Jay Craven

MA Goddard College. Writer/director/producer: High Water (w/Greg Germann, Jane MacFie); Where the Rivers Flow North (w/Rip Torn, Tantoo Cardinal, Michael J. Fox); A Stranger in the Kingdom (w/ Ernie Hudson, Martin Sheen, David Lansbury); In Jest (w/Bill Raymond, Tantoo Cardinal, Rusty DeWees); Windy Acres (w/ Ariel Kiley, Bill Raymond, Seana Kofoed, Rusty DeWees); Disappearances (w/ Kris Kristofferson, Gary Famer, Charlie McDermott, Genevieve Bujold); Northern Borders (w/ Bruce Dern, Genevieve Bujold, Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick, Jessica Hecht); Peter and John (w/ Jacqueline Bisset, Christian Coulson, Diane Guerrero); Wetware (w/ Jerry O’Connell, Cameron Scoggins, Morgan Wolk). Writer/director: The Year That Trembled (w/ Jonathan Brandis, Marin Hinkle, Fred Willard, Martin Mull). Documentaries include After the Fog, Dawn of the People, Gayleen, and Approaching the Elephant (producer). Festivals and special screenings include: Sundance, SXSW, AFI Fest, Vienna, Vancouver, Avignon, Havana, Lincoln Center, Smithsonian, Harvard Film Archives, Cinematheque Francaise, Constitutional Court of Johannesburg, and Cinemateca Nacional de Venezuela. Awards and recognition: Producers Guild of America NOVA Award; Gotham Award nomination; two National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) film production grants; finalist, Critics Week, Cannes Film Festival; selection to the Sundance Collection at UCLA; NEA’s American Masterpieces Program; American Film Institute’s initial “AFI: Project 20/20 International Cultural Exchange.” Founding director and producer of the Movies From Marlboro film-intensive program, where 24 professionals mentor and collaborate with 32 students from a dozen colleges, including Sarah Lawrence. SLC, 2017–

Undergraduate Courses 2017-2018

Filmmaking and Moving Image Arts

Web Series

Intermediate , Seminar—Spring

Students should have some previous experience in acting, screenwriting, and/or some aspect of film production.

The rise of the Internet has given birth to new media forms—including the Web series, with its elastic structure, character-driven original stories, short episodes, cultural specificity, and emphasis on writing and performance. In this class, students will start from scratch to develop, write, and produce several original Web series during the course of the semester. Students will work in all positions, as producers, writers, directors, actors, editors, cinematographers, sound recordists, and more. We’ll use some class time to actually shoot episodes, with additional work expected outside of class. As part of conferences, we’ll hold weekly group working dialogues and critique sessions. We’ll also hold screenings and discussion of sample material to better understand the world of the Web series. Students can outline and present their own character and story ideas during pitch sessions. From there, we'll advance to episode writing, casting, rehearsals, pre-production, production, and post-production. In class, we’ll also develop and interpret the text for every aspect of each episode and prepare it for production. We’ll conduct close scene analysis, interpretation, and breakdown. We’ll track character intentions and development for writers and actors and discuss best practices to plan and communicate both performance strategies and visual ideas for the look of each episode. We’ll study camera styles and movement in order to decide how best to visually realize your scripts through shot selection. We’ll also consider blocking, design, and other elements that create your film’s mise en scene. During group sessions, we’ll also critique each finished episode and, where appropriate, plan to re-shoot certain scenes based on input. The Web series is a good format for young filmmakers, writers, and actors to show what you can do—and get on screen. As in any kind of narrative filmmaking, the challenge will be to develop a fresh story and then animate and enlarge the text through imaginative performance, cinematography, design, sound, and editing. We imagine two production teams that will each produce two 20-minute series during the semester. We currently plan to shoot episodes in and around the DeCarlo Performing Arts Center. Teams may switch members from time to time to maximize opportunities for fresh collaboration. Outcomes will vary, with campus screenings and, possibly, online postings and entry into festivals.

