Students in an Introduction to Filmmaking class recently heard from an Emmy award-winning actor and the former president of the Screen Actors Guild, who also has her own Hollywood Star.
Actor, director and producer Timothy Busfield, who won an Emmy Award for his work on the television series “Thirtysomething,” was joined by actor, director and writer Melissa Gilbert, best known for her work on TV’s “Little House on the Prairie,” to speak to the beginning filmmakers in Carleen Ling-an Hsu’s class. They discussed their careers and offered advice on acting, directing and filmmaking.
“The first thought most people have when they want to make a film is money and script,” Busfield told the class. “How am I going to write a script and how am I going to get the money? But you don’t need either. You need a story. You need to want to tell a story and have a story to tell.”
Busfield and Gilbert each have had long careers in the entertainment industry – Busfield more than 30 years and Gilbert 50 years. And Hsu, who also has had an impressive career as an award-winning documentary filmmaker, including two George Foster Peabody Awards, added to the discussion as well.
“There’s the movie you write, the movie you shoot and the movie you edit,” Busfield said. “If you’re attached to what you wrote and you think that’s what your final version is going to be, you’re making a huge mistake. You have to let things evolve when you’re in fiction storytelling because so many people are going to be involved in the process. Hanging on to something will never work.”
With a dual appointment in the Department of Media and Information and the Film Studies Program in the Department of English, Hsu’s class consists of students from both departments with the overall goal of introducing them to filmmaking.
“It’s experiences like this, with successful people, that shows the students what’s possible and helps get them excited,” Hsu said.
Busfield also is teaching a class at MSU this semester called, “Filmmaking on the Cheap and Fast.” The class consists of a mixture of students from both the College of Arts & Letters and the College of Communication Arts and Sciences.
Both Hsu's and Busfield’s classes are part of the Media Arts Collaborative, a dedicated creative endeavor in the integrated media arts between College of Arts & Letters, College of Communication Arts and Sciences and College of Music. The MAC coordinates creative effort to promote collaborative projects that cut across disciplines to enrich the student learning experience among the three colleges.
“We are all on one team and are so much better together,” Hsu said. “To get these students the best education, the colleges have to collaborate to help make them more well rounded. The people in Media and Information who are learning the technical aspects absolutely have to learn the things like history and storytelling and vice versa. Without the technical and the story married together, you can’t get anything that’s worth watching.”
Classes like these are enriching the Media Arts Collaborative initiative and the undergraduate film studies experience, she said.
“One of the great things MSU is doing is bringing people in, like Ling and Tim, who have been in the business,” Gilbert said. “There is an opportunity for Michigan State to become competitive in film, television and theater and to really create a creative hub.”