Rona Naomi Mark

BA, Hebrew University of Jerusalem. MFA, Columbia University. Award-winning writer, director, and producer. Festivals and awards include: Best of Fest, Edinburgh International Film Festival; Audience Choice Award, Filmmaker Magazine; Scenario Award, Canadian International Film and Video Festival; Best Short (second place), Galway Film Fleadh; Best Comedy/Best of Night, Polo Ralph Lauren New Works Festival; BBC’s Best Short Film About the Environment, Tel Aviv International Student Film Festival; opening-night selection, Three Rivers Film Festival; Hong Kong International Jewish Film Festival; Irish Reels Film Festival; Seattle True Independent Film Festival; New Filmmakers Screening Series; Hoboken International Film Festival; Miami Jewish Film Festival; Munich International Student Film Festival; Palm Beach International Jewish Film Festival; Pittsburgh Israeli Jewish Film Festival; Toronto Jewish Film Festival; Vancouver Jewish Film Festival; finalist, Pipedream Screenplay Competition; third prize, Acclaim TV Writer Competition; second place, TalentScout TV Writing Competition; finalist, People’s Pilot Television Writing Contest; Milos Forman Award; finalist, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Student Film Awards. Current feature film projects include: screenwriter/director/producer, Strange Girls, Mdux Pictures, LLC; screenwriter/director, Shoelaces. SLC, 2007–

Current undergraduate courses

Do-It-Yourself Filmmaking: No-Budget Strategies for Getting It Done

Spring

Has there ever been a better time to be a no-budget filmmaker? Recent technological advancements in camera and editing equipment have made it possible for just about anyone to create slick, high-resolution images for very little money. As films get easier to produce, however, good films become harder to find. So, how does the nascent filmmaker distinguish his/her work from crowd? With a great script, sure-footed direction, and a smart allocation of his/her available resources. In this immersive filmmaking workshop, students will develop and shoot a project over the course of the semester. First, we’ll discuss scripts not only in terms of their story, but also in terms of their scope and their producability. Then we’ll practice our directing skills with a series of weekly shooting assignments that target specific directorial challenges. Next, we’ll break down our scripts for production, figuring out low-cost ways to achieve various cinematic effects. Our next step will be to previsualize the film by making shot lists, floor plans, and look books. Students will then go out and shoot their films and bring back the footage for editing. We’ll review basic postproduction procedures and introduce software effects that can add polish to a project without adding cost. The goal of the course is to push the student creatively without multiplying costs beyond what is necessary. With the school’s equipment and other resources at your disposal, the only limitation to you as a filmmaker is your imagination and resourcefulness.

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Screenwriting: Revision

Spring

Once you have your first draft, that’s when the writing begins! Revision is a process that differs from writer to writer. Some people may have to rewrite their screenplays from scratch. Others may find that they have plot holes that need fixing. Still others may find that their work is lacking excitement on the page. Plot, character, dialogue, action—so many different things go into completing a first draft that they are seldom all done well. Good cinematic writing is often sacrificed on the altar of just-getting-it-done. This course seeks to help writers take their work to the next level of polish. This small workshop is for writers who have previously written or are halfway through their feature-length screenplays. The workshop will focus on giving and receiving critical feedback to help the writer improve his/her screenplay in terms of its style, format, and structure. Students will review each other’s work—and also the work of produced screenwriters to see how the pros do it.

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Screenwriting: Writing the Long-Form and Mid-Length Film

Fall

With more than 400 cable and online channels available for viewing filmed content, screenwriters have a tremendous opportunity to redefine the classic parameters of a screenplay. While the feature-length film is still generally 90 to 120 minutes, which translates to roughly 90-120 pages of text, seemingly limitless formats are emerging on both the Web and cable television. This screenwriting workshop is for students who are interested in writing feature-length or mid-length films. Using the three-act narrative paradigm as our foundation, this course will accommodate writers looking to write traditional long-form movies, as well as writers whose stories don’t fall neatly into either short- or feature-length categories. Students will learn outlining methods that will help them develop a solid framework for their screenplay. After the outlining process, students will, on a weekly basis, bring pages into the workshop for feedback. Using the students’ work and published screenplays as the takeoff points for discussion, the course will cover skills such as building a satisfying narrative arc, developing characters, writing a description that transports the reader, and creating dialogue that sounds natural and specific to each character.

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Script to Screen

Fall

This workshop will introduce students to the basics of filmmaking through HD video production. From the initial concept through editing, students will get a taste of all phases of production. Students will shoot exercises focusing on cinesthetic elements such as slow disclosure, parallel action, multiangularity, and the master shot discipline. Students will watch and analyze each other’s exercises, learning how to become active film viewers and give useful critical feedback. For their conference work, students will be required to produce a short film. They will write the screenplay, cast and direct actors, draw floorplans and shot lists, edit the video on Final Cut Pro and screen the final production for the class. This class is not a history or theory class but, rather, a practical, hands-on workshop that puts theory into practice and immerses students in all aspects of filmmaking development, writing, directing, and production through to a finished project.

