Despite what a recent hit movie might suggest, stars are not born. Most successful film careers are the result of years of skill-building, scrambling for opportunities, and enduring plenty of rejection.
Clark University screen studies students recently learned about life in the cinema from self-taught film director Kristopher Avedisian, who offered them tips on how to make, and even star in, their own movies.
Avedisian is the director, screenwriter, and star of the 2016 film “Donald Cried.” Shot in only 15 days with a limited budget, the film won a variety of awards including the American Independents Audience Award at the American Film Institute AFI Fest, and the Special Jury Award for Excellence in Directing at the Florida Film Festival.
“The film was an expression of my own guilt from high school,” says Avedisian. “I wanted to create something that others could bring their own experiences to.”
“Donald Cried,” which is available on Netflix, tells the story of a man who returns to his hometown and reconnects with an old friend, opening the door to a shared past. The film was screened at Clark on Feb. 6.
“I really enjoyed it,” said Sam Mescon ’21. “It was funny, but also natural and raw.”
Max Marcotte ’19 added, “I particularly like the way that Kris doesn’t tell us everything about a character immediately, and we find out new things throughout the course of the film. I think that these details are given to us in a really skillful way.”
Avedisian later attended the Advanced Digital Production: Narrative Fiction course taught by screen studies lecturer Soren Sorensen. The class is a Problems of Practice course, which enables students to work side by side with faculty and industry experts on projects that build knowledge and skills beyond the classroom.
Throughout the three-hour session, the students filled all the roles required to create a film, including directing and acting (see video, below), with Avedisian advising them on best practices and recalling his own experiences behind and in front of the camera.
“I’ve acted in student films before and have had really good directing experiences, but it’s completely different to have a professional who has been directing for years tell you what to do,” says Marcotte.
The students learned skills from Avedisian that they can take with them beyond Clark.
“The biggest thing I learned is character development — finding inspiration in a character, the story that character wants to tell, and how the character is connecting with the audience,” said Krishna Naithani ’19.
Clark University’s Screen Studies Program, part of the Visual and Performing Arts Department, frequently invites filmmakers and actors to work with students. Among other visitors who have done hands-on teaching at Clark are actresses Lauren Adams (“The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”) and Academy Award-winner Melissa Leo (“The Fighter”).
“It’s really amazing when Clark brings in actors or directors,” said Danny Rothenberg ’19. “Hearing their experiences helps make students feel that we really can make a dent in the film industry.”