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Directing for the Screen

The Directing for the Screen module is for focused study and practice of narrative motion picture directing. The centerpiece of the module is an intensive two-quarter sequence in which students create a single 5-15 minute short film partially funded by the University. Filmmakers in the module express their vision through the various crafts – cinematography, editing, directing actors, art direction, sound — and collaborate with others to have the greatest command over the language of the film, asserting a strong directorial voice. Industry professionals on our advisory board and invited guest artists will advise on these short films and offer counsel on career development and professional best practices.  In addition to required core classes in directing (RTVF 397 sequence), students in the module choose to take two courses from a menu of production classes. As a capstone, they will then present a portfolio with completed short films and a written evaluation of filmmaking practice, aesthetic concerns, working methods, goals and experiences, including curricular and extracurricular work. 

Learning Objectives

  • Thorough understanding of various modes of production involved in directing for the screen. 
  • Understand the context of your own work within screen history. 
  • Acquire a mastery of at least one chosen skill among several required to produce high quality works for the screen. 
  • Attain a self awareness about the trajectory of your own body of work. 
  • Complete at least one significant work and multiple minor works for screen and/or stage as part of a portfolio. 
  • Understand the processes necessary for continuing your work in a self-directed fashion after graduation. 

Courses

Directing for the Screen Course Requirements

Co-Curriculars

Opportunities for application and practice on campus: 

Participation in student production groups. 

Opportunities for projects, practica, and internships off campus: 

Local production opportunities and internships. 

Community Building Activities: 

Block cinema, visiting filmmaker lectures, student group screenings. 

Capstone

The Capstone for this module should include (but is not restricted to) the following two components: 

  • Portfolio which must include: 
    • A reel on DVD, containing 2 or more complete short films you have directed (including class assignments, extra-curricular and off-campus work) 
    • A filmmaking resume
    • A bio 
    • A filmography listing projects as director and in any other craft (editing, cinematography, sound) central to your filmmaking practice. List awards/honors, as well as festivals/other venues where the films have played 
    • Brief synopses and brief director’s statement for all films on your reel, in addition to press kit materials for at least one of the films, which may include such items as production photos, production history, director/cast/crew interview(s), as well as press clippings about your films and any reviews of your work or festival synopses that engage in thematic or qualitative analysis.) 
  • A 10-15 page analysis of your filmmaking process while a student at NU, including a consideration of professional prospects and sustainability that must include the following: 
      • An historical and aesthetic understanding of different traditions in narrative filmmaking, both in terms of story structure and visualization. 
      • A statement of who you are as a director in the context of these traditions: what subject matter, genres, traditions and technical aspects of cinematic storytelling (performance, cinematography, editing/post-production, sound) matter most in your practice and why. 
      • An extended discussion of one film on your reel, directly addressing technical, narrative and/or performance techniques employed, with citation of key artistic influence(s), relating to the emotional, thematic and physiological experiences you worked to create in your film and why. 
      • An assessment of process: how have your finished work, working methods, collaborations, and your developing strengths, as well as your goals for future work, developed and changed in making these films? 
      • A reflection on experience gained through off-campus and extracurricular filmmaking activities (internships and jobs). 
      • A knowledge of venues, potential markets, and sources of development and production support for emerging filmmakers. 
  • These points of analysis must address/include: 
      • How you situate your work and methods historically and aesthetically 
      • What skills you’ve developed/ experiences you’ve had 
      • A list of your artistic and professionally attainable goals 

Industry Advisory Board 

Jeb Brody

Jeb Brody joined as Co-President of Production at Amblin Partners in 2017 where he oversees films produced under the company’s Amblin Entertainment and DreamWorks Pictures banners. Brody came to Amblin from Secret Hideout, where he was an Executive Producer of the most recent reimagining of “The Mummy.” Prior to that, he was the President of Production at Focus Features, where he oversaw the global production and acquisition team. While there, he was responsible for overseeing the adaptation of the massive best-seller “Fifty Shades of Grey” as well as the acquisition and production of such diverse films as the Academy Award-winning “Dallas Buyers Club,” “Anna Karenina,” and “The Place Beyond the Pines.” He began in the movie business making independent films as a founding partner at Big Beach. He was a Producer or Executive Producer on a number of films and documentaries there, including the Academy Award winning “Little Miss Sunshine,” “Sherrybaby,” and “Chop Shop.” Following this, he helped start Vendome Pictures and oversaw a diverse slate of films including “Larry Crowne” and “Source Code.” 

Steve Conrad

Steven Conrad is the writer of The Pursuit of Happyness, The Weather Man, and The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. His latest work includes Patriot, an Amazon dramatic series, which he writes, directs, and executive produces. 

 

 

Richard J. Lewis

Mr. Lewis is currently the producing director on HBO’s, WESTWORLD starring Anthony Hopkins and Ed Harris.  Before that Mr. Lewis served as director and executive producer on the drama, PERSON OF INTEREST for CBS. Mr. Lewis’ most recent feature film, BARNEY’S VERSION (Sony Pictures Classic) starring Paul Giamatti and Dustin Hoffman was honored in Toronto and Venice, and received a GOLDEN GLOBE for Paul Giamatti’s portrayal of the title character. Mr. Lewis’ first feature film, WHALE MUSIC opened both The Toronto and Vancouver International film festivals and received nine Genie nominations including Best Achievement in Direction and Best Adapted Screenplay. Mr. Lewis has directed K-9:P.I. for Universal Pictures starring James Belushi and helmed the pilots for THE CHRIS ISAAK SHOW (Showtime) and WATERFRONT (CBS). For nine seasons, Mr. Lewis produced, directed, and wrote on C.S.I.: Crime Scene Investigation for CBS. Mr. Lewis lives in Santa Monica, California with his wife, Emily and their three children. 

