Students will use David Bowie's visit to MCA in 1973 to conceptualize Memphis (and Overton Park's) impact on American Pop Culture. Stories by Dolph Smith and others, rock and roll films, and pre-production emphasis on writing, storyboards, directing and producing will encourage students to create a short narrative piece using Bowie's visit as a metaphor or literal device for their own experiences and imagination.

What will transpire? I will try my best to make the following happen:

Various Lectures or Speakers

(1) Mike McCarthy speaks on the "Rise and Fall of American Pop Culture" referencing comic books, rock and roll and drive in cinema.
(1) Short history of DISTORTION (in music and film)
(2) Elvis Presley and David Bowie.
(3) The Costume: Superhero, Wrestler, Kabuki; ritualistic.
(4) Music and Film; generational segregation as artificial danger:
Punk is Decadent Glam.
Glam is Decadent Psychedelia.
Garage Rock is romanticized Punk.
(5) Dolph Smith talks about his meeting with Bowie at MCA in 1973.
(6) Bob X and others discuss the night(s) Bowie played Memphis.
(7) The importance of the ticket stub and a critique of the Commercial Appeal articles.
(8) A local short story writer (suggested by Burke's Books)

Short riffs on conceptualization:

(1) How Glam preceded Punk trend; how that may inform the student film.
(2) Memphis as ground zero for American Pop Culture.
(3) Discussion re: 'the rock and roll film' and how to make one.

Discussions on being PRACTICAL in your approach to making a short movie:
(Preparation is EVERYTHING in low or no budget filmmaking)

(1) Create storyboards (treat tape like film, cut in the camera)
(2) How the filmmaker should work with the actor.
(3) What the filmmakers have in mind re: locations.
(4) Labeling, identifying what is being shot.
(5) Why and How to light your movie.
(6) The importance of make - up in glam and film.
(7) How to avoid disappointment (on the set).

(1) How one may distort reality for the benefit of Art.
(2) How music set to image creates new contexts.
(3) How to channel Bowie:
Glam rock as re-birth, reinvention, re-use of old ideas.
(4) The superiority of the Western Eye, the collaboration of Sight and Sound, of Cinema.
(5) The dilemma of losing the Individual message when in collaboration with Others.
(6) Why did Bowie visit the MCA? Why do you visit the MCA?
(7) What are your reasons for art? Can you show me with your film?
(8) One does not have to know Bowie to be Bowie.

To the Student:
Explain Yourself: Turn your opinions into Theories. In simple terms, why is your story interesting? Shed light on your idea and make sure it's revealed only in the way you want, just as you would take care to light an actor.

The Message:
Why favor narrative over experimental or non-linear? Because it's Pop, it's the Market. Have an idea? Most people in the audience won't understand your idea unless you make it a verb. A plot is an idea put into action.

Be concise:
A film about your depression? Fine, just don't be boring. Bowie got a haircut to put his point across.

What will the students be doing?
Producing a 10 to 15 minute rock and roll film (not a rock video) that entertains experimental thoughts but with EMPHASIS ON NARRATIVE) using Bowie/Memphis/Yourself as a theme while considering what you would like to do versus what you can accomplish in the time given (6 weeks + one month). (I have shot feature length movies on film in sixteen days or less.)

Preparation on writing the script: How to treat the theme(s): Alienation, Rock stars, Art teachers, the city where rock and roll was created. late night TV horror hosts, Overton Park Shell, Elvis Presley, The Meaning of Life, subversion, assimilation. Midtown. How is all this assimilated and translated personally through the filmmaker - versus what the filmmaker can realistically pull off within the time frame of the course.

What are the goals/objectives for the course?
To finish the short movies and show them at the MCA in a film fest environment.
Your finished film may actually be rough in some ways, but ultimately may lead to a longer piece or other films, based on the students goals.
I would also like the right to post the films here my site or at a link.

What exact facilities/equipment/media/software will you need for each lesson?
(1) The smaller auditorium should be available to watch movies and talk.
(2) A podium with microphone.
(3) Buddy (or Bowman) will have prepped slides, images, etc to view.
(4) Students should take notes and make sketches in and out of class.
(4) Students must provide blank tape and shoot with a mini-DV camera.
(5) Editing outside of school might be necessary, even if the school provides editing equipment.

(1) I will make an effort to bring interested actors and musicians into the class to work with the students.
I can not guarantee what happens beyond that.

(2) Student filmmakers should go out of their way to work with any actor who gives of their time for this project.

(3) Student filmmakers should credit any use of music from local sources or otherwise in the finished product.

(4) Ideally, the short film should be 'scored' in a customized fashion, that is, music should be place specifically to inspire mood.
However, much can be done with pre-existing music and an eye (and ear) for detail.

EDITING NOTE: MEET MY CO-TEACHER BUDDY GRAY (also teaching his own After Effects Class as well!)

Buddy Gray will instruct on technical matters specifically Editing, Sound, and Post Special Effects via After Effects. If a student plans on incorporating special effects into their story line, this should be developed and discussed by WEEK TWO (see below). Also, Buddy will have personal autonomy on how many effects are allowed per script / per class size. Editing assistance and sound work is the ultimate goal here for Buddy and effects are secondary as time allows. Students are encouraged to do as much on their own (pre-existing experience is wonderful).

We don't want a learning curve to slow down the overall effect of shooting/editng (telling) a story, which is the prime motive.

Measuring student progress and/or success:

Ultimately the finished film.
But other criteria loom:
Was the classroom engaged in the idea?

This prospectus is likely to change, especially timeframes - but here is a good estimate as of November 2007:

Mike McCarthy, Dolph Smith, Buddy Gray and others speak. Visuals and information also available on website.
Finished Script for 15 minute film: analysis, Class discussion
Shooting in progress, Class discussion.
Shooting in progress, Class discussion.
Shooting ending / Editing beginning / Music,
View finished or rough edits.

Individual students can use this time to tweak their film in preparation for festival date screening.

As this period draws to a close, ALL finished films (with credits and other specifics) must be submitted on Mini DV tape to Buddy for inclusion on one DVD for screening. Any "Specifics" will be dictated by Buddy Gray.


These original notes written by Mike McCarthy on Wednesday, November 14th, 2007. Updated on November 25th.

Memphis College of Art, Overton Park,
1930 Poplar Avenue, Memphis, TN 38104
tel:(901)272-5100 email: