Scripts, actors, collaboration of three companies distinguish CAVA program

Collaboration among three companies has resulted in a unique script-to-screen training program conducted by seasoned pros, that gives the screenwriter and filmmaker a finished film at the end of the program and at a cost no greater than if the filmmaker were to rent equipment for a shoot on his own.

The Script-to-Screen Program took root last last winter when Screenwriters Group’s Dan Decker contacted LimeGreen Productions’ Michael Stratta about turning scripts from the Group’s ProTrack advanced writing class into finished films for the students.

Stratta was enthusiastic about the potential and also saw the problems. “One was having a committed crew to shoot all the films, and another was logistics. But one way it could be done was to integrate the scripts into a CAVA class.”

CAVA ? the Academy of Visual Arts ? was co- founded a decade ago by veteran feature DP Bill Birch and indie filmmaker guru Man-Sung Son of SMS equipment rentals to teach intensive, hands-on camera/lighting/direction classes at moderate cost.

Stratta’s proposal, which inserted the added dimensions of scripted stories and actors to perform them, clicked right in.

CAVA’s nine-week program starts the last week in September with a preproduction session, then swings right into production of nine short films in early October by the filmmaking participants.

“The program combines directing, acting, cinematography and lighting all rolled into one,” said Son. “Each week a script will be selected and shot. Filmmakers will work in small groups and will have a chance to work on different production aspects. We will also have experienced guests throughout the program that they can learn from.”

Cost of the Script-to-Screen Program is based on what kind of equipment the filmmaker chooses to shoot with, said Son, whose SMS Productions will provide the gear.

To shoot with mini-DV (DVX100A), or DVCPRO (SDX900) costs $1,000. If a filmmaker wants to shoot Super 16, he pays $1,500 and buys his own stock. For a complete HD Varicam production, the cost is $2,000 ? “the price for equipment rental alone,” noted Son.

LimeGreen Productions will edit and deliver a finished film to the writers and filmmakers after the program ends in late November.

LimeGreen also serves as the liaison between Screenwriters Group and CAVA. “We will facilitate answers to directors’ questions as to what can or cannot be done with a script,” said Stratta. He co- founded his company last spring with a former McDonald’s marketing executive, Michon Ellis.

During the course of many discussions on how to make the program viable, Stratta, Decker and Son hammered out simple script guidelines that included a length of less than five script pages, and locations in or close to the SMS building.

“Writers were told to write good stories and forget about camera tricks,” said Stratta. “We said, ?Let the directors inject their own vision.'”

The Script-to-Screen Program will be conducted at SMS Productions, 676 N. LaSalle St. evenings and weekends. To register call Helena 312/440-8963. LimeGreen Production is at 773/384-4485.

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