Beyond IFI: A conversation with filmmaker Courtney Harmstone

Repost from Sarah Lawrence College Summer Programs Post.

The confidence I gained at IFI has propelled me throughout my career.  The passion and the buzz I first felt in that casting room in Columbia University has not left me. Whenever I doubt myself, I think back to that day and that memory gives me the energy to continue.”  ~ Courtney Harmstone, International Film Institute, ’08

 

chCourtney Harmstonea self-described American-British hybrid” took one her first steps in film during the International Film Institute’s Summer Intensive at Sarah Lawrence in 2008. Since then, she has worked in film on both sides of the Atlantic, working as a producer, mentor, and co-founder and programmer of Catfish Shorts, a networking and film festival created for women in the film industry. Courtney recently shared with us about her in the film industry, future projects, and favorite memories of her time as at Sarah Lawrence College.
How did you initially get involved in the International Film Institute summer intensive?
When I was in high school I was always passionate about film and television, but my school did not offer a course in filmmaking.  I had previously attended summer film courses at SCAD that were only one week in duration.  It was a nice taster, but I longed for more. After researching various programs, I found IFI at Sarah Lawrence College which had the depth and breadth I was looking for as well as fabulous teachers active in the industry.   I was excited to be part of this intensive and immersive environment where I could experiment with the craft and find out if this was what I wanted to do with my life.  Spoiler alert! I am still working in film!
What is your favorite memory from that experience?
A great memory from my time at IFI was casting for the short film we were required to make during the course.  It was pretty inspiring to have these young and incredibly talented actors come and read portions of our scripts to us at Columbia University.  There was a buzz in the room and the energy was overwhelming.  I couldn’t believe these young professionals were interested in working with us! It was a great experience. It was very professional.

Another is being around so many creative people who, like me, knew little about the art of filmmaking or had minimal experience. It had a synergistic effect that created a supportive environment that allowed us to experiment with new ideas and take risks.
How has it impacted your life since then?
IFI had a huge impact on my life and my future career decisions.  It was the first opportunity I had to really explore filmmaking and to learn what it meant to work in the dramatic arts; how to plan, structure, shoot and edit a short film.  The course inspired me to pursue the film industry as my future career.  When I returned from New York, I knew I wanted to be a filmmaker and set my sights on pursuing a B.F.A. in film production.  In 2013, I graduated from The Florida State University College of Motion Picture Arts and then continued my education two years later at The University of Exeter and The London Film School with an M.A. in International Film Business.   
What advice would you give to your younger self?
If I could go back to myself at that age I would probably say TAKE MORE RISKS! Don’t be scared to experiment and have the confidence to just go out with a camera and shoot.  However, it is with the understanding that I did not take enough risks in filmmaking (and possibly with life) when I was younger – playing it safe, so to speak – that drives me so much now to push myself to take every opportunity that comes my way, and not to turn it down because I’m scared of the consequences (which, so far, have been very positive).  

I’d probably also tell myself to avoid rum, but I think everyone can relate to that one!
What’s next for you going forward?
The next steps for me are to continue working hard on my independent projects – Catfish Shorts and Indigo Valley – and to look for opportunities that will strengthen my skills as a Producer as I attempt to carve my way through this complicated jungle that we call an industry.  Sometimes you just have to follow the three Ps, as laid out by Robert Wise (Director, The Sound of Music, West Side Story) – “My three Ps: passion, patience, perseverance. You have to do this if you’ve got to be a filmmaker.


The elements of a successful movie have remained constant since the inception of the art form. The International Film Institute of New York (IFI) was founded in 1997 to provide those with a sincere and abiding interest in filmmaking with a high-quality, low-cost education in all aspects of the filmmaking process: screenwriting, directing, producing, cinematography, and editing in a curriculum combining classroom instruction and hands-on technical workshops. http://www.nyfilmschool.com

Filmmaker Snapshots: Kate Montgomery

Fast Facts: Kate Montgomery


IMG_8870.JPG.jpegCinematographer, Writer

Current project: CHRISTINE

Recent work: An untitled project with the late actor Martin Landau

You might have seen her: Premiering CHRISTINE at OutFest LA or WINNING Best Short Film in the Women in Film & Television Atlanta Short Film Showcase

Based in: New York

Spends summers: In Bronxville. Kate has worked as an instructor during IFI’s Five-Week Summer Filmmaking Intensive held at Sarah Lawrence College. The program is designed to completely immerse students into the filmmaking process, from screenwriting to post-production. In 2017, Kate taught IFI’s Camera Tech course.

See below for a trailer of CHRISTINE:

With the help of her best friend, Christine redefines her perception of strength and what it means to be herself.

Written and Shot by Kate Montgomery
Directed by Jessica Adler
Produced by Stephanie Serra of Triserratops Productions

 

👋 Thanks for getting to know IFI.


The elements of a successful movie have remained constant since the inception of the art form. The International Film Institute of New York (IFI) was founded in 1997 to provide those with a sincere and abiding interest in filmmaking with a high-quality, low-cost education in all aspects of the filmmaking process: screenwriting, directing, producing, cinematography, and editing in a curriculum combining classroom instruction and hands-on technical workshops. http://www.nyfilmschool.com 

 

Filmmaker Snapshots: Kloudia Sakowski

Screen Shot 2017-06-12 at 11.10.05 AM.pngFast Facts: Kloudia Sakowski


Film Student

School: Sarah Lawrence College Fall ’17

You might have seen her: Working as a boom operator on Gabrielle Sidibe‘s short film THE TALE OF FOUR as part of Refinery29‘s film program.

Based in: New Jersey

How we met her: At IFI’s Five-Week Summer Filmmaking Intensive where Kloudia was a student in 2016. Held at Sarah Lawrence College, the program is designed to completely immerse students into the filmmaking process, from screenwriting to post-production. See Kloudia with her fellow filmmakers below.

Where does Kloudia see herself working in the future? Magic 8 Ball Says: Cannot predict now. She’s done sound on a few projects and some digital media work, but there’s an entire summer ahead and film school starts in the fall.

Screen Shot 2017-06-12 at 11.01.40 AM.png


The elements of a successful movie have remained constant since the inception of the art form. The International Film Institute of New York (IFI) was founded in 1997 to provide those with a sincere and abiding interest in filmmaking with a high-quality, low-cost education in all aspects of the filmmaking process: screenwriting, directing, producing, cinematography, and editing in a curriculum combining classroom instruction and hands-on technical workshops. http://www.nyfilmschool.com 

Program Alum’s Short Film Competes At ZIFF

Victor Okoye Frank’s short film, Lesley, completed while he was a student in the IFI 2014 Summer Program, will compete for a 2015 Sembene Ousmane Film Prize in the Zanzibar International Film Festival (ZIFF) running July 18-26. According to Bernd Multhaup of the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit victor lesley picGmbH (German Federal Enterprise for International Cooperation), the co-sponsors of the prize, three shorts will be chosen and screened at the festival. In addition, each of the winners will receive (upon submission of a script and a completed film within four months of the award) funding of US $2,000 for a new production to be shown at ZIFF 2016.