Welcome to the LISD Film Studies Compendium; I'm glad you dropped by! My name is Matteus Rabel, and I graduated from Lopez High School in 2022. For my senior project, I headed an effort to supply our students and faculty with necessary filmmaking tools and resources and to provide the inspiration to put them to good use. This website hosts a library of the free, online resources I continue to use to learn and practice video/film work; Take a look around, and if you're interested in trying your hand at the craft, contact the Lopez High School Media Center to use the versatile video/audio gear that I donated to the school.
As an example of what the donated gear and generous Lopez Island volunteers can produce, my crew and I made the above short film A Corpse and A Passion. Also on this site, you will find a more detailed description of what the project entailed, a guide to the website's functionality, and a few relevant stories and lessons that I encountered in the making of our film.
In the modern world where anyone with a phone camera and a little creativity can label themselves a "filmmaker," film literacy is more important than ever. As local filmmaker, Laurie Parker, said in an interview,
What is dominant in our culture is technology and media. For rural school students to have agency in the world, as decision makers, policy makers, and creators, they must have the tools to express themselves-so it is obvious that they must learn filmmaking.
With this goal, I began reaching out to Lopez Island community members to determine how I could best help fellow students in their film studies. Jesse Hammond, the Technology Director at the LISD, supported the idea of simply making more gear available. Sue DuMond, another member of the community involved in the film industry, agreed:
I believe it is beneficial to have basic video and audio gear available to students whether they are pursuing film studies or not…Film and audio is an accessible medium to tell a story. It is important that students have a creative outlet and access to the arts in and of itself as a way to express themselves. There are so many ways that students can use these tools to learn more about themselves, their community, and explore their environment.
Like much of life in 2021-2022, Covid-19 impacted my path in bringing film literacy to LISD. Rather than pursuing a film club or structured class it quickly became clear that "making basic video and audio gear available at the Lopez Island School" (Laurie Parker) was the best option. I began to imagine not only availability of equipment but also a library of online resources at the fingertips of every LISD student. The idea snowballed and, at long last, it has been made a reality.
Filmmaking is like any kind of art form. You have to try to figure it out, and you're going to do that by trying.
- Nicolas Winding Refn
HOW TO USE THE WEBSITE
This website is made up of three main sections: an online learning resource database, movie recommendations, and of course, this page.
"Links Galore" will take you to the learning resource database, organized by category. The bottom two categories on that page, "You Are What You Read" and "Portals," will redirect you to reading material and other portal websites, respectively.
"You Are What You Watch" includes both my personal recommendations and a variety of websites that make films available for viewing (both free and for cost). I've implemented this into the website because it is crucial that someone studying film be able to absorb a great amount of storytelling styles and techniques. Just as someone studying literature should have an ample number of books to study, so too film students should have a kind of curated movie library made available to them. I have included various links to professional suggestions as well as some of my personal favorites. My aim was to consolidate some of the sources that I think provide worthwhile content and should be supported.
Lastly, the "Shot With LISD Gear" section is self-explanatory. It redirects to each of the video projects that I have made with the donated gear.
LIBRARY EQUIPMENT LIST
Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH4
GH4 50mm Kit Lens
Micro 4/3 to Full Frame Lens Adapter
Sennheiser MKE 600 Shotgun Microphone
SETBACKS AND SOLUTIONS
As with any project, we encountered a few hiccups along the way. The first we ran into was actually the creation of this website. With no funding and no previous experience with coding languages, I had to take to the internet to learn the basics. In this process, I learned to simplify my idea of the website, to favor functionality over flare, and to take the time to practice writing the code. By spending a lot of my time researching and learning a new skill online, my motivation to launch the website only grew. The internet is rife with tutorials and expert guidance for just about any skill and industry, and by consolidating the countless resources, it can make the learning process so much quicker. I wanted to remove the hassle of rooting through unrelated or altogether unhelpful links, sites, and courses. I wanted to create an online library of resources that was handpicked by a learning student. My work on the website only confirmed to me the value of my senior project.
