My formal introduction to the film industry actually began with a conversation between my dad and a family friend. The typical, “how are the kids?” small talk naturally ensued to which, I can now assume, my dad responded with, “They’re good. Pat’s into movies or something.”
He wasn’t wrong. I was into “movies or something.” At the time of this conversation I was halfway through my sophomore year of college, I preferred the movie theater to a raging house party. I had grown up watching movies; being introduced to Spielberg and Lucas, Burton and the Wachowskis, and many many more at early ages. In sixth grade I said I wanted to become the Next Great Screenwriter (the only time I was ever able to answer the “What do you want to be when you grow up?” question). By college I was becoming more and more interested in the art and structure of filmmaking (even though I would never reach that Screenwriting promise). At first it was a few class projects in high school that got my friends and I out of writing essays for English class. (We received A’s but the bar wasn’t set very high). And then in college it was a couple more short films, a music video, and joining UCONN’s fledging Film Club (for reasons outside of movie-making, one of the best decisions I’ve ever made).
So why was that conversation even important when I could have easily led with “I love movies”? Because that family friend knew Connecticut had recently launched a Film Industry Training Program (CTFITP) and encouraged me to apply. I did and that summer me and sixty or so others gained hands-on experience where we learned the nitty-gritty of filmmaking and shot our own short film.
The goal of the CTFITP was to educate and encourage people to get involved with the (at the time) burgeoning Connecticut film industry. Real, working professionals were brought in, people who had worked their way through the ranks and had their own war stories to tell. They taught us what it takes to succeed, proper set etiquette, and how rewarding this industry can be (despite the intense hours).
That summer was one of the best of my life. We worked hard and learned a lot. The staff was impressive. These weren’t merely film students turned teachers, they professionals with credits ranging from Peter Jackson’s The Lovely Bones to Law & Order. And while they had a lot to teach, it wasn’t necessarily the role-specific tips that stuck but rather how they conducted themselves that have stayed with me in future productions. But, of course, the one adage that I live by whether I’m on set or doing anything else: “If you’re early, you’re on time. If you’re on time, you’re late. And if you’re late, go home.”
As a group we bonded as only filmmakers can. There’s something about the friendships made on film set that stick with you for life. We all came from different backgrounds; some of us college students, others film lifers, and yet others were simply looking for a second career. We leaned on each other. We talked about how our different experiences could help. But most importantly the film industry welcomed us.
Through the connections I made with the CTFITP I met Nutmeg Co-Founder Michael Field on a webseries he was shooting (The Puzzle Maker’s Son was another great addition to that summer) and eventually through him connected with my 48 Hour Film Project – New Haven partner and Nutmeg Co-Founder Trish Clark. They became not only professional partners but a couple of my closest friends.
I’m eternally grateful for that family friend and the experience of the Connecticut Film Industry Training Program. With Nutmeg Institute I want to offer that same kind of help. I hope for us to be a resource for education and conversation but most importantly a way to build friendships and your film family.
- Patrick Whalen