“You’re recording this? Cool, can I say ‘off the record’?” said Michael Molina, CC ’10, smiling.
Across the table sat the production crew of one of Columbia’s newest organizations, Project Bluelight. Created this year by a close-knit group of dedicated Columbia College sophomores, Project Bluelight is the University’s first undergraduate film production group. It was founded by Molina and Jeff Schwartz, CC ’10, early this year, and has grown since then to include over 30 people in cast and crew.
Sitting at the table were the producers—Molina, Schwartz, Jesse Horwitz, CC ’10, and Charlotte Kaufman, CC ’10—of Project Bluelight’s first production, as well as public relations officer Jessie De Luca, CC ’10. All have a deep interest in film but surprisingly varied academic backgrounds. With majors ranging from film studies to Middle East and Asian languages and cultures, these sophomore tours-de-force bring to the industry an interdisciplinary perspective on filmmaking.
When asked what the reason for starting Project Bluelight was, the founders had much to say. “The Columbia film department focuses a lot on film studies, and in the film studies major, you study a lot of theory,” Molina said. “In terms of film production here, it’s hard to get involved as an undergraduate.”
Everything in Project Bluelight, including the acting, camera operation, and script writing, is done by undergraduates—an unprecedented opportunity for such young filmmakers. Project Bluelight was conceived last summer to act as a practicable supplement to the film theory found in the undergraduate curriculum. Molina and Schwartz would write back and forth, each contributing new ideas for their venture. They immediately began going through the proper channels to establish Project Bluelight as a formal organization.
After putting up the fliers, they were surprised by the phenomenal response from people on campus. Many students showed up to audition for crew positions. The crew is now made up of a mix of experienced and inexperienced people—and even the experienced have opportunities to learn new things. “For technical roles like camera operator and cinematographer, you generally want people who have had experience doing that before,” Horwitz said. “But even those people get new experiences while doing that.”
Luckily, Project Bluelight hasn’t had too much trouble with fundraising for equipment and production costs. Most organizations who are capable of giving Project Bluelight sponsorship “have been really enthusiastic,” Schwartz said. The group’s sponsors include The Gatsby Charitable Foundation, as well as all the undergraduate student councils.
Currently, Project Bluelight has just finished shooting the film Setup, and is now in post-production. Setup is a comedy about a playwright who tries to win back his girlfriend by casting her in a play that seems to be about their lives. “Our product is just stunning, like the craftsmanship. I didn’t know how good these kids were—they got it. And I think they made what looks to be a really great picture,” Molina said. The script was written by Robert Trump, CC ’09. Setup is tentatively set to premiere in late April.
Where will Project Bluelight go from here? As far as this crew is concerned, the sky’s the limit. They intend to take Project Bluelight in different directions—feature length, horror, experimental—and they are ambitious and always considering how they can grow as artists.
The producers’ vision for Project Bluelight is to expand Columbia’s opportunities for undergraduate filmmakers. They also want to include people from different backgrounds, even outside the realm of film. “People don’t have to be filmmakers. They could do things like publicity or marketing, not just film production,” Horwitz said. Looking toward the future, these sophomores see an opportunity to foster a community of students of many different disciplines to share, experiment, and create art with a message. “A huge part of it is getting people out there who are interested, who want to gain experience,” Schwartz said. “Film is such an enormous collaborative industry—we want all of them. This is here, this is the campus to find the people.”
If Project Bluelight succeeds, Columbia might finally show the world—and, more importantly, New York University—what it’s made of.