Ben Rose spends a lot of his time at the Art Institute of Indianapolis, where he is currently completing his degree in photography, and this night is no different. This photography studio, a second home to this Indiana native, is where he has cooked up his newest project: Indy Filmmakers Bootcamp.
"Indianapolis is fractured," Rose says. "All these little areas are self-contained like actors over here, writers over there. I think that's one of the things that keeps Indianapolis removed from becoming a larger entertainment city. People don't network enough between these groups and all these groups are necessary to make a film, from catering to musicians for the soundtrack."
Rose emphasizes, "There are more low- and no-budget films being made now than ever. What needs to happen is the best of these small crews need to start working together on larger projects where individuals specialize in a particular part of the process."
With a long resume of photography, writing, acting, spoken word poetry, directing and filmmaking, Rose is familiar with Indy's arts community. Consequently, he sees an opportunity to bring the local film industry to the next level. "I left Indiana because I felt like there wasn't enough internal and external industry support ... I came back because I think now is the perfect time to bring Indianapolis into the filmmaking spotlight."
The bootcamp, he says, will "foster growth and networking in the local scene and show people the essential building blocks for this industry -- in the absence of a major filmmaking school."
The bootcamp: no push-ups necessary
The bootcamp is a three-week crash course targeted at writers, directors and actors interested in filmmaking. All levels of experience are welcome.
"Let's keep it real," Rose says. "Most people are not gonna become Hollywood stars, but that doesn't mean you can't enjoy the process ... on a smaller scale. This workshop is a taste of Hollywood, right down to the screening."
The writers will create a 10- to 15-minute script, which will then be produced by the directors, who cast the actors (see sidebar). The bootcamp culminates in a two-day production period in which the films are made. Rose then edits the films and releases them for a public viewing at Earth House.
According to Rose, the writers will be given two locations for the setting of their script, and must have two male and two female roles. After finishing their script, writers pass on their work to six directors, who meet with their respective writers to get a feel for what the writers want.
Ball State grad Heath Benfield is assisting Rose with the directing and writing workshops. His goal, he says, "is to help guide these promising storytellers by sharing the things I have learned as an independent filmmaker -- things they won't see on the DVD bonus features of the latest Hollywood blockbuster. I guarantee they'll walk away from the experience with a fresh outlook on the process of filmmaking, and if it's an art that they find they have a passion for, they'll be starving for more."
All the actors will be featured in two films, providing them with quality demo material. On top of that, the actors learn the dynamics of working on a set with a full crew -- an experience few beginning actors can claim.
Actor workshop leader Bob Berry, a veteran performer and teacher via his Actors Workshop, met Rose when Rose was his student. Berry's role in the bootcamp, he says, "will be to introduce the basics of acting; demonstrate the difference between stage and film acting; memorization techniques; auditioning dos and don'ts; and preparing the actor for the work and concentration needed for being a successful film actor."
Liz Collar, a local actress/model, is anticipating a productive bootcamp. "I look forward to learning from other people who have expertise in the film industry, and also being part of a film production team," Collar says. "I really liked Ben's vision to pull together, in a collaborative effort, all kinds of talent in the city."
Ben Rose: 'The E! True Hollywood Story'
Originally a writer, Rose attended IU Bloomington with an interest in poetry and short fiction. The then freshman was surprised at how easy college turned out to be, and a bad case of over-confidence resulted in Rose's eventual dropping out.
"I was going to blow up, I knew it," Rose recalls. "I was going to be an artsy dropout, write a novel and just blow up. But, I soon realized there is a business side to everything." A large dose of reality, in the form of professional rejection, prevented Rose from publishing his best-seller and retiring early. Then another kind of reality set in with early fatherhood and Rose stopped writing for a number of years. He eventually began writing again and performed his first spoken word piece at the Jazz Kitchen around 1995. "It was a musicians' open stage night, and I asked the owner could I read a piece during the break. I had some of the guys play some acid jazz behind me and the crowd totally dug it, and I was hooked on spoken word from that point."
At the same time the young writer went back to school at IUPUI, where he fell in love with screenwriting. Screenplays were a new experience for Rose, and opened the door to film production. Hopes of directing sent Rose into a series of telecommunication courses, where he learned about cameras, lighting, sound and editing.
Rose soon got a job at Channel 13 WTHR, which next led to a position at Comcast Cable making commercials, a position he filled for seven years. While doing his stints at Channel 13 and Comcast, Rose could also be seen performing his spoken word poetry at such venues as the Madame Walker Theatre, Kafe Kuumba, Indiana History Center, Birdy's and the Phoenix Theatre. When Rose started feeling like he didn't have anywhere to grow in Indiana, Comcast presented an opportunity to transfer him to Atlanta, Ga., where his interest in filmmaking grew. Rose produced his first -- still unreleased -- feature-length film (The Playpen) and became increasingly connected with Atlanta's underground film community.
He found his way back to Indianapolis a few years later. "A number of factors brought me back," he says, "family being a major reason and also this nagging feeling of not having completed a degree."
Indywood: the next big thing?
Rose is adamant about Indy's cultural future. "We've got great architecture, great people and a great infrastructure to do these kinds of projects on a budget. We're the crossroads of America and once people truly start taking pride in that, Indianapolis will come into its own artistically."
Community involvement is key, and Erin Newell, director of FILM Indiana (the Indiana Film Commission), feels like the community is ready to help.
Newell feels that everyone in Indiana's film industry would like to see something more happen. One problem is that Indiana's incentives for the media industry are not competitive with other states, and therefore do not attract out-of-state film projects. Indiana's Media Production Expenditure Tax Credit sits at a low 15 percent, half that of film-friendly Louisiana's 30 percent Motion Picture Incentive. "There are strengths we have," Newell says, "such as tremendous accessibility to locations and a strong crew database that's readily available."
"Indianapolis has the perfect setting to make a great film community," Rose says. "I'm living proof of the diversity of this state, and there are hundreds of other unique stories like mine waiting to be discovered and released as feature films.
"I'm hoping this bootcamp will stir a lot of fire in people's bellies to get out there and do it. If people support this bootcamp there is no doubt in my mind you will see a major change in the filmmaking community in Indianapolis."
The bootcamp's three aspects
* Writers must complete a 10- to 15-minute script.
* How to compose a screenplay.
* How to market your screenplays to the industry.
* Learn camera work, lighting, blocking with actors, movement and other aspects of cinematography.
* Learn what to do with a film after they've produced it: how to pitch their product, being featured in film festivals, talking with production companies and other post-production pursuits.
* Focuses on the basics of acting for the camera, character study, body language, vocal work and memorization techniques.
* Also covers improvisational acting, monologues and making and distributing demos.
* How to land an agent and market yourself.