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Texas Arts Project Exclusive — Q&A With Instructor Dustin Gooch

Continuing our spotlight series on the professionals who continue to make Texas Arts Project a perfect place for growth and creativity, Head of Filmmaking Dustin Gooch let us in on what Filmmaking Majors can expect from life at TAP and what it’s like creating a short film in just 3 weeks. Spots still available—register now!

What was your first theatrical/film experience?

My first theatrical experience was seeing the musical Peter Pan with Cathy Rigby when I was very young, six or seven years old. I don’t remember too much other than there was flying. That and arguing with my parents over the casting of an adult woman to play a young boy. I didn’t get that. I also remember eating at a restaurant prior to the show and loving the chicken legs. After I ate them my Dad told me they were actually frog legs! I may or may not have caused a scene.

My first movie experience (that I remember) was Dick Tracy. I don’t know if the film holds up today, but at that time I was absolutely riveted. Though I was completely unaware of the caliber of the actors involved (Warren Beatty, Mandy Patinkin, Al Pacino, Dustin Hoffman, etc.), I found myself over the years going back to that movie (we had it on VHS, too) and seeing how much fun ‘serious’ actors can have with their careers.

Is there any advice you would give to younger students interested in film?

Don’t be passive. It’s very easy to turn your brain off and let a movie wash over you. If you’re truly interested in filmmaking then you have to be an active participant. This doesn’t mean being snobby or arrogant; it means being able to articulate WHY you think a movie works OR seeing where a movie went wrong and dissecting HOW it can be improved. Essentially, this is pretty much what being a storyteller is.

What is a typical day for a camper at TAP Camp?

The program is pretty intense. The day starts in the dining hall, which is actually quite impressive compared to the options I had as a teenager. I’m jealous, but moving on. . .

Classes begin at 9:30am and go ’til 10pm at night. There are breaks for meals and fun camp activities that all the disciplines participate in together, such as swimming, competitions, games, film screenings, field trips to see professional musical productions and plays, etc. The camp does a really good job of interspersing these activities amidst the rigorous class schedule to ensure that the students aren’t just becoming better at their craft, but also having a fun vacation.

That being said, we don’t waste their time. In the film program we are always pushing each other to stay on schedule. Making a short film in 3 weeks is no easy feat. So we hit the ground running, immediately discussing their ideas for movies and working them out as a group. Each student can take the advice they like and ignore the notes they don’t; after all, it’s their movie.

The great thing about the film program is the days are different based on the stage of filmmaking we’re currently in. Some days we’re at the computer writing a screenplay, the next day we’re at the white board coming up with a shooting strategy. The next week we’re golf-carting into the woods to shoot an outdoor scene and then we’re moving on stage to shoot an elaborate theatre scene. Another day we may be at the editing bay cutting a scene together, while the next day we’re at the movies analyzing a professionally produced film.

Basically, there’s a lot to cover in a short amount of time, so no time is wasted and no day is the same.

Why is something like TAP Camp important?

Probably the greatest thing about this filmmaking camp when compared to other high quality programs throughout the country is the fact that we have acting and musical theater majors studying alongside the filmmakers. Most programs require the film students to act in their own productions even if they have no desire to be in front of the camera. Our program allows the filmmakers to audition all of the acting majors and choose their cast accordingly, providing us with actors who show up with their lines memorized and a desire to do the best job possible. This really puts our films ahead of the pack of other programs, in my opinion.

Filmmaking is a group endeavor and cannot be achieved alone. We drive that home at TAP by structuring the program around the idea of community. All the students participate on every film in different roles, thus ensuring that everyone receives knowledge in all areas of the process. It’s always exciting to see this come together when we are screening working cuts of the films in class. Every student has insightful criticism because they were a part of every stage and know exactly what the film is trying to accomplish.

In the broader context of why TAP is important, I would say it’s because they [the campers] are the future. I know that sounds corny (because it is), but it’s also true. There is more and more media created and consumed every day across a multitude of different platforms. This is the future job market: creative content, whether online or on the big screen. We see our role as a fundamental one in pushing our students to think about what they are saying with their work and why they are saying it. This camp is not just about learning how to push the right buttons on a camera to make a pretty image. It’s about the communication of ideas. It’s about storytelling. It’s about seeing what it is that they have to say to the world and helping them get it out there.

And I’m really proud that this is something I get to be a part of.

Texas Arts Project (TAP Camp) has quickly become a proven leader in the world of performing and media arts education. Learn more about how an amazing faculty of nationally recognized experts guides our young artists on the path to excellence in musical theatre, acting and filmmaking. Financial aid available—please visit here for more information.

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