Faculty

The Art of Adaptation: Screenplays and Films Developed From Other Forms of Literature

Intermediate , Seminar—Spring

Though not required, previous experience in creative writing, literature study, screenwriting, acting, cinema studies, and/or film production is desirable.

At the peak of his career, the great Japanese director Akira Kurosawa insisted on writing scripts with at least two other people. He talked about the importance of “being in conversation” with more than just his characters and himself. “I began writing scripts with two other people around 1940,” Kurosawa wrote. “Up until then, I wrote alone and found that I had no difficulties. But in writing alone, there is a danger that your interpretation of another human being will suffer from one-sidedness. If you write with two other people about that human being, you get at least three different viewpoints on him, and you can discuss the points on which you disagree. Also, the director has a natural tendency to nudge the hero and the plot along into a pattern that is the easiest one for him to direct. By writing with two other people, you can avoid this danger also.” Kurosawa also worked extensively with adaptations from literature and plays—to again enlarge the conversation to include the writer of the original material, whose own full thinking was on display in the original work. Kurosawa was not afraid of a fertile and far-reaching discussion of characters and story—he welcomed it. This class will launch an intensive conversation that explores “different viewpoints” on characters and stories that are adapted from literature to film. Adaptations provide screenwriters and filmmakers with an advanced starting point. The conversation is already going on when filmmakers enter. Part of our job is to fully ingest the novel or short story and then let it go—to explore ways in which the film version can find a life of its own. Along the way, screenwriters tune their ears to existing character voices; they work to establish cinematic rhythms and visualizations; they frequently drop or combine characters; and they work to articulate their own themes through film’s distinctive potential for juxtaposition. We’ll read and discuss adapted screenplays and excerpts from the original materials that inspired them. We’ll also start an intensive conversation about ways to adapt Jack London’s intensely personal autobiographical novel, Martin Eden, that will articulate powerful and timely themes of all-consuming love, the social dynamics of class, and the impossible demands of a life committed to the arts. We’ll dig deep into London’s story to imagine a visual world and pull out story and character beats. And we’ll look at literary criticism and biographical information related to the writer and his work. We’ll sketch out scenes and sequences to begin a writing process, explore themes, and get ideas on their feet. Martin Eden stands a strong chance for an indie production that will involve students during the spring of 2019 through the proposed Cinema Sarah Lawrence film intensive. So this work will inform that project, although the class and the project can be considered mutually exclusive, depending upon student interest. We’ll also view and discuss examples of film adaptations to explore what makes them successful—or not. An even partial list of film adaptations read like a “who’s who” of important cinema. It includes films like No Country for Old Men, The Color Purple, Remains of the Day, Silence of the Lambs, The Shining, The Shawshank Redemption, Bladerunner, The Big Sleep, American Psycho, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, I Am Not Your Negro, The Conformist, Lolita, Trainspotting, The Talented Mr. Ripley, Vivre sa Vie, Fight Club, The Girl with the Dragon Tatoo, The Princess Bride, Moonlight, The Devil Wears Prada, The English Patient, Sophie’s Choice, Lord of the Flies, The Perfect Storm, Harry Potter, Brokeback Mountain, Apocalypse Now, Fences, Doctor Zhivago, Stand by Me, The Hours, The Pianist, The Constant Gardener, The Last King of Scotland, A Clockwork Orange, Requiem for a Dream, and The Godfather. We’ll choose from among these titles. Again from Kurosawa: “In order to write scripts, you must first study the great novels and dramas of the world. You must consider why they are great. Where does the emotion come from that you feel as you read them? What degree of passion did the author have to have, what level of meticulousness did he have to command, in order to portray the characters and events as he did? You must read thoroughly to the point where you can grasp all these things. You must also see the great films. You must read the great screenplays and study the film theories of the great directors. If your goal is to become a film director, you must master screenwriting.” The study and process of film adaptation provides a good opportunity to advance as a screenwriter or director. Adaptation also allows us to further explore essential elements found in all good storytelling.

