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Behind The Black Panther: Film School Founder Recalls Early Days Of Chadwick Boseman
Travis Bean, Forbes Contributor
When Patrick DiRenna talks about what makes for a great performance in a film, he speaks of emotional clarity; facial expressions; screen presence; controlling the audience.
But going beyond the mere components of acting, DiRenna views a great performance as a result of great filmmaking: the camera is in sync with the actor; the characters are well- developed; the direction is dictating the performance.
At the Digital Film Academy, that’s what DiRenna hopes students will learn: filmmaking is a team effort. And with that mentality, you can go far in the industry.
“You can make it big,” says DiRenna. “That’s what Chadwick did.”
Yeah, that’s right. Patrick DiRenna, the president and founder of Digital Film Academy in New York City, is talking about that Chadwick. One of his former students, the star of Black Panther—Chadwick Boseman.
With a new slew of future filmmakers set to attend the academy this September—with a second location opening in Atlanta due to attendance growth—DiRenna is looking back on what prepped the school’s most well-known graduate for success in the film industry.
DiRenna, a mentor to Boseman at the time, taught the upcoming star of 21 Bridges “acting for directors.” DiRenna saw the confidence behind Boseman’s performance and knew he had the potential to break out.
“He came here talented, focused, sharp,” DiRenna says.
That poise would certainly take Boseman far, but DiRenna says the actor’s willingness to learn and grow as a performer while attending the academy is what set him up for success.
“Thurgood Marshall is no slouch,” DiRenna says, recalling one of the many prominent African American figures Boseman has inhabited since graduating from Digital Film Academy. On top of portraying the nation’s first black Supreme Court justice, Boseman played Jackie Robinson in 42 and James Brown in Get On Up.
“For me, from a tactical point of view, it’s about who they are,” DiRenna says. “These are three historical figures with big differences between them. If you really want to become these characters, you have to really be willing to take it on.”
Boseman’s versatility and range doesn’t surprise DiRenna, who remembers Boseman as a spot- on student. “Serious and not overly formal,” DiRenna describes Boseman, who has the range of Gary Oldman and the screen presence of Keanu Reeves. Boseman’s capacity to occupy Thurgood Marshall or James Brown goes beyond the ability to mimic those men’s gestures, movement and tone—DiRenna says it requires a quiet, steadied occupation of their being.
“I remember his face and the level of concentration in his eyes. You could see internal processes working,” DiRenna recalls. “At that time he was building himself. I could see he was putting the pieces together.”
But not everybody can find success because of their gripping screen presence. And, really, Boseman’s striking performances are benefitted by the players around him, DiRenna claims. Filmmaking is a collective experience between many professionals working together—and DiRenna’s academy strives to get all those different players ready for the industry.
“My example for all of this is The Godfather,” DiRenna explains. “Al Pacino does next to nothing in the film. But he’s got the face; and then you surround Michael Correlone with all the characters; if he’s still, the camera is moving. There’s all this activity going on.”
DiRenna believes that collective experience at the Digital Film Academy is truly what sets every student—not just Boseman—on a path towards realizing their careers. Alumni like Brad Bailey win awards for documentaries like Hale; alumni like Shaun Dawson nab managerial roles at digital platforms like Vimeo; alumni like Pavel Kercle work on visual effects for huge films like Avengers: Age of Ultron and Jurassic World.
DiRenna’s goal is for the Digital Film Academy to not only coach students while attending school, but set them up for the future. That way, you can find jobs and make money like Boseman did—like Bailey and Dawson and Kercle did.
“This is the only school in the world when after you graduate, you have free access to our equipment forever,” DiRenna says. “That’s how you make money. Forget filmmaking—we’re talking digital filmmaking as an industry.” “
Source: Forbes Online, Jul 12, 2019, 02:16pm