 

Olivia Mascheroni

Olivia has been working in the field that she loves since she was 14 years old. She is an Executive at Blumhouse Productions, a multi-media production company that specializes in micro-budget genre films and television. Some of Blumhouse’s work includes Get Out, Split, Happy Death Day and the Purge franchise as well as Oscar-winning Whiplash and highly acclaimed Normal Heart. Previously, Olivia, who has been with Blumhouse for four years, acted as the Manager of Acquisitions at Blumhouse Tilt, a division that acquires content for specialized theatrical release. She served in other roles including Chief of Staff for the company and Creative Coordinator in the Feature Film Department. She joined Blumhouse from CAA where she worked for two years in both the Television and Motion Picture Literary Departments. Completing the New York Film Academy when she was fifteen, she pursued her interest in filmmaking at Phillips Academy before receiving a Bachelor of Science in Radio / Television / Film at Northwestern University. She acts as an Advisor to students in the Senior Directing Program at Northwestern. Olivia loves to find up-and-coming voices in storytelling and looks to support them as they make their way through the industry. 

Jason Moore

Jason Moore (Director) Broadway: Fully Committed, Shrek the Musical (Outer Critics Circle and Drama Desk nominations for Best Direction), Steel Magnolias, Avenue Q (Tony nomination, Best Direction). Carnegie Hall: Jerry Springer: The Opera. Off-Broadway: Speech and Debate (Roundabout), Avenue Q (the Vineyard), Guardians (the Culture Project), The Crumple Zone and Tales of the City, with music by the Scissor Sisters (American Conservatory Theater, San Francisco). Associate directing: Les Misérables (Broadway, national tour), Ragtime (Vancouver). Writer: The Floatplane Notebooks (Charlotte Repertory Theatre). Television: “Dawson’s Creek,” “Everwood,” “One Tree Hill,” “Brothers and Sisters,” and “Trophy Wife.” Film: Pitch Perfect, Pitch Perfect 2 & 3 (Executive Producer), Sisters. Upcoming: “The Cher Show” on Broadway in 2018. Moore divides his time between New York and Los Angeles and received a B.A. in Performance Studies from Northwestern University. 

 

David Zucker

David W. Zucker is President of Television for Scott Free, and Executive Producer of the series adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s classic THE MAN IN THE HIGH CASTLE for Amazon, THE GOOD FIGHT, the widely acclaimed CBS All-Access spin-off of THE GOOD WIFE, the Amazon half-hour action-comedy starring Jean-Claude Van Damme as JEAN-CLAUDE VAN JOHNSON, the CBS All-Access drama, the forthcoming AMC psychological thriller THE TERROR, STRANGE ANGEL, exploring the intersection of rocketry and the occult, and THE PASSAGE, based on Justin Cronin’s NY Times best-selling fantasy book trilogy for Fox. During his tenure, Scott Free has produced a steady stream of highly acclaimed programs including the Emmy and Golden Globe-nominated, Peabody-winning drama, THE GOOD WIFE (seven seasons), crime drama NUMB3RS (six seasons) and the summer satire BRAINDEAD on CBS, plus the esteemed Civil War medical drama MERCY STREET on PBS. Notable long form programs include the National Geographic channel series of KILLING telefilms (which include REAGAN, JESUS, and KENNEDY, the latter both Emmy-nominated, plus the docudrama KILLING LINCOLN), KLONDIKE for Discovery, the Emmy and Golden Globe-nominated THE PILLARS OF THE EARTH for Starz, WORLD WITHOUT END for Reelz, Emmy-nominated INTO THE STORM for HBO, Emmy-nominated THE ANDROMEDA STRAIN and COMA for A&E, the Golden Globe-nominated THE COMPANY at TNT and a feature-length digital series for X-Box/Microsoft, HALO: NIGHTFALL. Previously, Zucker worked as a Story Editor on the CBS series, JUDGING AMY, wrote pilot scripts for CBS and ABC, as well as various stage plays. 

 

Sponsoring Department: Radio/Television/Film 

Module Coordinator (main student contact): Clayton Brown 

Committee of Instruction: Spencer Parsons, Kyle Henry, Clayton Brown, Mimi White 

Module Advisor: Kalisha Cornett 

How to Enroll 

This module is open to RTVF majors. 

In the junior year, students apply for admission, which will accept 12 students, who will then take the core sequence of RTVF 397-1 (fall) and 397-2 (winter) in their senior year. To apply, students are required to have already completed one elective production course from the menu of 4 options. Students will present a proposal for a short film to be completed in the RTVF 397 sequence and a sample of past work. 

To apply contact Kalisha Cornett, module advisor, kalisha.cornett@northwestern.edu. 

Module Timeline: 

Students will be emailed in the winter quarter of junior year with instructions for applying to the module. Applications will be due in mid-March. The core course sequence will be completed in fall and winter of the student’s senior year, and the capstone must be submitted for evaluation by the fifth week of spring quarter and completed by the eighth week. Because of this timing, students will only have one opportunity to complete and submit the capstone.