However, there is yet another side of launching a website: hosting. Every website needs a domain name and a hosting service to be made public. Without that, it's just local files with no real purpose. My first idea was to implement the website files into the already-active LISD website. However, with my limited experience, it was important to think of backups. Whether shooting a film, pitching a project/product, or making a website, it is crucial to have equally effective backup plans. Again, I prioritized content and accessibility over style. I considered paying for 1 year before making the entire project available as a word file or google docs file linked on the LISD website. I made a backup Youtube channel specifically for uploading the content of the website. I considered any other format for posting the content online. The only part that could be lost was the website look. The library itself would remain intact.
Lastly, when embarking on the filming process, my team and I began to worry about funding. When shooting a film, the locations, people, hours, props, costumes, and gear must all be considered in the funding. Except that we had no budget. Thankfully, this issue proved the easiest to overcome. On Lopez Island, our community is about relationships and connection. Thanks to friends and family being open to a new experience-and long hours working together-the film was made. My hope is that my senior project, as a whole, captures the kindness and creativity of a community work of art, as the short film and website and the links within are a culmination of the highly apt phrase "it takes a village."
In making our film, problem-solving was a necessity. Yet it was by making use of our creative constraints and available materials that our collective efforts were realized. I have highlighted three examples of this below. I hope that by doing so, I can portray a piece of what makes filmmaking-and especially filmmaking on Lopez-so enjoyable.
BLOOD: This was the first time any of us had experimented with fake blood or blood squibs. It was only by a series of trial-and-error prototypes that we were able to achieve the effect. The first issue with this is that nobody had a license to use real squibs and so an alternative had to be found. We started with the tools and equipment we had available: an air compressor hooked up to an open pipe. This pipe was then taped to the actor underneath their shirt and clogged up with glue. While far from dangerous, the effect was much too strong and completely unrealistic. We had to compromise. A little creativity and a quart of fake blood later, we had a new model: a handheld CO2 canister connected to a pipe with a balloon taped to the tip. It turns out this simpler model was much more effective and eventually made the shot. Creative constraints helped us learn more about the logistical side of VFX.
SPOTLIGHT: While shooting in the LCCA building, we were not lacking in equipment, but we faced a time crunch. The stage lighting was harsh, too harsh for our camera. Either the highlights were blown out or the blacks were too underexposed. Without the time to try many lighting setups, we decided to take our problem and turn it into a stylistic advantage. We reimagined the cinematography of the scene and decided to underexpose on purpose, accentuating the look by closing the barnyards on the lights to create a kind of spotlight. And it worked.
COLOR: In this final example, I learned more about the power of color correction. In post-production, I found that all the forest scenes looked practically the same. The white balance and exposure were identical, and the lighting matched between scenes. In this case, this made it hard to track the progression of time; the scenes did not stand apart from each other visually. This stumped me for the whole editing process. It was only when I reached the color correction stage that I realized how easy it would be to fix. I merely made minor changes to saturation, exposure, and color to set the scenes apart. After considering the mood of each scene, the solutions came naturally.
Every project I take on teaches me just how important it is to study each and every part of the filmmaking process.
IT'S ALL ABOUT COMMUNITY
By embarking on this project, my goal was to make connections within the community and to create a lively and productive atmosphere on set. To achieve this, it merely comes down to one's ability to improvise. One must be willing to take suggestions without losing track of one's creative vision; One must be able to use the tools available to realize this vision; One must be comfortable working with a variety of people, each with their own ideas and contributions. Volunteer work and collaboration thrive in the Lopez community. The crews are here. The casts are here. The gear is here. It just takes some initiative. I have done my part to provide a launching pad for this process in our school. I can't wait to see what you all create.
Finally, I'd like to give the due credit to the wonderful cast, crew, and others who made this particular project possible.