Film’s Infinite Options

LIAM LOCKHART LEANS ON HIS PROFESSIONAL EXPERIENCES AND MEMORIES OF BEING A STUDENT TO BRING INNOVATIVE IDEAS TO LIFE IN THE FILM SCHOOL.

December 2016Liam Lockhart has dedicated his life to creating immersive experiences for audiences. Case in point: As an MFA student at UCLA in the ’80s he was in an industrial percussion band that organized a performance on Hollywood Boulevard based on found objects. He and his bandmate drove around collecting car hoods, car doors, air conditioning ducts and other bang-able metal objects, which they hung all over the theatre. As the audience streamed in, each person was handed a wooden dowel and asked to hit whatever they wanted. “We were rather progressive,” he laughs.

Lockhart launched his career as an editor and writer at i/O Productions in Los Angeles, where he edited features and sports stories for specific international audiences, whether that meant a country as big as Russia or as small as Lichtenstein. “Every country has its own parameters, so it was quite a challenge,” he explains.

When his bandmate invited him to apply for a position as a sound mixer, he joined Stage Two Audio in Burbank, California, going on to earn two Emmy nominations for “Faith of My Fathers” in 2005 and “Flight 93” in 2006. Despite the creativity the position required to properly pair up all aspects of sound to the moving images (think of the sound a necklace makes when it’s jostled matched with sound from the room and dialogue layered on top), he wanted to step away from what was a mostly solitary endeavor and into a new creative space—teaching.

“I reinvented myself as an instructor and have not looked back,” Lockhart says. He firmly believes that you can create a new world through audio design and wanted to share those skills with students. After teaching a variety of age groups, from elementary to high school students, he settled at the college level, joining Santa Fe University of Art and Design in 2011, where he was recently named the associate chair of The Film School.

In addition to his new responsibilities, he still teaches one or two courses each semester. In the fall, it’s a course centered on 20th century film, but he also teaches courses about international horror cinema and experimental film. “What I’m proud of is that my classes address the social consciousness and expose students to masterworks that give them a newfound appreciation for this art. Films can exist beyond the screen, by touching your mind or sparking a thought,” he says.

He’s also begun instituting exciting new programs at The Film School. The first is Fee Free Festival Submissions, a program that requires faculty to select up to 20 films each school year for consideration for a $250 endowment per student, which will enable them to submit their projects to five to eight film festivals. “I couldn’t afford to submit my films after I graduated,” he says. “To create initiatives like these, I remind myself what my experience was like.” He’s happy to report that students are already submitting more works to film festivals around the world.

Another project is based on the television model of directing. Shows like “Longmire” regularly invite guest directors to take the reins for an episode, but they must abide by the show’s basic tenants. Lockhart and his faculty have adapted the concept for this year’s production of Shoot the Stars!®, which asks teams of students working on the same short film to convey a consistent vision. “This project is an exercise that comes down to how clearly you can convey your idea, how it’s understood, and how well it’s executed. We’re asking our students to step up to the plate by setting these parameters.”

Special projects like these abide by the same advice Lockhart shares continuously with students: “Use this experience as an opportunity to find yourself, build confidence in your voice, and make as many mistakes as you possibly can in a safe environment. You will learn from those mistakes.”

“Cinema is an art form that has yet to find its limits,” he continues. “There are so many places we can go. There are myriad aspects to this art form. Explore every area to find where you want build your passions professionally.” —Claire Blome