Introduction to Digital Filmmaking

II - July 20–August 6, 2021
Modality, Day & Time:
Monday–Friday, 11:10 a.m.–1:00 p.m. and 3:10–5:00 p.m.

Johnson Cheng

This class is intended for current 8th and 9th graders. Older students should apply for Digital Filmmaking: From Initial Concept to Final Edit.

“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

Students in this beginner level filmmaking course learn a wide range of elementary film production techniques which allow them to create strong, visually-driven short films with an emphasis on narrative storytelling. Participants collaborate on short film projects while building a technical and aesthetic foundation structured around film grammar, story development, script writing, sound, and editing.

In the first portion of the class, students learn the basic principles of cinematography and gain hands-on experience with film production equipment as they progress from basic equipment assembly to on-set production protocol. Each student takes on various key roles in the different projects - directing, cinematography, editing, sound – so that each experiences different facets of film crewing. Collaboration is emphasized as students work together to create three initial short pieces before moving on to collaborate on a final film.

Each exercise leading up to the final film is intended to introduce a new element of filmmaking. In this final project, students collaborate and work sequentially through the stages of production: initial concept, synopsis, treatment, script, storyboards, final shooting, and editing. The instructor provides guidance throughout the process, emphasizing the students’ responsibility for carrying the project from inception to completion. In addition to film production guidance, the instructor provides practical information regarding the film industry and film schools/career paths.

On the last day of the program, students screen their completed films at a film festival attended by friends, family members, and other program participants. 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 bring laptops for this class and should plan to be available to work on their final films on the weekend preceding the final week of the program. Cameras and other film production equipment are provided.


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.