Nicholas Hoskins, who has started Greater Princeton Area Filmmakers, which meets every other week at the Princeton TV studios, can trace his love of the movies to a simple ritual from his childhood. His mother, Susan Hoskins, the executive director of the Princeton Senior Resource Center, had a meeting once a week that kept her out late. Hoskins and his dad, who teaches stagecraft and video production at the George School, would stay home, order a pizza, and watch a movie. And not your typical watered down Disney fare. “We’d watch movies like ‘The Gods Must Be Crazy,’ movies that were completely different,” says Hoskins. “I remember watching ‘Mutiny on the Bounty’ (the 1935 version with Charles Laughton and Clark Gable and directed by Frank Lloyd), and that was where my desire to begin making movies came from. I began to imagine that I could tell a similarly epic story.”
While attending the George School, Hoskins belonged to the movie club. (His younger brother, Daniel, 16, is currently a junior at the George School.) In his freshman year at Oberlin he took an intro to video class, eventually taking enough video classes to make a major out of it. But while Oberlin offered courses in film theory and history, they didn’t offer any courses in film production. His advisor cleverly forged a partnership with a film school in Prague, and Hoskins and two other Oberlin students spent fall semester of their senior year “making videos all day very day for three months in this beautiful historic city. That was the thing that really solidified my self-consciousness as a film maker.”
He graduated in 2008 with a double major in cinema and history and was offered a job on campus in the cinema department. While professors taught film theory, Hoskins taught students how to use lights, mikes, and cameras. He had at his disposal all the toys a young film maker could want, as part of his job was maintaining thousands of dollars worth of newly acquired equipment.
In June, 2010, he moved back to Bucks County, in part, he says, because he missed he Quaker community that had been a large part of his childhood. Now living in Langhorne, PA, he is a member of Newtown Monthly Meeting and Philadelphia Yearly Meeting. He is spending this school year working for a segment of AmeriCorps called EducationWorks. He is a facilitator of a project-based learning program called HiSTEP (High School Training and Enrichment Program) at Lincoln High School in northeast Philadelphia. “These students are in school all day trying to determine their individual achievements; we want to put them in an environment where they work together. For example, we are putting together a fashion show, so we’ll have designers who will create garments, models who will wear garments, photography, media, publicity, set designers, kids with different skills who all get together for a single event. They’ll be gaining the ability to work together as a life skill.”
Hoskins was introduced to Princeton TV through his mother, who tapes a program there. He hatched the idea of a meetup group to connect people with industry experience in video and film with those who were interested in getting more experience. The group meets every other Wednesday at the Princeton TV studios at the former Valley Road School at 369 Witherspoon Street. The group was designed, says Hoskins, so that people could interact with one another and get feedback on project ideas and projects already in the works. “Hopefully it will end up being a place where people with different interests can come together over their shared experience.”
The group, which has met three times so far, has already attracted a wide variety of people including those who are actively working in the industry as actors, producers, directors — people, says Hoskins, “who still want to get their hands dirty when they’re not at work” — as well as people who may have an interest in some aspect of the industry, for example, who want to write a screenplay; people who work in totally unrelated fields but see this as something fun; and people who are interested in making a career choice or change to the video or film industry. One participant, Jaume Avila, is a software engineer at Technicolor. Another, Susan Paolin, a freelance motion designer specializing in flash animation, is looking to get into live action film making. Lawrence Roth, a freelance TV and film producer who specializes in lighting, just moved to Princeton a year ago from Hollywood. Abby Gold is a freelance TV producer who lives in Kingston.
Several participants have regular “day jobs” but are interested in exploring a particular aspect of the video or film industry. Lawrence R. Greenberg, director of marketing for SiMX, a data processing software company in Princeton Junction, directs and produces a show, “Zombie Etiquette” (facebook.com/zombieetiquette) at Princeton TV and is hoping it will get picked up by a network. His assistant director on the show, Brien Gorham, is a school teacher. (The show is put together on evenings and weekends.) Co-producer Marti Davis sells AFLAC insurance. One cast member, Heather Scott, works in a Victoria’s Secret retail store. Christina Islam is a self-employed graphic designer who wants to learn more about cameras and also recently started producing her own show on PTV.
Hoskins also says he hopes that more non-industry people will join the group, people who may work in unrelated fields but have a strong interest in video or film. “I really want to encourage people who have an idea that they’d like to see produced but haven’t known how to do it.”
At each meeting Hoskins says members discuss what experience they have, “and then I try to plan for there to be some sort of activity. For example, Sharyn (Murray, operations manager at PTV) brought in a piece she had worked on. We watched it and talked about what we liked and made suggestions. Last week I brought in a project I’m working on, developing a media literacy curriculum for the high school. It includes video, podcasting, blogging, all those tools, and I talked about the intention of the project, to show students how to use these tools to become more effective communicators. I got a lot of good advice (from the group).”
Hoskins has also started a Google group on which any member can post a message, such as “I’m working on this project on this day, and I need someone to help me with sound.” It’s already up to 17 members.
As for his own vision of forging a career in film, Hoskins says he is leaning toward cinematography. “I really enjoy creating the aesthetics of a piece. I enjoy shooting other people’s pieces more than writing or directing. I know there are a lot of people who have ideas that they want to get produced, and there are people who have particular skills and enjoy their own part of the production. My hope is that the group will match up directors or screenwriters with more technically adept or experienced people. There are two sides of the coin: the idea and the creation. I’m hoping we match up the ideas with the creators.” — Jamie Saxon
Greater Princeton Area Filmmakers, Princeton Community Television, 369 Witherspoon street, Princeton. 609-252-1963. Meetup group every other Wednesday at 7 p.m. for independent filmmakers to work together and share skills. Register by E-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Next meeting: Wednesday, September 29.