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Previous courses

First-Year Studies: Finding Yourself In Film: An Introduction to Filmmaking

FYS

Students will be immersed in all aspects of the many facets of film production, from screenwriting, directing, shooting, and editing through exhibition. The first semester will focus primarily on the art and craft of screenwriting, where students will learn to think and write like a filmmaker. Students will emerge with a screenplay that they will then produce and direct during the second semester. In addition to written assignments to develop the student’s creative voice, video assignments in the fall will familiarize students with the equipment, techniques, and protocol of filmmaking. Film aesthetics and directing strategies will be explored, using award-winning shorts and feature film clips as examples. Students will form film crews from within the class and will learn the various roles on a film set. Basic production-management skills will be taught, which students will then apply to the making of their own short films.

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Introduction to Filmmaking: Where to Put the Camera

Fall

Camera placement is one of the film director’s primary responsibilities; but to the beginning filmmaker, that can feel like an arbitrary and daunting task. This course will demystify the filmmaking process by giving students the opportunity to experiment with directing through a series of targeted shooting exercises. Through practice, students will learn how to place the camera to give the greatest impact to their narratives. During this workshop, students will watch and analyze each other’s exercises, learn how to become active film viewers, and give useful critical feedback. For their conference work, students will be required to produce a short narrative film. They will write the screenplay, cast and direct actors, draw floor plans and shot-lists, edit the video on Final Cut Pro, and screen the final product for the class. This class is not a history or theory class but, rather, a hands-on workshop that gives students a taste of all aspects of visual storytelling.

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Making the Genre Film: Horror, Sci-Fi, and Fantasy

Spring

Working within a genre can greatly assist the fledgling filmmaker by suggesting content and stylistic elements, thereby freeing the artist to focus on self-expression. This is a hands-on production course with a focus on producing genre films. Our class discussions and video exercises will explore various ideas present in the so-called “lesser genres” of horror, sci-fi, and fantasy, including the idea of the “monster,” man/woman vs. society, suspense, fear, sexual politics, and repression, as well as the smart use of special effects and other strategies for the independent filmmaker working in genre filmmaking. In addition to class exercises, students will each produce and direct a short video project for their conference work.

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Screenwriting: Finishing The First Draft of Your Feature Film

Spring

Sometimes writing is fun, and sometimes writing is just hard work. This course builds on the foundation of the fall course, Structuring and Writing the Narrative Feature Film, and will help students face both probabilities by shepherding them through a completed first draft of their feature-length screenplay. Having an entire script in hand provides the reader with a unique overview of a story’s structure and thematic concerns that may get lost in the moment-to-moment writing of the script. Of course, every student will have his or her own writing process; but in this course, we will push each student through to the end. Students will rely heavily on their outlines from first semester (or materials developed in other related courses) in order to form a page budget and writing schedule. Students will also learn revision skills that will help them put their best foot forward in their early drafts. Students will present their pages biweekly to the workshop and hone their editorial skills by giving and receiving helpful critical feedback.

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Screenwriting: Introduction to Writing Movies

Fall

The course will focus on building a solid foundation in writing for the screen. Through weekly, short, writing assignments, students will learn to craft well-structured, short screenplays. Students will tackle fundamental screenwriting issues, such as finding a story’s main dramatic tension, crafting dialogue without relying on it to move the story along, and writing in succinct visual language. Students will have an opportunity to read published work, watch finished films in order to evaluate the screenwriting, and analyze each others’ work-in-progress. The aim of the class is for each student to produce a number of short, polished screenplays that are ready for future production. Conference projects may include revisions of previous work or refinement of work presented in the workshop, as well as the development and refining of long-form ideas, outlines, and finished pages.

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Screenwriting: Structuring and Writing the Narrative Feature Film

Fall

At first glance, narrative screenplay writing can seem restrictive and rigid; but once a writer learns the structural paradigms, those same parameters can actually free up the artist in untold ways. This writing workshop will focus on building strong bones for your feature-length, narrative screenplay. What makes a screenplay unique is not solely the structure but, rather, the artist’s point of view on the world; however, concept, character, setting, dialogue, and action come to the forefront when embedded in a sound, reliable framework. Weekly writing assignments will explore everything from generating and developing a robust concept to building characters and to outlining a plot that will deliver a satisfying film viewing experience. After a rigorous outlining process, students will begin to write pages and present them in the workshop. Students will learn to give and receive helpful critical feedback. Some screenwriting experience is helpful but not required for this course.

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Writing Movies: Simple Screenplay Structure

Spring

This course is for students either in the midst of or at the beginning of writing a feature length screenplay. While the world of filmed entertainment is changing, with new avenues of distribution creating new formats and venues, some things remain the same—audiences are still hungry for satisfying narrative features to take them away, confront their fears, live out their fantasies, or elevate their consciousness. Paths may differ, but at the end we are all working towards the same goal—successful visual storytelling. This writing workshop requires all students to regularly present pages of either their screenplay or the outline for their screenplay for analysis and critique. The outline, based on the required reading, will form the spine of your film. The outline will be your guide in those moments of uncertainty when you’re not sure where to steer your narrative; it will be the roadmap for the first draft of your screenplay. The outline is a constant work-in-progress and will be revised concurrently with the pages you will write.  Some knowledge of screenplay style and format is preferred, but not necessarily a requirement. Continuing students will finish a first draft of their project, while new students will complete their outlines and the first act of their screenplay. Intermediate.

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