The Cal Film RUB: Filmmaking Resources at UC Berkeley

The Cal Film RUB - Filmmaking Resources at UC Berkeley

The Cal Film RUB – Filmmaking Resources at UC Berkeley

The Cal Film RUB

UC Berkeley is not known for its filmmaking output – and that for good reason: The school focuses heavily on theoretical academia, not so much the “making” aspect. But Berkeley is also known for being progressive, and surprises are maybe within reach – it just takes a critical mass of student, faculty and staff support to transform the film world within the campus. In order to build a critical mass, film production values on campus have to be increased, and information has to be made more accessible. When I arrived at UC Berkeley in Spring 2013, there was no real central resource to look up information and learn more about how to make films at Berkeley – hence the creation of the Cal Film RUB. This collection of resources is like the Film LTK (Links, Tutorials and Knowledge) – a constantly growing & updated resource for all people interested in pursuing filmmaking at UC Berkeley, so they don’t have to do all the trips up and down the Berkeley Hills to find out where to find what. Below, find a collection of relevant classes, administrative resources etc.:

The Cal Film RUB directory

Revelant Film Courses

There is tons of great film theory and film history classes – all great aids to filmmakers that are self-motivated and just look for being infused with intellectual points of view on film, get rooted in their own filmmaking through knowing film history, or learning to analyze their own prospective film projects by learning film analysis in historical and theoretical aspects. You can find a list of all UC Berkeley film classes here:

Now, for us filmmakers of different levels of expertise and different intentions in the way we want to shape our careers, there is a few classes that are especially relevant because they concentrate on a production aspect. Those are…:

  • Film 26 – Introduction to Film Production (Natalie Zimmerman) This class introduces the entire production pipeline from preproduction (writing & storyboarding) through production (lighting, sound recording, camera) to post production (editing & aesthetics). Different Workshops supplement the theory with practical application; class discussions are used to reflect learned production knowledge. All the class’ knowledge culminates in a final project. It is advisable for students with no film background to take this class prior to the other production classes.
  • Film 140 – Sound in Cinema (Mark Berger): This course is primarily concerned with sound design and sound mixing in film, as well as the application of music, the role of dialogue … you name it. Any sound that hits your ears, you will learn to understand in this class. We’re not talking strict academia here; Berger won 4 Academy Awards for Sound Mixing and speaks from personal experience in well-known films like “Godfather II” or “Apocalypse Now”. Part of the class is an ongoing group project where each group has to develop a complete 2-3 minute soundscape, involving Dialoge, Sound FX, Foley, Music etc. – all without having a picture. Basically, reverse-engineering the sound in a film; an incredibly useful exercise under better-than-possible supervision for all filmmakers.
  • Film 180A – Beginning Screenwriting (J. Mira Kopell) A Screenwriting course. Must-take for all writers and going-to-be directors, even if you have no interest in being an auteur: Writing is incredibly important to grasp if you want to be involved in the narrative aspect of film. Kopell herself has a production company.
  • Film C185 – Narrative Short Film Production (J. Mira Kopell) A short film production class that focuses on the development of a good narrative. Each student is required to make three short films; each film progressively larger and more complex in execution than the prior film. The class also teaches most production elements & principles like visual&sonic acquisition, directing and editing. The class provides students with access to UC Berkeley’s very limited lighting & acquisition (camera, sound) equipment. Kopell runs a production company called  Eureka Studios.
  • Film 186 – Non-Fiction Film Production (Jeffrey Skoller) A non-fiction production class, concentrating on research, interviewing techniques and documentary filmmaking. Provides access to the limited school film equipment. Skoller himself writes and directs films.
  • Film 187 – Advanced Narrative Film Production (Gavriel Moses) An advanced version of Film 185.  The filmmaking output in this class focuses on “making films that have something to say”, i.e. applying learned techniques to making meaningful films. Moses has a background mostly in Broadcasting.

So, that sums up to six different production courses – enough to have one per semester if you are a transfer student. Obviously: Berkeley is not comparable with the resources available to students at UCLA, USC, AFI or schools of that sort – but there’s potential for growth.

