The Filmmaking program at Champlain is just one of dozens of majors with a strong emphasis on doing, beginning in their first semester, as they work on short films. Early exposure to the industry helps students select at least one area to concentrate on as they progress through their Filmmaking: Cinematography, Directing, Editing, Motion Graphics, Producing, Screenwriting, and/or Sonic Arts. Their Senior Capstone project then presents an opportunity to combine and apply their accumulated knowledge into one place, while addressing meaningful topics and ideas of their choosing. Here are a few interesting projects from this year’s cohort of students:

Samantha Simpson ’23, Concentrations in Editing & Motion Graphics:

Sam Simpson is the director, co-writer, illustrator, and animator of the short film Nothing Tastes Like Skinny Feels. This animated film follows the story of a middle schooler spending Valentine’s Day struggling to understand her own perception of body image and others’ perceptions. Simpson hopes this project brings awareness of body dysmorphia to a younger audience.

“Body dysmorphia and everything else that tends to accompany it, such as eating disorders, are becoming increasingly larger problems in modern society,” Simpson said. “The only way to abolish the stigma around this topic is to begin talking about it. I hope this film is able to help play a small role in doing just that.”

Post-graduation, Simpson is looking forward to pursuing post-production visual editing. “Being able to have the experience of not only directing but animating my own film is an incredible stepping stone and talking point to talk about and share with future employers,” Simpson said.

Premiere Pro dashboard editing an animation. Animation includes three people walking down the hallway.
Behind the scenes of Sam Simpson’s animated short film “Nothing Tastes Like Skinny Feels.”

The Filmmaking Capstone project is unique compared to other Champlain College majors in that it takes a team-based, all-hands-on-deck approach to creating individual films. Typically, Simpson tends to take on the role of editor, but she decided to take a step back for this film.

“With my film, as the animator and director, I knew I could not have the unbiased view I like when it comes to editing. Therefore, I now get the opportunity to work with an editor and sound designer in a capacity I never thought I would get the chance to,” Simpson said.

Ross Cooper ‘23, Concentration in Cinematography:

Ross Cooper is the writer, director, and director of photography for his Capstone film, Bouncer. This film is about a novice bouncer who develops an obsession with a killer. This killer is rumored to prowl the exact street where the bouncer works. Cooper decided on this topic to address the concept of obsession in a dark and mysterious drama. 

Three actors surrounding a bar; two patrons, one bartender. A camera is pointed at them.
On the set of Ross Cooper’s short film.

“I would hope that my film is entertaining at the very least, and at the most, shows people something about obsession and its consequences,” Cooper said. “Maybe those who find themselves becoming overly obsessed about something will relate to the main character and see ways to help themselves.”

For Cooper, this project was inspired by classic film noir and character study movies, and reflects what he’s learned about storytelling, cinematography, and production. He was specifically interested in incorporating lighting and atmosphere to visually represent his interest in film noir and character study.

Cooper feels this project has given him more experience to use for pursuing work after college. “The experience itself will continue to aid me as something I can look back to and learn from. It’s helped me to realize my strengths, weaknesses, and what kind of things excite me the most about the medium,” Cooper said.

Eric Banks ‘23, Concentrations in Screenwriting & Directing:

Homeward Drift, Eric Banks’ Capstone project, is about a young woman using nostalgia as a means to avoid moving forward after college. Banks is the writer and director of the film.

“The idea came from my own insecurities about what life will look like after I graduate from Champlain, and how much the friendships I value will change as we grow older,” Banks said. “I’m hoping my film can help show people that change can be positive, and the new possibilities of entering the real world are more exciting than scary.”

Among all the films Banks directed while at Champlain, he felt most confident on this set. From a screenwriting standpoint, he said he’s gained valuable experience related to structure and pacing throughout his studies.

Despite this confidence, the collaborative nature of filmmaking can also cause miscommunication and difficulty. Banks said this was a challenge he faced during production.

“With so many crew members to keep track of, maintaining constant communication was admittedly difficult. Making sure every crew member feels heard both creatively and professionally is extremely important in terms of crafting both a quality product and healthy work environment,” Banks said.

Avery Desrosiers ’23 fixing lighting on the set of Eric Banks’ short film, “Homeward Bound.”

Filmmaking students develop films throughout their four years at Champlain, in large part to Champlain’s Upside-Down Curriculum. This makes it easy to compare their Capstone projects to what they created during their first year in college.

“I believe that a Capstone project is a chance for a student to show everything they’ve learned while in school. It’s night and day when you compare a freshman project to a Capstone,” Banks said. “The greatest skill any filmmaker can have is simply moving forward without letting the stress bog you down. That’s a lesson I will take with me for the rest of my life.”

Interested in learning more about our Filmmaking major? Visit our website.

Haley Seymour
Class of 2023
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