Introduction 101 | Bootcamp to the Grand Lumiere Theatre

Introduction 101 | Bootcamp to the Grand Lumiere Theatre


Orientation 2014

“Welcome to bootcamp!”, echoed throughout the empty sound stages. Professors welcomed a new generation of producers and directors by having us introduce ourselves and proclaim a film that we wish we made in 2014, however we had to introduce the classmates that came before us first. It was a splendid introduction to everyone, and a way to express our current cinematic taste before we began to fine tune our creative voices. We all sat there not knowing how impactful the next 9 months would be for us as storytellers. Just like how our future characters in our films will have strong arcs, we ourselves as filmmakers would grow tremendously and have our own thorough arc of development.

Directing & Producing Class of 2016

Some of the Directing & Producing Class of 2016

My name is Themba Moyo, I’m one of the nine producers in my class of 2016. I’m originally from Manchester, England, but grew up in America (long enough for me to lose my accent). After graduating undergrad with a telecommunications degree, I worked as a production assistant, apprentice, cinematographer, editor, and colorist in Tennessee, Orlando, and Kansas City before I decided to go back to school. I chose Columbia because of their unique approach for filmmakers. When I visited the school during open house, I realized that Columbia introduces their students on how to defend artistic integrity, while balancing business affairs. That was exactly what I wanted to do! I knew I was a creative, however the business language of the industry is what I lacked, so I signed up for the program that I thought would challenge me the most as a creative entrepreneur, Creative Producing.

CIFF 2014 with Director Liv Ullmann, Colin Farrel, and MFA Producer J. Taylor Epps

CIFF 2014 with Director Liv Ullmann, Colin Farrel, and MFA Producer J. Taylor Epps

Fall came, and we finally settled into the rhythm of graduate school (3 months later). We were privileged to attend the opening night of the 50th Chicago International Film Festival. All MFA directors and producers dressed up for the occasion and we screened Liv Ullmans, ‘Miss Julie’ (2014) with Colin Farrell in attendance with many more upper echelon actors and filmmakers. After the screening, we all attended the after party where we would finally eat, drink, and network with Chicago’s best. Lucky for some of us, we were in the right place, at the right time and we began to pose for a picture with director Liv Ullman, but just before we snapped she brought Colin Farrell over to pose with us!

BTS of 'We Are Almost There' (2015)

BTS of ‘We Are Almost There’ (2015)

Spring rolled through (lets be honest, spring does not exist in Chicago, so as I say spring, I’m referring to our 2nd semester trampling through snow, developing stories, and budgeting short films to produce). Now, after the removal of our fall semester training wheels, we were producing stronger shorts, two to be exact. One short was a director driven project, and the second short was a producer driven project. For the producers, we began our adaptation project back in October, and the professors taught us how to acquire material to produce into films. Both films were massive challenges that stretched our capabilities as producers. One was set in the near future exploring if millennials would accept the draft during a raging international war, and the other was a civil rights dramatic thriller set in the 1930’s. Both films were incredibly difficult to produce, but through collaboration and persistence, I’m happy to say that both shorts have been captured and are now in post production thanks to all the helping hands.

Red carpet for the screening of WonChan Hongs,'O Piseu' (2015) with fellow producers.

Red carpet for the screening of WonChan Hongs,’O Piseu’ (2015) with fellow producers.

With the year wrapping up, I ended my first year attending the 68th Festival de Cannes. Early in February I applied to the Cannes International Business Student Program. I was accepted, and counted down every day until my departure to France. While there, I interned for a motion picture production company on the film market called IM Global. The crazy thing was that two other interns were from Columbia too! Being there for two weeks allowed me to finally see the international business side of the film industry. A phrase that I heard often while being there was, “It’s not called show-show, it’s called show-business”. Working everyday allowed me to listen in on the big negotiation deals, and observe how films were broken down into territories globally. Once night fell, the film market was closed, and the Grand Lumiere Theater lit up for its evening premieres. Here, everyone was in their best tuxes and evening gowns. We walked the red carpet and screened multiple films everyday. My favorite was the Hungarian film ‘Son of Saul’ (2015) which won the Grand Jury Prize and is a strong contender for Best Foreign film category at the 2016 Oscars. Did I mention I ran into the executive producer of ‘Nightcrawler’ (2014) and ‘Whiplash’ (2014)??

'Ketchup & Blood' (2015) Crew

‘Ketchup & Blood’ (2015) Crew

While on the flight back home to Chicago, I couldn’t believe how much life had changed for me and my cohort since being accepted into this program. Opportunities to collaborate with my classmates, finding new ways to tell stories with empathy, chances to attend international film festivals, and finding professors who truly do believe in your ultimate vision. Columbia has done more than enough, and I’ve only completed my first year, imagine the possibilities that are awaiting us as a cohort in the second year. After experiencing it all, my first year would be summed up by a phrase I’ve come to love by Henry Ford, “Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.” So as I write this, remember, don’t fear failure! You have nothing to lose, but everything to gain.

With that said, it’s time to begin YEAR II. #ThesisTime