Collective hones film skills weekly


Did you take up my suggestion and attend the Champaign Movie Makers meeting on Monday night? If so, you hopefully left with a smile and a better understanding of what CMM members are capable of putting together in our community after watching their 48-hour film festival. That said, what else is out there for those who want to seriously build their skill set so they can gain a foothold in the entertainment world? A newer group in Champaign, the Workshop Films Collective, is offering next-level instruction that some of our friends and neighbors might be craving if they don’t yet have the chops for professional production or the means to attend film school. It is a service the likes of which is rarely offered here in the private sector or at university and, for today, C-U Blogfidential can share the scoop on this opportunity!

Eager facilitator John Isberg, who segued from a career in special education teaching to a full-time and self-made gig as an independent video creative within the last several years, hosts the meetings of the collective in the modest back studio space of Shatterglass Studios near downtown Champaign. Ready built for his purposes, it is intimate enough for everyone to share face time as they talk projects and strategy while equipped with the appropriate gear to augment their lessons from week to week. One of the collective’s strengths is that it does meet weekly, not monthly, so that individuals can consistently soak up the entirety of what it means to play a vital role on a set and practice hard towards that goal.


“Magnolia” long take from Swede Films on Vimeo.


“We work on developing production skills in camera, grip and electric, sound, directing, and developing professionally as a film crew,” states Isberg in a brief IM conversation with CUBlog. “The collective is guided by the principle that film is a collaborative effort and we work to support and develop each other’s voices through film.” To that end as with CMM, members of the Workshop Films Collective may have one eye on the bigger picture with pet projects in mind as they dig in practicing the technical skills they would like to perfect. Isberg realized that the group itself had to first coalesce into a nucleus that is capable of stepping beyond the comfort zone of the “lab experiments” performed at the Shatterglass confines.

“The first year of workshop was a lot of exploration,” he continues. “The second year was developing as a crew [and] the third year was spent developing professionally and getting professional experiences. The upcoming year is taking our experiences and producing original content and films.” Up to the present, Isberg has welcomed collective members to participate on volunteer and work-for-hire sets, such as with the recent shoot on the grounds of the former Chanute Air Force Base in Rantoul where they filmed videos for Night Dreamer, a new art-rock combo with Mindy Song and Smashing Pumpkins’ Jeff Schroeder. They are currently developing their own short film concepts, an internet series, and a throwback slasher movie as potential activities in the near future. “Finding an idea that can actually be produced and affordable – all our films are self-financed – has been a challenge,” admits Isberg.


Film Workshop Horror lighting test from Swede Films on Vimeo.


No matter which projects get off the ground, he and collaborators have committed to building their knowledge and abilities on all fronts. This is readily apparent on the collective’s Facebook group, where members respond avidly to the wealth of relevant articles shared by Isberg, and the video samples decorating this post, showing off the impressive results from their studio-bound tests. Isberg also brings in veteran voices to share their stories with the group; recent visitors include Shatterglass co-owner and producer Brett Hays, Chicago-based assistant director Anthony “Ace” Cabral, and Champaign County Film Office liaison Terri Reifsteck. “Our overall goal is to develop the indie film scene locally and professionally,” surmises Isberg. I have no doubt that strength in well-trained numbers is key. Can the collective count you in, C-U?

The Workshop Film Collective meets every Wednesday evening at 5:30 p.m. at Shatterglass Studios. The meeting later tonight, Wednesday, February 26, is canceled due to inclement weather. It was to cover the fundamentals of interview lighting as well as pre-production on the retro horror film, according to Isberg. The collective will resume next week.

~ Jason Pankoke

[Updated 2/26/20, 2:45 p.m. CST]

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