Chris Chan Roberson Talks About the Online High School Filmmakers Workshop

Monday, Mar 25, 2019

Photo of Chris Chan Roberson

Chris Chan Roberson

Chris Chan Roberson has taught undergraduate courses in the Maurice Kanbar Institute of Film and Television at Tisch School of the Arts for 20 years. He teaches cinematography and editing courses, and is currently the Freshman Area head. Chris has been involved with the residential Tisch High School Filmmakers Workshop since 2006.

This summer, the filmmakers workshop is being offered online to high school sophomores, juniors, and seniors. Chris will be teaching the Tisch Online High School Filmmakers Workshop in June. We recently interviewed Chris about the program and he gave us some insight into what students can expect, what young filmmakers will gain from the program, and his advice to them. Here’s our full conversation:

What can students expect from this four-week online program?

Be prepared to make something every week, be prepared to share your work, get feedback, and start the process all over again. The Tisch model is to learn by doing and that's exactly what we'll be doing for 4 weeks: making movies, deconstructing them, and repeating the process. Thanks to the amazing technology developed by the company Smashcut, students will be collaborating with each other on a regular basis, regardless of their geographic location, writing projects, filming, and editing projects by working together.

What additional skills and experiences will a young filmmaker gain from taking the Online Summer Filmmakers Workshop?

Students will learn how to challenge themselves as artists and as storytellers. Students will be challenged not only by me but by their fellow peers as well. We'll be asking: Why are these stories important? How are the issues in your film personal and important to you? How will creativity solve things that you're lacking in budget and locations? None of us is as smart as all of us, and students, regardless of their location, will help out their fellow filmmakers in making films and telling stories they never thought possible.

What’s one piece of advice you have for filmmakers considering this program?

In a movie, a character goes on what Joseph Campbell would call the "hero's journey". The hero faces obstacles, makes attempts to beat these obstacles, and at the end of the film they transform into a different person than when they started. So I ask every student as they go on their hero's journey in this program, what obstacles do you want to defeat and how will you be a different person at the end of the program than when you first started your adventure?

Piece of advice for young filmmakers in general?

You need to make movies about something, so as much as I can recommend taking film classes and filming whenever possible, I would also recommend leading a life filled with adventure and diversity. When you can you should travel, volunteer your time, join a sports team, take up a cause, anything that will get you exposed to the life around you. Once you do that, you shouldn't have any reasons for having writer's block.


How do you see the film industry changing and how do you think young filmmakers can adapt to those changes?

The film industry is changing due to technology and new ways of watching media. The fact that films and television shows on Netflix and Hulu are being nominated for major awards is absolutely amazing and makes the process more accessible. You don't need permission from a network to make your film; you can record a movie on your phone and upload it to YouTube. Films like Tangerine and Unsane were shot with an iPhone and movies like Tarnation were edited with iMovie. Young filmmakers can adapt to these changes by being aware of options and being observant to change, but the one thing that young filmmakers will need to do no matter what is tell a good story. It will get cheaper and cheaper to make a film, and before you decide what camera to invest in or what platform to show your film, make sure you're telling something that's special and genuine to you.

What are some of your current favorite films?

I was a huge fan of The Favourite and The Wife. I'm a big fan of comic book movies, so I’m eagerly awaiting what Marvel and DC have to offer this year. When is that Tarantino Star Trek movie coming out?

What are a couple of quintessential films that young filmmakers should watch?

Baraka by Ron Fricke, The Cutting Edge: The Magic of Movie Editing by Wendy Apple, In the Mood for Love by Wong Kar-wai, The Five Obstructions by Lars Von Trier, Memento by Christopher Nolan.

Learn more about Chris Chan Roberson.

Applications for the summer 2019 Online High School Filmmakers Workshop will be accepted until Tuesday, April 2, 2019 at 5:00 PM ET.