Faculty

The Writer and the Director: Translating the Scene

Open , Seminar—Fall

Writers and directors are often considered to be of two different camps or, at the very least, wearing different creative hats, depending upon what part of the process they find themselves within. And indeed, how does a director take the words on the screenplay page and realize them in a film scene? And coming from the writer's angle, how does one create useful words on the screenplay page that evoke what is intended to end up on the screen? Every screenwriter needs to think like a director. Every director needs to be skilled at translating the text of the screenplay into the film that is intended. This class will provide an in-depth exploration into processes that a director may utilize in order to develop and actualize his/her vision of a scene as written on the pages of the screenplay. In kind, we will also study the elements that can inform the process of the writer, eager to understand how his/her pages can create the intended result on the screen. In some cases, we’ll see that the text can be clean and useful; in others, the text may be too rich or too spare or, in any case, somehow lacking. The real work of the writer and of the director is to understand the intent of the action in a scene’s text and to strategize how to realize the scene for maximum impact. Of course, particularly in today’s landscape, the writer and director can often be the same person. In any event, a filmmaker (writer and/or director) can enhance his/her overall skills by looking at the process through both lenses. In this class, we’ll view films, organize in-class exercises, and use published screenplays to immerse ourselves in the process of interpreting the text and preparing it for the screen. This will include the crucial work required of any writer and/or director: screenplay scene analysis, interpretation and breakdown, character development, and how to access and communicate visual ideas for the look of the film. We’ll study camera styles and movement in order to decide how best to visually realize the screenplay through your shot selection. We’ll also consider staging, casting, and other elements that create your film’s mise en scene. Each student will pursue a series of exercises, culminating in the preparation, directing, shooting, and editing of two scenes using published screenplays: For the first exercise, you’ll take a simple scene from a published script (a private moment, without dialogue) and develop characters through cinematic storytelling. For your second exercise, you will take another simple scene, with dialogue, from the same screenplay in order to experiment with all of the ideas developed throughout the class. As a writing and directing “methods” class, the aim is not to make a short film but rather to translate scene work from an existent published screenplay and determine how to articulate the dramatic action of the characters in the context of an overall sequence—or several connected scenes. The screen material generated will have less emphasis on production design, wardrobe, props, and locations. Instead, students will focus on the dramatic and emotional action of the characters within a scene. In conference, students may pursue the writing of original scene work, the writing of a short script, or the expansion of a screenplay in development. With the permission of the professor, students may seek to shoot a scene from their original material to be delivered as part of their final conference work. Once again, the focus of the class is on the realization of scene work through process and methodology rather than the creation of a short film. Technical labs will be included for those who require instruction in the basic use of camera equipment, lighting, sound and editing. No previous experience in writing or directing is required.

Faculty

Screenwriting Through the Director’s Lens

Open , Seminar—Fall

This course will focus on the practice of screenwriting from a director’s unique point of view. Even if students never plan to direct, they are indeed writing a script to be directed. Therefore, it’s of significant value for a writer to be thinking like a director, just as a director who never intends to act benefits from taking acting classes. The fact is, until a director shows up, the writer has to fill those directorial shoes in the creation of the screenplay. Effective screenwriting requires an understanding of story structure and an ability to shape character, theme, tone, and incident to dramatic effect. It is said that every film is made (at least) three times—through screenwriting, production, and postproduction. The screenwriting process is a safe and open platform to imagine every detail of the unfolding vision for a film, as characters take on a life of their own and as the story becomes what it is meant to become. The class will include writing exercises, discussions of exemplary scripts circulated for study, screening discussions, and critiques of each other’s work. In conference, students may work on whatever interests them, whether that involves short or feature-length film screenplays, TV pilots, Web series, or something unique. As the semester advances, conference work can naturally merge with the workshopping process, with regular revision of one’s writing for maximum impact. The expectation is that you will come to the class with a piece on which you wish to work.

Faculty