:

You can find more of Zachary’s videos on his Youtube channel, here.

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