Theatre Alum Shares Her Wisdom
During Commencement 2006, Cal Poly Pomona Theatre student Brittney Buffo sat in the audience, listening to then-theatre department chairmen Bill Morse address his graduating students.
Sitting beside Buffo was head of acting and voice professor Linda Bisesti who, along with Morse and current department chairman Bernardo Solano, was a key instructor in the graduate’s theatre education.
In a moment, Buffo realized she had no doubts about her future. Sitting among a sea of gowns and mortar boards, Buffo didn’t know that her career would begin with a stint in professional acting before taking a sharp turn into education and filmmaking. But she did know her education at Cal Poly Pomona would equip her to deal with whatever twists and turns her career would take.
“I felt totally confident in the people I was learning from,” Buffo said, citing her professors – Morse, Bisesti, Solano, and others. “I felt so supported and ready because I’d done so many wonderful things. I felt like I could go out there and accomplish what I wanted to accomplish.”
On May 11, 2017, Buffo visited the Department of Theatre and New Dance as a Professor For A Day and taught film students about the process of filmmaking. Later in the day, Buffo screen her company’s first feature film, “War of the Limelight,” released earlier this year.
No stranger to teaching, Buffo’s the founder of the HARA Motion Picture Conservatory. Based in Monterey, California, HARA is a filmmaking conservatory that teaches high school-aged children about independent film production, acting, screenwriting, directing, cinematography and post-production.
The golden nugget of wisdom Buffo said she seeks to give her students is that resourcefulness and creativity are key to jump starting a career in filmmaking. That often means taking the independent filmmaking route that employs “guerilla” filmmaking tactics.
“I’m an independent filmmaker, so I have to be resourceful myself,” Buffo said. “I like to share with students that they can create work without waiting for an investor to give them $1 million to make their first film – because that’s extremely rare.”
Buffo said the lesson works twofold: Students learn the process of filmmaking by doing it and create portfolio pieces that will help them open conversations with producers later in their careers.
“People in the industry want to work with people who are motivated and take initiative,” Buffo said. “So many of us think we have to wait for the audition or job opportunity, but if we’re really motivated, we can create a portfolio piece that can start a conversation with the next opportunity.”
Buffo teaches her students by giving them intimate, hands-on experience, with every nuance of the filmmaking process is no accident. In fact, she said it was a direct result of the teaching model she experienced as a student at Cal Poly Pomona.
“I thought it was so much more compelling for me because this is how I learn and what I want to do,” she said.
Originally a university student in Pennsylvania, Buffo spent some time in an exchange program that brought her to Cal Poly Pomona and its theatre program. She fell in love with her experience and the university and quickly transferred.
“I wanted to be hands-on and learn by doing things,” Buffo said, “so, I thrived in the department of theatre because I did so many hands-on projects.”
One of those projects would foreshadow her career today: For her senior project – “The Voice My Mother Gave Me Set Me Free” – Buffo directed a solo show that showcased herself as its lone performer, acting in 15 different monologues that were strung together.
But Buffo’s independent filmmaking career and HARA didn’t get off the ground until four years after she graduated from Cal Poly Pomona when she met Michael Buffo – who she would later marry.
“We hit it off professionally at first,” she said, “but he was interested in creating a filmmaking school, so we began to work together and with nine high school students. Within four months, we created our first short.”
Buffo said the experience felt right, so she uprooted her life in Los Angeles to pursue what would become the HARA Motion Picture Conservatory in Monterey, California.
“It was sort of a ‘take the jump, and a net will appear’ kind of thing,” she said. “I’d never been to Monterey before, but it felt right and we just decided to do it. By the second week of living there, Michael and I were teaching together. It was very exciting and electrifying – it felt as if all the pieces were aligning serendipitously.
For more information about Buffo or the HARA Motion Picture Conservatory, visit www.haramotionpictures.com.