Introduction to Digital Filmmaking (Online)

Open to students entering grade 9 or 10 in the fall
II - July 21–August 7, 2020
Days & Time:
Monday–Friday, 11:10 a.m.–1:00 p.m. and 3:10–5:00 p.m.
Johnson Cheng

“I gained more understanding of how a film should be created and how to apply your creativity to the tools you have.”  – Wenxin Z. | Shanghai, China

Course Description

In this beginner-level course, participants use their personal cameras (either iPhones, iPads, or DSLR’s) to create strong, visually-driven short films and video exercises with an emphasis on the foundations of narrative storytelling. They learn a wide range of elementary film production techniques and build a technical and aesthetic foundation structured around film grammar, story development, script writing, sound, and editing.

Students begin by learning the elements of digital filmmaking with video exercises that start off simply at first, adding a new element of filmmaking with each new assignment until they advance to a final film project.

For the final film, students work sequentially through the stages of production: initial concept, synopsis, treatment, script, storyboards, and final shooting and editing. During pre-production they learn how to plan for and realize a short film from concept to shooting script. During production, they coordinate and shoot their script. In post-production, they edit and polish their projects collaboratively, sharing feedback on scripts and cuts.

Classes include both lectures and workshops, in which students thoughtfully critique and learn from each other’s work. Course instructors provide, in addition to guidance on film production, practical information regarding the film industry, film schools, and career paths.

The completed films can potentially be used for submission to short film festivals and as portfolio pieces for film or art school applications.

Participants are expected to have either an iPhone, an iPad (newer models are preferable, with the oldest possible iPhone model being the “6S”), or a consumer-level DSLR camera. If using an iPhone/iPad, they should be prepared to download the mobile video camera app FiLMiC Pro ($15). Students will also be required to have one the of the following types of software (most are either free or offer a free trial membership): Premiere Pro, Final Cut, iMovie (free), DaVinci Resolve (free).


Johnson Cheng

Johnson Cheng's films have screened at over a hundred international film festivals, including Tribeca, TIFF Kids, Palm Springs (Best Student Film Award), Reykjavík (Golden Egg Selection), Atlanta, Nashville, Uppsala, and Giffoni. His film, Iron Hands (铁手), had its world premiere at the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival and was featured on Vimeo Staff Picks, Directors Notes, Topic Studios, and Film Movement's Over the Limit DVD. Most recently, Johnson was a 2019 Film Independent Project Involve Writer/Director Fellow, where he wrote/directed Lonely Blue Night, starring Diana Lin, available on HBO in 2020. Johnson is a recipient of the prestigious Princess Grace Award (Cary Grant Film Award) and the AT&T InspirASIAN Student Film Award. He is an alumnus of the New York Film Festival Artist Academy, Telluride Film Festival Student Symposium, Reykjavík Transatlantic Talent Lab, Short to Feature Lab, and the Visual Communications’ Armed With a Camera Fellowship. He will graduate from Columbia University’s M.F.A. film directing/screenwriting program in May 2020. Johnson began his career as an intern at PIXAR and is credited on feature films such as Monsters University and Coco. He has worked as a story editor on The Book of Mojo, assistant editor on Reel FX's The Book of Life, and assistant editor on DreamWorks Animation's Kung Fu Panda 3, the first animated co-production between the U.S. and China. Johnson is a member of the Motion Picture Editors Guild.

Back to the Course Guide

Specific course detail such as hours and instructors are subject to change at the discretion of the University. Not all instructors listed for a course teach all sections of that course.