Software First To Use CD-ROM Technology To Teach Filmmaking

May 21, 1998

ATHENS, Ohio -- The next Steven Spielberg could be a few computer sessions away from launching his film career.

Using a new software program designed by an Ohio University film professor and an Athens multimedia company, future filmmakers can learn and practice the craft at their own pace and at their own computers. "How to Make Your Movie, An Interactive Film School," the first CD-ROM package designed to teach filmmaking, includes in-depth "guest lectures" by top names in the film industry and interactive exercises on editing, sound mixing and lighting.

Directed by Croatian filmmaker Rajko Grlic (RYE-koh GRILL-itch), Ohio eminent professor of film at Ohio University, the three-disc CD-ROM package was a joint project of Ohio University and Electronic Vision Inc. The program was presented at the San Francisco International Film Festival in early May, marking its debut before an American audience. Grlic also has show it to film educators, students and professionals in Denmark, Mexico, Great Britain, Slovenia and Finland.

"It is the most 'human' CD-ROM I've ever seen," says Peter Scarlet, artistic director of the San Francisco festival. The program's setting in an unrenovated section of an early-1900s state mental hospital helps give it a real-life feel that departs from the "hyper-clean" environment of most computer software.

Users of the program "discover" an abandoned film school watched over by a salty security guard who offers guidance and an element of humor. The fictional school's former professors leave audible notes for the user, offering personal advice on topics as diverse as what camera to use for a specific task and where to get good seafood pasta in Manhattan.

The program's user -- be it prospective film student, professional filmmaker or Sunday afternoon videographer -- can delve into a dozen different "rooms" or chapters of course content. Each room contains layer after layer of interactive instruction on such topics as scriptwriting, production, film grammar, equipment and more. A click of the mouse accesses hundreds of additional features, such as a video clips, historical information, lists of recommended books and must-see films, film trivia and more.

"We never say that an answer is right or wrong, good or bad," says Grlic, a native of Zagreb, Croatia, who has written and directed seven internationally recognized feature films. "We are giving people this huge open playground to discover, to learn, to play, to start to dream."

There are two ways to explore "How to Make Your Movie." Visitors can travel through the whole building and all the materials, step by step, room by room, as if they are in a real film school. Or they can use the shortcuts menu, which provides a blueprint with direct access to the room or specific information sought.

"I would highly recommend it for students and professionals alike," says film editor and sound designer Walter Murch, who won two Academy Awards in 1997 for "The English Patient" and another in 1979 for "Apocalypse Now." "(It is) the best, most complete and innovative guide I have ever seen, in any format."

Grlic, shortly after joining Ohio University in 1993, rejected the idea of writing a textbook, which he believed would be just another "cookbook" of recipes for successful filmmaking. But sitting at his new computer one day, it struck him that he had found the perfect medium for sharing the lessons he had learned in his three decades as a filmmaker.

"Nothing exists close to this, which was a huge advantage to us and a huge disadvantage," Grlic says of the CD-ROM set. "Rather than work within the existing parameters for educational CD-ROMs, the team produced a program that falls somewhere between an educational CD-ROM and a game. In the beginning we thought it would be a one-year journey, but in the end it was nearly a three-year journey."

Grlic wrote an initial script and took the idea to Ed Talavera, an Ohio University film professor who would become his co-producer. They approached Electronic Vision, a 12-year-old company that develops multimedia-based educational programs for higher education, business, health care, government and the military. CEO Dan Krivicich, a 1973 Ohio University graduate and now executive producer of "How to Make Your Movie," and art director Tom Erlewine liked what they saw.

Erlewine and others involved in the production wrestled with an array of technical and artistic challenges, coming up with innovative ways for the learner to see techniques demonstrated in an actual film and then practice them on his or her own.

"The temptation with using new technology is to talk about technology," Erlewine says. "But what we're talking about is how to tell a story. This sort of thing has been covered in textbooks, but you can't do in a textbook what you can in a multimedia format. If I were a film student, I would kill to have this program."

The interactive film school features an all-star cast of "film professors." Twelve guest lectures, all of which can be printed out for later referral, include one on scriptwriting by Lew Hunter, chairman of the film school at the University of California at Los Angeles; another on film music by Suzana Peric, who edited the music for "Philadelphia," "Age of Innocence" and "Silence of the Lambs"; and one on sound by Murch, who -- in addition to his Oscars -- earned Academy Award nominations for best film editing for "Ghost" and "The Godfather Part III."

"I believe that working professionals make the best teachers for production classes," Grlic says. "And there aren't enough of them at universities to meet the demand. That is the main reason our Interactive Film School was built and is run by film professionals."

Grlic will collaborate with faculty members at UCLA and New York University next year to offer an interactive film school that uses the new software. Classes will be conducted online once a week, and the 15 students across the world participating in the trial project will come to Ohio University for 10-day sessions three times during the academic year.

Grlic expects the CD program to be most popular with 15- to 20-year-olds, especially those thinking about studying film. Film school directors and faculty members also are interested in using it as an instructional tool. The software package sells for $89.95.
* For information on the program or how to order a copy of "How to Make Your Movie, An Interactive Film School," visit the Web site at or call Electronic Vision at 1-800-516-9361.

Editors: J-PEG images suitable for newspaper use from "How to Make Your Movie: An Interactive Film School" may be downloaded from the World Wide Web at: : An environmental photograph of Rajko Grlic at his computer. : A headshot of Rajko Grlic. : A photograph of Rajko Grlic, professor of film at Ohio University, demonstrating "How to Make Your Movie: An Interactive Film School" for some of his students. : A photo of, from left, "How to Make Your Movie" Art Director Tom Erlewine, Director and Producer Rajko Grlic and Executive Producer Dan Krivicich. : A photo of the three compact discs that make up the "How to Make Your Movie: An Interactive Film School" software program.

News Directors: B-roll of filmmaker Rajko Grlic demonstrating "How to Make Your Movie" is available by contacting Dwight Woodward of Ohio University News Services at (740) 593-1043.

Ohio University

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