Student Organizations

There are four relevant Student Organizations on Campus that relate to film, entertainment and film business. It will make a big difference if you are part of a student organization or not – you will meet much more people, find motivated crew members, get valuable peer review and find a whole new friendship circle in your student organization activity. From my experience at SMC’s Film Club: I can nothing but recommend doing it; I went to nearly every meeting and met nearly all my friends and constant collaborators at SMC through the Film Club in one way or the other. At Berkeley, there are:

  • GIANT Filmmakers – this is the “main” film club, concentrating on activities and challenges/competitions. It is a highly collaborative place where people give each other tutorials, bring their equipment, educate fellow students etc. This is a great place to meet crew members and make connections for the actual film production aspect around Berkeley.
  • SUPERB – Entertainment Events on Campus; they are a fairly old organization (founded in 1964) and run various free or for-cost events on campus – like concerts or film screenings. They run their club like a company, with subdivisions in different areas – and boom musicians, rent equipment etc., like a real event organization company would do it. They recently put on a nice event about entertainment careers. – fb
  • BCEC – Business Careers in Entertainment;  they are also divided up in different entertainment industries and invite speakers, talk among themselves and try to advance their knowledge about jobs and internships in Gaming, Music, Film and Animation. They focus on the business and finance aspect of these industries. – fb
  • CalTV – a student-run online TV network that produces news- and comedy-formats. It gives some great practice, especially for people who are starting out and want to produce guided content inside of an organization. – fb


DeCals, or “Democratic Education at Cal” are student-taught classes. Undergraduates as well as graduates or postgrads teach these classes that have certain practical or popular culture aspects.

  • Introduction to the Entertainment Industry – this DeCal talks about the global entertainment industry in its current and historical forms. They invite speakers from major entertainment companies out of the SF Bay Area, in fields like film, TV, gaming or music. You can read the Course Syllabus to learn more. The class works closely together with BCEC.

Facebook Groups

There is a few facebook groups that are relevant for UC Berkeley film students, and will help to find people, events and other film necessities.

  • BFF – Berkeley Film Friends. A group of 500+ members who are Alumni as well as current students. There’s often opportunities created for attending seminars, workshops, visit companies or skype with producers. A great place to exchange ideas and opinions or to source information from. Founded by George Larkin, a PhD student at UC Berkeley who also organizes exclusive trips to Pixar, Facebook, LucasFilm etc. for film students. Great network & internship opportunities.
  • Actors at Berkeley – a group for actors and people that need actors; mostly , a good resource to supplement classic casting calls or find people quickly for short notice projects. Relatively young group, but very active. Founded by Sanford Jackson and Marisa Darabi, both Cal undergraduates.
  • BFF LA – the subsidiary for filmmaking alumni of Berkeley that went down to LA to pursue their professional life in the film industry. Small yet effective group with a tight-knit net and great contacts for future employment or projects.
  • Berkeley Underground Film Society – a film enthusiast group that periodically organizes film screenings with following audience discussion, open to the general Berkeley public.
  • Berkeley Film Foundation – an off-campus Non-Profit organization that supports filmmaking in the City of Berkeley.

Shooting on Campus

One thing is sure: The campus of UC Berkeley is absolutely stunning in its architectural variety (everything from 1900s wood houses to 70s concrete monsters up to hypermodern glass&steel beauties) and huge landscape diversity (creeks, redwood forests, Eucalyptus trees, tended gardens etc.). There are various authorities on UC Berkeley’s campus that are responsible for filming questions. None of them are really worried about students shooting on campus – or issuing permits. Generally, the rule is:

If your film is a UC Berkeley student project (preferably for a class), and doesn’t have an extremely big crew (20+) or obnixiously large equipment, the campus doesn’t care – feel free to film.  Source: personally asked the front desk at UC Berkeley Public Affairs.

This kind of policy is awesome, especially if you come from LA – where filming on campus is a huge ordeal and requires all sorts of bureaucratic hassles. If you are planning to shoot a commercial, feature film or really large project on campus, it would be a good idea to talk to the OMBO – Office of Marketing and Business Outreach. The person responsible for larger-scale filming is Barb Evans – I talked to her before, she is very nice (her phone number is on the OMBO website). The department that administers the campus filming program and takes care of all commencing needs of each production (Fire Marshal, Parking etc.) is the UC Berkeley Real Estate Services (RES). Lots of research and phone calls resulted in the statement that there is “no production insurance provided by UC Berkeley”, for off- or on-campus shoots. If you plan on shooting in a specific building or facility, you don’t have to get a permit from the campus, but arrange logistics with and get permission from the respective manager of the space (each building usually has its own management).

