There doesn’t have to be a film school on campus for there to be a thriving student filmmaking community.
Five nights a week, Studio 47 at Pomona College is open for free equipment checkouts and occasional tutorials in the basement of Clark V residence hall. The club, led by five paid student workers, also hosts two signature annual events, the 47 Hour Film Challenge in the fall and the 5C Film Festival in the spring.
This year’s 5C festival—set for Sunday, April 23, in Rose Hills Theatre—features 23 student films ranging in length from a few minutes to about 15 minutes.
“It’s a way for anyone who’s a filmmaker at the 5Cs to get their work screened in a nice theatre, get some feedback on it, and just to try to showcase everyone’s work,” says Lucas Cunningham ’23, one of the five Studio 47 staffers overseen by Erica Tyron, director of student media.
The fall event, a takeoff on the international 48 Hour Film Project, is like a hackathon for teams to complete a film up to five minutes long in a single weekend.
“People come in on a Friday afternoon and we give them prompts,” Cunningham says. “Usually it’s like, here’s a shot you have to use, here’s a location you have to use, here’s a line of dialogue you have to use—and then they’ve got 47 hours to write, shoot and edit the film and we screen them on Sunday evening.”
Many of the students engaged in filmmaking at The Claremont Colleges are media studies majors at Pomona or part of the intercollegiate media studies program based at Pitzer. The Pomona major focuses more on theoretical and critical approaches than hands-on production, but any student who wants to make films and those in other majors who want to pick up skills for the increasing number of class projects that can be completed with video can find help at Studio 47.
“I think we probably have had at least 50 to 100 people come through this year,” Cunningham says. “A lot of people come once or twice because they need something for a shoot or two for a class. It’s actually one of the best parts of the job, just getting to meet people on campus who are new to filmmaking or photography and just kind of talking them through the available resources and how to use the equipment.”
That includes cameras, camcorders, a GoPro, sound and lighting equipment and other accessories available for any 5C student to check out free of charge from Studio 47’s equipment list. One of the popular recent additions is a camera stabilizer for a small DSLR or even a smartphone that eliminates the need to set up a dolly track to get smooth shots. There’s also a green screen and a studio/production space available for use. In addition, Studio 47 hosts trainings for those just getting started to learn how to use the equipment, and occasionally posts student work on YouTube.
“At The Claremont Colleges, a ton of people are really interested in film and entertainment,” Cunningham says, noting other student organizations across the 5Cs include 5x5 Films, which he co-runs with Ellie Griffin PZ ’23, and the Claremont Colleges Screenwriting Guild.
Many Pomona alumni have gone on to success in Hollywood, including producer Aditya Sood ’97, comedy writer Wendy Molyneux ’97 (Bob’s Burgers) and Justinian Huang ’09, vice president of creative at Sony Pictures Animation, to name a few.
There’s also an active alumni networking group on Facebook, Claremont in Entertainment & Media. Sood, a member of the Pomona College Board of Trustees, emphasizes in talks that peers from college often are the beginnings of a professional network of collaborators and mentors.
Cunningham says he plans to pursue a career in writing and directing, but with a twist.
“I’m particularly interested in doing environmental storytelling but from the fiction side—telling good stories, first and foremost, but also presenting environmental issues in new lights.”
The 5C Film Festival is 2-6 p.m. Sunday, April 23, in Rose Hills Theatre.