Skip to Main Content
Skidmore College
MDOCs title

Student Summer Documentary Experiences

September 15, 2017

Mary Brimmer: Working with Saratoga's Young Filmmakers

September 5, 2017


Mary Brimmer, '19Mary Brimmer '19 joined MDOCS for the Storytellers' Institute in June, pursing a personal documentary film of her own. After the Institute she volunteered for local Saratoga filmmaker Jon Dorflinger at the Saratoga Film Academy.

Eager to learn more about filmmaking, I volunteered at the Saratoga Film Academy and watched the cinematic visions of young filmmakers become realities. The majority of my time was spent assisting two classes, "Guerilla Filmmaking" and "Directing."

During the first week, I worked with and observed eight-grade students in the "Guerilla Filmmaking" course as they wrote screenplays, developed shot lists and production plans, cast local actors and produced and edited their short, silent films. They learned the equipment (cameras, tripods, shoulder rigs, glide-cams as well as audio and lighting kits), and I developed my knowledge alongside them. On the days of production, the students worked as a crew, each assigned to the role of director, assistant director, sound artist or cinematographer. In doing so, they learned the value of organization and planning in order to provide others with a clear image of their ideas.

At the week’s end, the screening of their films exemplified the discovery and expression of their voice and vision as they proudly shared their work with their family, friends and fellow classmates. I felt myself itching to start producing my own ideas, but continued to observe and ask questions of founder Jon Dorflinger, the students, fellow interns and volunteers. I was saddened by how quickly the week and students came and went, but was curious about seeing the high school students’ class, already feeling inspired and enlightened by what young filmmakers can create.

During my time volunteering for the directing class, five high school students worked with their cinematographers to create shot lists and production plans, cast actors for their films and learned valuable directing skills prior to filming. By acting out different scenes with one another, each student was able to test out their directing skills and learn the importance of creating a clear vision for their actors. By questioning the motivation, intent and emotion behind the character’s behavior, objective and state of mind, the director could easily communicate the role to their actor in conversation and via director’s notes.

As each of the five students produced their film on a designated day, these skills were put to the test for their own films. Collaborating with their assigned cinematographer and a film crew of fellow classmates, the students filmed at the location of their choosing and worked through their shot lists. I could feel myself bubbly with their excitement, taking in their energy, ambitiousness and creativity. As they now progress to post-production, I look forward to seeing their work come to life on screen and embark on the production of my own short films while abroad in Italy.

Grateful for the experiences, connections and lessons of these few weeks, I hope to come back to the academy when I return and once again grow happily beside those with a similar passion for film.

—Mary Brimmer '19