Welcome from Program Director Killer Films' Christine Vachon

Advanced Training in Digital Filmmaking

How to get it made, make it right, get it seen, and live to tell about it -- and how to survive to do it all over again.

April 2014

vachon I was honored that the Stony Brook Film Festival chose me as the recipient of their Career Achievement Award. It’s amazing to get an award like this when we’ve just launched this incredible new film program, and when it feels like Killer’s fortunes and Stony Brook’s fortunes are really going to be tied together for, I hope, a long time.

It’s true: Killer Films and Southampton Arts are forging a new approach to academic instruction in filmmaking. Focusing on the practical advice and lessons our indie production company has compiled from 25 years in the indie film business, with more than 75 films under our belts and six films produced in 2012 alone, we're offering a new take on instruction in film, at State University of New York prices – and at two prime locations, Stony Brook Southampton and Stony Brook Manhattan.

As we set out to devise this new program, our aim quickly became singular: to match the reality of the film business today. Revolutionary change in technology has made filmmaking accessible. Students are coming to film programs with greater literacy in visual storytelling than ever before. At Southampton Arts, we have the luxury of starting at ground zero to envision a new of model for instruction that embraces new platforms for distribution. The approach is a juxtaposition of the big picture and an embrace of the film business, as it exists today, as well as hands-on and experiential, with the emphasis on the production of new work.

THE FIRST summer (2013), with our 3-part, groundbreaking program, 20/20/20, we pioneered a new paradigm in training the filmmakers of tomorrow to be expert storytellers with the grit and imagination to reach their audiences in “platform-agnostic” ways. {CUT} The students went through a producers boot camp, {cut} training, {CUT} and a very intense production week, during which we shot 3-4 movies a day for 6 days. The students directed their own films and crewed on 6 others. {CUT} During a final week for post-production, the students cut their films, attended [CUT] the Stony Brook Film Festival, and learned about distribution. The intensive accelerated with the screening of student rough cuts for notes sessions with Tony Gerber, Ellen Kuras, Sam Morrill of Vimeo and Ashley Havey of Tribeca Film Festival, and culminated in a gala final screening of their short films for the Southampton Arts Summer Conference.

This year, we've expanded the program to a 20-week, 10 graduate credit course sequence.


In this first part of the sequence, (4 credits) students craft a story into a short screenplay that will then be produced over the summer. Through the study of the process of script development, screenwriting, directing, and producing, students learn the craft and the business from industry professionals including producers, agents, managers, lawyers, as well as filmmakers. Students focus on producing work in the ever-changing independent film landscape. This course  also includes other types of film practice and digital filmmaking such as branded entertainment and television.

Students leave this course with a working knowledge of how the digital film business is growing and drastically changing--in ways that ultimately create opportunity. We specifically discuss how stories are conceived for various platforms. We aim to build a sustainable film culture and lay the foundation for a long-term career in digital storytelling. 

JULY 7-27, 2014 20/20/20 Boot Camp

In July, the training is synthesized, focused, and put into practice. From July 7-27, for twenty days, at Stony Brook Southampton Production Boot Camp filmmakers work from the scripts they have developed ¾ whether narratives, webisodes, or documentaries. They attend master classes and workshops; schedule, shoot, and edit a short film; as well as devise a distribution and marketing plan. To make the experience truly immersive, everyone crews on each other’s productions. The 20 days culminate in a screening.

In short, the focus of 20/20/20 and of this new graduate sequence in film is how to make a program that reflects, as closely as possible, the reality of the film business today. How to get a movie, TV pilot or webisode made, make it right, get it seen, and live to tell about it—and how to survive to do it all over again. And again. And again. And again. The film industry’s creative and business sectors are at an intersection of unlimited potential and, with our new program, students are offered the opportunity learn how to tap into and exploit the shifting paradigms of filmmaking as it is practiced today.