Behind the Camera: Spotlight on Jeff Carpenter '12
Ever wonder where last week's Echo video of Obama came from, and who was behind the videos that made it all the way to The Huffington Post? It was Jeff Carpenter '12, who joined the Echo last fall, and has done wonders for the newly renovated newspaper website, thecolbyecho.com, via his Canon 7D camera and savvy video-editing skills.
Watching the Obama video and some others in his repertoire, it's clear that Jeff is not new to the game of video-editing. He traced his interest in filming and cinematography back to the early years in his childhood, when a natural curiosity about video emerged. "My dad was really into bringing the video camera everywhere and filming what we did," he recalled, "so I sort of got into it just by asking him if I could borrow his camera and take videos with it."
He remembered a road trip to Las Vegas, during which "I spent the entire lunch just going around the pool fiddling with my dad's camera." Later in high school, a natural inclination to capture images on film and to tweak shots for artistic effect developed into a real and enjoyable hobby.
It also built him a reputation as the "tech-savvyist" among his peers in high school, and Jeff has continued to build that reputation at the College. He serves as the president of the Tuesday Night Film Club, the Digital Media Editor for the Echo, and he has filmed a number of videos for both Powder and Wig and Colby Improv.
Jeff said he had dabbled in a few video-editing classes throughout his years in high school, but he attributed the chief reason for the development of his talents to the videos he has created for his own enjoyment and self-satisfaction. The most prominent example is the project that he and a group of close friends worked on as an entry for Powder and Wig's Red Eye Film Festival, in which each team was required to script, cast, film and edit a movie in under twenty-four hours.
"The Red Eye Film Festival this JanPlan really stretched my skills because we had to make a video in 24 hours. The [limited] timetable really got me to improve my workflow and edit quickly," Jeff said. He described the adrenaline and the fast-paced environment, with everyone "scrambling over and thinking of storylines on the way. We pieced together a raw story and what the characters might say, but we didn't have a script."
After getting past the hurdle of filming each shot, he and his team stayed up the entire night working to polish and edit the scenes before the deadline. "Trip [Venturella '12] had a lot of influence [as the director] at the start, but when it came to editing I knew where the film had to go."
Perhaps the most impressive shot from the entire short is the speakeasy scene, in which the camera pans and rotates from one table to another. The secret behind the amazing camerawork was a new dolly that Jeff had purchased to give his camera better mobility.
"Over the summer I got a dolly, which is just wheels for my tripod, and I had been looking for an excuse to use it. I was just thinking of where I could do that, and it popped into my head that I should do the rotating scene in the bar of the speakeasy. Then we got to the set, arranged a couple of chairs, and told people where to sit. [The scene] took a couple of takes, but we got it, and it's an amazing shot."
Despite his involvement in various video production projects at the College, Jeff does not see himself entering the film industry as a filmmaker. "I think I eventually want to end up in some sort of creative marketing job that has to do with film-so, not somebody who's necessarily making films, but somebody who works with people who make films. To work at Pixar would be the most awesome job for me," he said. "I don't want to be a director, or a producer, or a cameraman, but I do want film to be a part of my life."
But career aside, the studies and activities that Jeff has pursued at Colby speak for themselves. They represent the passion and appreciation that Jeff possesses for learning about movie-making and simply his desire to have fun with the medium.
"I really like comedies, and I do all the videos for Colby Improv-even though you can hear me laughing in the background sometimes. I love filming their videos because they're just the funniest and the best people to work with on video." He smiled and described the mutually beneficial relationship between them. "It's just a win-win situation because as a cameraman, I'm always looking for people to make videos with and they're always looking for people to make videos of them."
Jeff also has a self-designed major that incorporates psychology and computer science, with a bit of philosophy. Called "social informatics," he said that "it is the study of how the way we design new media affects our psychology as a society. For instance, the way you layout a Facebook page will influence what groups socially look like in real life."
This seems to be the way he sees the role of film-as a medium that frames the way we view the world. "I just like film as a story-telling medium-I guess as most people do. But I really like the special sense things get when they're filmed. A teacup might not be very special in real life, but when it's filmed, it can be something else-it can even be a character in a story."