By Janette Neuwahl Tannen

Film students in Professor Ed Talavera’s class learn key skills in cinematography, while helping to create music videos at no cost for emerging artists.

Before this fall, junior Grecia Dianel Rivera had never performed her own songs for a video audience.

Yet, early in October, a class of 15 film students surrounded the young Puerto Rican vocalist as she lip-synced along to one of her own songs, “Cuanto es dos mas dos,” or “How much is two plus two?” in a studio at the University of Miami School of Communication.

The students filming Rivera from various angles were part of Professor Ed Talavera’s cinematography class. They were crafting a music video for Rivera, an emerging Latin pop artist, as a class exercise. And in the meantime, Rivera was gaining some of her own skills.

“I learned more about how to perform in front of a camera as an artist, how to look natural, and have fun at the same time, and Professor Talavera coached me through that,” said Rivera, a junior studying Modern Artistry Development and Entrepreneurship (MADE) at the Frost School of Music. “I am very happy with the finished video, and I’m planning to post it on YouTube soon.”

Talavera, an award-winning cinematographer, has been using music videos as a medium to teach lighting and camerawork to his students for many years.

“Music videos are one way to get into the film industry, and it’s important for students to have this experience for their reels at graduation,” Talavera said. “Students can go on to have a career in music videos, or the experience can also help them get into commercials or narrative film too. So, it’s important for them to learn how do a great job. All the crafts of shooting, cameras, lighting, and editing all come into play with music videos.”

But his class projects also serve another purpose. They help some talented Frost students launch their careers. Early in the semester, Talavera’s students worked with him on a music video as a class, like he did with Dianel. Then, Talavera asked his students to find their own artist and make a music video independently.

It was an intimidating assignment for Manisha Israni, who is earning her master’s degree in motion pictures. She has spent the past 18 years directing commercials, infomercials, and documentaries in Mumbai, India. While she knew how to craft a compelling film, Israni wasn’t as confident about her camera skills.

Yet, by creating her own music video for Frost senior and folk vocalist Avery Chapman, Israni said she now has the tools to do her own filming or to direct a cameraperson in more detail.

“Despite the fact that I got into it with so much fear, I think it has made me a better content creator and improved my skills considerably,” said Israni. “We got to learn the craft of lighting, camera composition, angles, movements, and editing, among others. But to have the skill set of an independent cameraperson, I’ve learned quite a bit from it.”

Sophomore Jordelle Beja, who is in Talavera’s undergraduate cinematography class, got a chance to make a music video for Dawson Fuss, a first-year student at Frost.

Beja enjoyed the process of directing her own music video. She also liked working with Fuss to bring his vision of the song to life, while also practicing the technical skills she is learning in class—like framing a character to denote their importance to viewers.

“I did not know anything about using cameras before this class, but I wanted to learn about it because it’s such a large part of filmmaking,” said Beja, a motion pictures production major. “It was such a worthwhile process to make a music video because you can really focus on the lighting and camera work, and I would love to shoot more of them because it’s such a fun process.”

Fuss—an indie alternative pop artist who released his first single at age 17—performed a song called “Maybe.” Although it wasn’t his first time making a music video, Fuss said it was one of the most comfortable shoots he has ever experienced. He was grateful for the chance to film a music video at no cost and hopes to release an extended play album with the song next fall.

“It’s a great opportunity because the music industry is so fast-paced these days—it’s all about making content and releasing visuals. So, music videos are another way to advertise your work and give another side to the song it probably wouldn’t have had before,” said, Fuss, who is also in the MADE program at Frost. “You don’t need them, but music videos help because they give you another outlet to express your artistry and creative intuitions.”

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