Boston Creative Pro User Group Nurtures New England Filmmakers
Written by Maud Dillingham | Posted by: NewEnglandFilm.com
Filmmaker Dan Bérubé is the founder and leader of the Boston Creative Pro User Group (BOSCPUG) and attracts top-flight talent to the group’s monthly meetings, which take place at Emerson College’s Bright Family Screening Room in the Paramount Theatre in downtown Boston.
At 2013’s final BOSCPUG meeting, at the end of November, there was a wealth of experience on the stage. Sharing their knowledge were Dan Hannon, co-founder of the New Hampshire Film Festival; Aaron Wiederspahn, director of a New Hampshire-shot feature entitled Only Daughter, along with members of his cast and crew; and Alan Edward Bell, editor of The Hunger Games: Catching Fire.
“That was a fun night,” Bérubé says, who hails from New Hampshire and served on the jury at this year’s New Hampshire Film Festival in October. “It was a great way to end the year. It’s always a lot of work to put these things on, but I’m glad it ended on a high note.”
Kicking off the evening, Dan Hannon reminisced about the “very small, very grass-roots” beginnings of the New Hampshire Film Festival in Derry, NH, 13 years ago. Now the festival takes place in Portsmouth. “It’s been really cool to see it grow and attract films from all over the world,” Hannon said. He noted that distributors from New York loved Portsmouth, with its walkability and great vibe.
Another booster of New Hampshire, so much so that he left Hollywood to move to the Granite State after directing his first feature there, is Aaron Wiederspahn. The voluble filmmaker inspired the audience with his irrepressible enthusiasm for mis-en-scene, actors and his film Only Daughter, a drama about an 18-year-old girl who sets off to find the father she never knew.
Wiederspahn explained that he wrote the script from two months of workshops with the actors. He showed scenes from the film demonstrating how different ways of shooting and editing can feature or detract from an actor’s performance. “Trust your actors; don’t cut away,” he advised.
“I chose to live in this area because I fell in love with the people and the place,” Wiederspahn said. “There’s an opportunity to create potent, relevant work on a budget.” Indeed, Only Daughter was made with an all-volunteer cast and crew for $20,000, raised through indiegogo.com. The film was shot in 25 locations over 10 days. “It was an amazing testament to what you can create when you have a group of people who are passionate,” Wiederspahn said.
On the other end of the budget spectrum is The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, whose editor, Alan Edward Bell, A.C.E., shared some insights with the participants. He told the audience, “I love the movie. I’m very proud of the movie.”
Born and raised in Los Angeles, Bell broke into the business by volunteering as an apprentice editor on a Roger Corman film. He worked his way up to editor by cutting indie films for much less money than his assistant editor gigs paid. “With editing, the only way to learn it is to do it,” Bell said.
Bell described how he became proficient with digital editing during the transition from physical film splicers to computer programs, and ultimately taught himself how to do visual effects to be more valuable. “I am providing a service in a very competitive industry,” he explained. “How do I set myself apart?”
“I am in service to the story, the characters, the director, the studio, the audience and then myself,” Bell said. “Editing is all about emotion. Edit for performance, not matching.”
“The skill set I have today is not what I had yesterday or what I will have tomorrow,” Bell pointed out. “Sometimes creativity requires technical prowess. The tools are out there, so you can keep teaching yourself to get better.” He added, “If you don’t have it, make it; if you don’t know how to do it, learn it.”
After his presentation, Bell spoke to this writer about volunteering to present at BOSCPUG. “I do it because I’m trying to help people, to do something that adds value to other people’s lives,” Bell said. “It makes me feel good.”
He said that Bérubé approached him about BOSCPUG at A.C.E. EditFest L.A., another industry meet-and-greet. “I worked my way up by networking. I’m successful now, and people want to hear what I have to say. I want to help other people. When I am asked to speak, I usually say yes.”
Regarding attracting a high-profile Hollywood editor like Bell to present at a BOSCPUG meeting, Bérubé says, “What I’m trying to do is create an opportunity for these people to consider coming to Boston as a little refresh for them. Take a break, leave a little inspired while they inspire us.”
Freelance film and video editor, and BOSCPUG member, Peter Rhodes said he found the November meeting to be a worthwhile break from his busy schedule. “I was inspired by the micro budget guys,” he says, referring to the filmmakers responsible for Only Daughter. “And I was impressed by the technical savvy of Alan Bell.’
“I think Dan consistently brings really great events,” says Bérubé’s collaborator Anna Feder, Programs Manager in the Visual Media Arts Department at Emerson College and curator of the Bright Lights Film Series at the Bright Family Screening Room, which features the monthly BOSCPUG meetings as part of its line-up. “He gets people who are at the top of their field, and very accessible.”
“Dan reached out to me,” she says, explaining that Bérubé was looking for a new place to hold the BOSCPUG meeting and approached her about using the Bright Family Screening Room. “I had this mandate to program at least two events each week per semester,” Feder says. “It’s a win-win. Dan’s user group has a more stable home, and I have really compelling content for the students.”
The Bright Family Screening Room accommodates 175 people, and Feder says that at November’s standing-room-only event, more than half the seats were filled by Emerson community members. “It was an opportunity for people in audience to interact with people in the field,” she says. “I was thrilled that there were so many students there, not just asking questions, but interacting with people” at the post-meeting networking event held next door at Salvatore’s. “Alan Bell was great at holding court with the students.”
“BOSCPUG has become a filmmaker group,” Bérubé says. “November’s meeting was a great example of it, where people could meet the filmmakers, cast and crew. You can feel like you get to know them a bit, who they are, what their passion is.”
“The user group excels at bringing people together,” Bérubé goes on. “You can meet other people, get past a creative roadblock, meet someone you’re going to work with, or just get out for the night.” He notes that all his work for BOSCPUG is on a volunteer basis. “It’s my way of giving back every month and bringing people together, building community and fostering content creation.”
“If you want to learn a different part of filmmaking, any position, come to our user group and connect with the people in the audience and the presenters,” Bérubé says. “You never know who you’re going to meet at these events.”
Since he founded and became president of the Boston Final Cut Pro User Group in 2001, Bérubé has led the organization through changes in technology and guided it from being focused on editing software to encompassing all the disciplines and creativity of filmmaking. In the process, he changed the name in 2011 to the Boston Creative Pro User Group (BOSCPUG).
Bérubé is presently working as editor with filmmaker Noël Barlow on The Chain, a 45-minute narrative film that Bérubé also produced and which Barlow directed and adapted from a short story, of the same name, by author Tobias Wolff. He also co-produces the SuperMeets, larger scale versions of the user group. The SuperMeets take place in San Francisco, Boston, Las Vegas, London and Amsterdam, attracting anywhere from 600 to 2,500 attendees. The Las Vegas SuperMeet has been going strong for 12 years, taking place simultaneously with the annual National Association of Broadcasters (NAB Show) trade show in April. In 2014, Miami and Tokyo (during Inter BEE) will host SuperMeets for the first time.
“I’ve always had a knack for fundraising and negotiating — the skills of a producer,” Bérubé says. ‘It goes back to when I was at Emerson, where I was the president of the Emerson Experimental Film and Animation Society. I was very good at bringing people together. Basically, I like to think that I still have that soul in me. What I’m doing at BOSCPUG now is what I was doing then.”
You can reach Dan Bérubé on Twitter @boscpug and on the web at www.boscpug.org.
Boston Creative Pro User Group
Boston Creative Pro User Group www.boscpug.org