Nicole Brending is a Minnesota-based writer/director of film and video, a three-time Jerome Foundation Media Artist grant recipient, a two-time McKnight Fellow and a Nantucket Screenwriters Colony fellow. Her recent film SELFIED premiered at the Moscow International Film Festival and received the “Silver George” for Best Film in the Shorts Competition. She has directed music videos for Haley Bonar, Miss Guy, Universe Contest, among others and her videos have premiered on NPR: First Watch, Twin Cities Public Television, and HearNebraska.com. Her short film OPERATED BY INVISIBLE HANDS won a Student Emmy, the Prix de Varti at Ann Arbor, “Best Lesbian Short” at Hamburg Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, as well as an audience award at PalmSprings Shortfest. A DIY officianado, she firmly believes that production quality is secondary to voice and good storytelling. She received her MFA in Film from Columbia University.
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Through simple daily exercises that can be shot on a camera phone, I take students through the process of creating an original story, from beginning to end, where the exercises can be strung together to communicate a complete idea. The goal of these workshops is not high, flashy production values. It's about seeing things differently, observing, reflecting and expression. The exercises are very contained and require only that the student be willing to think outside of the box and find a story in their everyday surroundings. I begin by breaking the ice and giving them an exercise right out of the gate. We discuss the work in a safe and non-judgmental way, talking about how different images feel and what we can learn from that in order to create images that are directed. If editing software is not available (even iMovie will do), we can string together the films via a timeline on my computer and view them as they are meant to be seen. The only technical requirements for the workshop are a projector, dedicated computer and any kind of camera we can get our hands on. Again, the goal is not to make the most high-end video, but learn about how we respond to the things that we see and how we can harness that power for good.
“Being a teaching artist is not about teaching art. Learning an artform is an opportunity for students to be leaders, to work in teams, to think critically and outside-of-the-box, to to solve difficult problems, to learn from failures, to learn empathy, to go through the process of creating something and presenting it to the public and to feel the sense of accomplishment that comes from the successful execution of a plan. These are skills and experiences that are tantamount to success as an adult in any field. I teach the arts not because I believe I am teaching future artists, but because I believe I am fostering the growth of future citizens.”
Today we are inundated with media. Camera phones and social media have changed our landscape. But how do we understand the images we see and how do we harness the power of the camera to capture our own voices and experiences? Connecting how we feel about certain images to how we tell stories is vital in understanding the world we live in today and how we can communicate through media in an effective and meaningful way. For this reason, this workshop emphasizing “directing” as a way of understanding how the camera sees and how we can use it to see our world more clearly. Each student will direct a series of exercises that culminate into a 1-2 minute video, focusing on intention with the camera and communication of story.
Digital Self Portrait
Diane Arbus said that “A picture is a secret about a secret. The more it tells you, the less you know.” As a way of shedding the armor that we all use to hide ourselves, this workshop asks students to really think about how they want people to see them versus how they might feel on the inside. The goal is to get students talking about their perception of themselves and others and to be thinking in a more compassionate, empathic way. Through daily exercises, students are asked to think of themselves as a “character,” and to explore that character's relationships to objects, environments and even to describe a photograph of themselves with video. They will be asked to think about what the character most loves, is most afraid of, who or what is the antagonist to this character, and what can the character do to overcome his or her obstacles. The videos are then presented side-by-side as a class portrait. It is preferable to do this workshop as an after school activity, in smaller groups.