Actor and director Bo Brinkman inspires next generation of filmmakers to pursue their dreams at Gettysburg College

Bo Brinkman teaches Gettysburg students on video production
During the spring 2024 semester, actor and producer Bo Brinkman is teaching Gettysburg students about the many facets of video production.

When you take a class at Gettysburg College, you never know who might end up standing in front of you as a guest lecturer or instructor. It could be an esteemed Civil War historian, a former federal government administrator, or in the case of a Cinema and Media Studies course on video production, an experienced filmmaker and actor.

Bo Brinkman, writer and director for “A Gettysburg Christmas” and a former star in the Civil War-based films “Gettysburg” and “Gods and Generals,” has joined Gettysburg’s world-class faculty for the spring semester. Learning from his expertise, his intrepid class of 12 students have gained an insider’s view of filmmaking from start to finish. From composing scripts and creating storyboards to auditioning actors and writing set directions, Brinkman’s class has taken on all the responsibilities of video production as they seek to create their own short films.

“Most high school students can operate an editing platform on their laptops these days, but learning to edit a story, enhancing an actor’s performance, finding the pace, selecting music that creates mood, and finding a solid narrative that gives thrust to the story is a whole different ball game,” Brinkman said. “In the end, it’s all about learning to tell a story cinematically.”

Brinkman and his class filming
Brinkman and his class film a scene for one of the shorts being created this semester.

Heeding advice from their instructor, Gettysburg students have learned the ins and outs of creating unique works of art. As directors of their own films, they write screenplays based on their own personal interests, ponder how those words can leap from the page and onto the screen through storyboarding, and ensure each element of film production is considered from shot lists to personnel. With this holistic approach to learning, students are developing a breadth and depth of knowledge that will serve them well as they pursue a range of potential opportunities in the film industry.

“Not everyone will become a screen writer, editor or director,” noted Brinkman. “I hope students will discover an interest in production, cinematography, lighting, sound, casting, wardrobe, special effects, or props. There are so many opportunities in film and television, and the industry will always need fresh new talent to fill those positions.”

Early location sites have included Quarry Pond and Culp’s Hill, with other scenic locales of campus and the surrounding community selected for future shoots. The hands-on learning has allowed the students to hone enduring skills like leadership, creativity, communication, and adaptability, which will be key elements as they pursue careers in film.

“I’ve been able to be a part of the process of putting together a short film from every aspect,” said music and cinema and media studies double major Kacy Hartmann ’27. “Video production has been a very educational and enjoyable experience, and I know that it has taught me so much about the film industry that I will use in my future.”

During the early phases of each film project, Brinkman collaborated with Theatre Arts Prof. Chris Kauffman to bring in budding actors from his acting courses. Sitting in the back room of Kline Theater, the aspiring actors picked up the student-composed scripts for the first time and applied the knowledge gained from Kauffman’s classes as they stepped to the front of the class and did “cold reads” in front of their peers.

“The chance to be part of a team to tell a story while allowing them to work together and try things, make mistakes, and learn communication and leadership practices all help cultivate discipline-related and transferable skills that will last and find expression in any field,” Kauffman said. “Making art together is a fast track to meaningful memories and friendships, as well. Putting our CIMS students together with our actors from Theatre Arts is a win-win all around.”

More than three decades removed from playing Major Walter H. Taylor, aide-de-camp for General Robert E. Lee, in the movie “Gettysburg,” Brinkman returned to the battlefield to help the next generation of filmmakers, production assistants, and actors pursue their Hollywood dreams. It’s the same type of mentorship he received as an undergraduate student at Southwest Texas State University, learning about a career in film from James N. Harrell, an accomplished actor with roles in over 50 films and television series, including ”Urban Cowboy,” “Dallas,” “JFK,” and “Varsity Blues.”

“He told me,” Brinkman recalled, “that once I had a life and career in what I was about to pursue, I should teach and inspire young people so that they can accomplish their dreams—and if they don’t have a dream, maybe help them find one.”

Learn more about the Cinema and Media Studies program at Gettysburg College and its impact on understanding cultural, economic, and socio-political entities.

By Corey Jewart
Photos by Corey Jewart
Posted: 03/18/24

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