Hollywood filmmakers step in to teach young, aspiring artists at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design
Hollywood filmmaker Bill Rude shouts orders out of a megaphone to high school students filming local band Idle Hands' new music video as part of a two-week summer course at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design (MCAD), 2501 Stevens Ave. S. on a mid-July day.
Rude is a nationally known director, producer, graphic designer and MCAD alum, and a longtime leader in the school's music and media Summer Expression Session (SES).
SES provides hands-on production experience and a taste of art-school life for teens ranging from 15-18 years old. Additionally, students receive college credit.
The first of the two sessions focuses on animation. In the second session, students take drawing, studio, liberal arts and a class in their respective “major:” digital photography, music video, interactive design, sound recording or documentary video.
Instructors include Ari Fishman, former producer of Comedy Central's “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” and Napoleon Dynamite producers Sean Covel and Chris “Doc” Wyatt.
Their mission is to cultivate mature filmmakers and to demonstrate that high-quality films can be produced on low budgets, a message they also delivered in a question-and-answer session at the Walker Art Center, 1750 Hennepin Ave. S., in late July.
Rude said SES students learn advanced techniques by working with professionals. “The most important thing to me is that they get real-world experience. We're trying to raise the bar, whatever their experience is,” he said. “The point is to creatively engage them.”
Each year, students focus their energies on a band, producing a video and a behind-the-scenes documentary, as well as designing promotional materials including CDs, DVDs, posters and websites. This summer, MCAD staffers handpicked Idle Hands and their song “Sunshine on the Tenements.”
Like typical college students, SES students pulled all-nighters, devoured pizza at midnight, dozed on lobby couches and hung out in the dorms.
Even though SES ended July 23, their work is being tweaked. Regular MCAD students are now packaging the music video and documentary for submission to music festivals and possible inclusion on Al Gore's network, Current TV.
The Bill Rude fan club
Rude has dark, slicked-back hair with razor-sharp sideburns. During a filming break, he whipped out a comb to straighten some stray hairs and maintain his $200 hairdo.
He wears a big, silver belt buckle that has his named carved into it in uppercase letters. A gag gift from a friend, it triggered a whole line of accessories including Rude brand T-shirts (which Covel sported on the set) and buttons available from the Bill Rude fan club at www.billrude.net.
Proceeds from the fan club benefit SES. Rude even has a clause in his freelance contracts, requiring clients to purchase Rude paraphernalia (although occasionally he can be found giving away Rude buttons stashed in his pocket).
For him, returning to MCAD to direct the music video is a way to give back. Rude, who mainly designs motion graphics and is known for his work on recent films “Unrest,” “Zombie Prom” and “Under the Hood,” has worked for MTV and been featured in Wired magazine. He was also City Pages' first webmaster and lived in Minneapolis for five years.
On the set, some described him as an old-time auteur, minus the classic Panama hat and director's chair.
When asked by eager students if he'd come back to teach next year, he said, “I always say this is my last time, but I always come back.”
Rude is also responsible for enlisting the help of such reputable talent as Fishman, Covel and Wyatt, among many others.
SES Administrator Frenchy Lunning praised Rude's efforts to further the program. “He has a charismatic personality, but he's also a very responsible and committed instructor and person. I can't say enough about Bill Rude.”
She said she's thankful for his contributions. “He knows how to be wacky, treats everyone with utmost respect and is a wonderful workmate.”
Setting the scene
Students manned cameras and toted equipment from 10 a.m.-10 p.m. on a sweltering summer day.
About 120 people scrambled around eight major stations. Although there was a big sign reading “Filming in progress” near the park entrance, nothing was cordoned off. Production crew wore lanyards flopping around their necks. Teams of videographers sped by in carts for motion shots while others arranged props at various stations.
In the video, band members pretend to be typical folks spending a typical day in the park as a young couple promenades by. As the couple strolled arm-in-arm around the park, they moved slowly, exaggerating their strides. That way the video's editors could speed up the action around them later, making everyone but the couple appears to be moving hyperfast.
“[The couple is] cherishing these moments while everything around them is speeding past them,” said Fishman, who led the documentary team.
In one vignette, the band portrays a family barbecuing at the park. Later, they're staged on the playground and play plastic toy instruments. They morph into Frisbee players and jump with children in a bouncy castle; lead singer and guitarist Ciaran Daly crooned as an old-fashioned ice cream man dressed in all white and a cap passed by (while beads of sweat dripped down his face).
A sense of ownership
The video closes with an open-air concert against the backdrop of the sunset. SES Students danced, leapt and ran in a circle around during the concert, as if they were in a mosh pit.
Daly was impressed. “This is being run by pros for no money. We're being spoiled rotten,” said Daly.
The filming went mostly according to schedule, which drew a sigh of relief from SES staffers. Rude said SES is usually subject to three “signs” or accidents: power outage, hospital run and thunderstorm warning. But this year, none of those things happened.
Camera operator Tess Stuebe, who recently graduated from high school in Michigan, plans to attend MCAD this fall. She enjoyed the program because “they treat you like adults and make you responsible for your work. After this, I doubt I will ever look at film the same way again.”
Covel said SES was also rewarding for staff members. “Something amazing happened. There was this incredible pride of ownership [on behalf of the students],” he said. “Everyone's waiting for that moment.”
Anna Pratt can be reached at email@example.com and 436-4391.