Production Equipment & Studio Spaces at UC Berkeley

The North Hall Journalism Broadcast Studio at UC Berkeley

The North Hall Journalism Broadcast Studio at UC Berkeley

There are multiple facilities at UC Berkeley that offer studio space as well as equipment; they are partially listed on the Berkeley News Center, which concentrates on Broadcast Applications. Contact information is provided in the links.

  • Dwinelle Hall ETS Studio – a quite secret space on the ground floor of Dwinelle Hall, room 111. It contains professional lights (KinoFlos and Tungsten), partially on stands, partially suspended off a ceiling grid, with green screen and black background to choose from. The studio is laid out for TV and multi-camera production and operated by ETS – Electronic Technology Services. It’s possible for film students to work for ETS and become part of various on-campus documentary productions – I am in their pool of production employees for example. The studio is nicknamed BLAMO, more information about its use in this article and more to see in this video.
  • North Hall Journalism TV Studio – also unknown to most film majors, this $1 million upgrade project features everything a TV/journalism studio needs – lighting, studio space, live streaming setups, professional broadcast equipment etc.
  • Kroeber Hall Editing Lab – located in Kroeber Hall 295, features 20 editing workstations and a projector.
  • Kroeber Hall Film Studio – located in Kroeber Hall 285; features various lighting packages under 1K in strength (KinoFlo, Tungsten and 1×1 LED lighting), as well as a corner cyc wall / green screen, scaffolding and various stands and basic rigging equipment.
  • Dwinelle Basement Studio – located in Dwinelle Hall 64; houses the dwinelle portion of film equipment that can be rented outside of campus.
  • Dwinelle Film Editing Lab – located in Dwinelle Hall 30, it features 15 editing stations equipped with Final Cut Pro and a projector.

In terms of production equipment, there is two bases – one in Kroeber Hall, one in Dwinelle Hall. Usually, that equipment is only accessible to students who are enrolled in one of the production classes and paid a $60 lab fee. BUT: “Outsiders” in non-production film classes can rent equipment … if the project is part of their class, and their professor certifies them for the rental by emailing the equipment tech coordinator. (change in policy since Spring 2013)
The available equipment consists of lights, stands, cameras, audio gear, and some miscellaneous items. These two locations are:

  • In Dwinelle Hall: Rm 64 Alex Lukas, Tech Coordinator.
  • In Kroeber Hall: Rm 285 Dillon Thomas, Kroeber Media Lab Coordinator Rm 275A Kroeber Hall,, 510.643.229

Equipment lists for both locations are to follow.

Official Filming Resources in Berkeley

There are various resources around filming in the city of Berkeley. Generally, the responsible organization is the Berkeley Film Office.

  • The Rules are absolutely stunning, especially when you are used to Film LA:

    A filming permit fee payable to the City of Berkeley will be charged for each day of filming, except for student productions, providing appropriate paperwork is completed and approved. • Video, Travel, Documentary, Corp/Industrial and Still Photography: $100.00 per day • Feature Films, TV Commercials, TV Series and Movies, and Music Videos : $150.00 per day

    So cheap, even if you shoot a conmercial – this is a great place to film!

  • The Berkeley Filming One-Sheet – a simple PDF with contact information and some general facts/locations.
  • The Berkeley Film Office – sub-department of “Visit Berkeley”, which handles tourism. The person to talk to is Film Commissioner Barbara Hillman.
  • The Berkeley Film Foundation – supporting independent filmmakers with an annual grant pool of $100,000 and helping with various location needs.
  • Rentals and Services for Filmmakers around Berkeley – everything from Grip & Electric rentals to post houses – a nice local list.

. I appreciate any further suggestions or wishes; please share them via the comment function or via email to . In that sense – Go Bears! 😉


4 thoughts on “The Cal Film RUB: Filmmaking Resources at UC Berkeley

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