Submitted on Monday, 12/8/2014, at 10:00 AM

By William Harvey ’18

Black Box
See a Flickr set of photos of the students using the new black-box studio.

A newly constructed “black-box” studio in Fayerweather Hall is specially equipped to provide students with hands-on experience in directing, filming and performing. 

The studio was constructed last summer from an old film and slide room that became available after the slides were converted to a digital format. Boasting movable lighting fixtures as well as a positional green screen, the new 1,375-square-foot studio is accessible to all arts students both during and after class.

Black Box Adam Levine, assistant professor of art, film and media studies, says what’s great about the space is that it allows students to control filming conditions, such as sound and light, the same way professional film studios do. This semester, students in his “Foundations in Moving Image Production” course are using the space to recreate a scene from Billy Wilder’s 1944 film noir, Double Indemnity.

Levine’s course offers an alternative approach to the typical film class. While focusing on the theory of cinema, it also covers the more technical aspects of film production.

For Alexandra James ’16, director of the Double Indemnity scene and a film and media studies major, the course has taught her more about film development than she ever expected. “Up to this point, most of my classes have been theory. You discuss all the aspects of production rather than the work as a whole,” she says. “In this class, you get the opportunity to be there and do things like lighting or framing.”   

The assignment is James’ first foray into directing, but, she says, “so much of it was the entire class working together. Directing is an experience I’m not familiar with; it’s equally delegating as it is doing. It was a group experience.” 


While James is directing, other students in the class are working on set, too. There’s a director of cinematography, assistant directors, a makeup artist, a gaffer and a boom operator, as well as actors.

James says the space has enabled them all to accomplish more than they could have before. For instance, “we’re utilizing the green screen for a split phone call,” she says, “where we will overlay a background with the caller.”

In the end, all 11 students in the class will take on the role of film editor. They’ll each use the same film they shot together in order to create their own versions of the scene. James says, “Each student [being] responsible for their own editing is incredibly exciting.”

Levine and his students plan to screen some of the scenes in the College’s newly renovated Powerhouse at a public event on Wednesday, December 10, from 4-7 p.m.