UNDERGRADUATE ADMISSIONS at WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY in ST. LOUIS

Prague Updates: The Final Countdown

Things have been even more hectic since I last wrote, so I’m sorry for the delay in posting. We’ve been working on our final projects for the past few weeks and, now that things have finally calmed down, I feel like I can finally sit down and share some of what we’ve done and accomplished so far.

April 7th through the 10th, we were shooting our final film. We moved to location very early on the 7th so that we could get everything set up; there was film and lighting equipment everywhere and more than a hundred props to deal with and use for set dressing. We tried to get a lot of that stuff situated and ready to go before the actors came, but it was hard the first day, especially since we weren’t used to the equipment or being on set and was therefore a little overwhelming.  The days after that definitely flowed better as we all found our rhythm and learned to work with each other and anticipate each other’s needs.

I was the Art Director on set. I basically managed props and set dressing for the entirety of the project. For those who don’t know what set dressing is, but are interested in filming, it’s basically fixing up locations that you’re shooting at so that they’re ready for filming. For example, almost our entire film was shot inside an apartment – an Airbnb that we had rented out for four days – so my job was basically to make the apartment (specifically the rooms in which we were shooting) look natural and lived in. In this type of job, you have to pay attention to aesthetics and functionality. The objective in our case was to make the setting look as natural as possible, but there are times when “natural” isn’t necessarily “pretty,” and therefore needs to be manipulated a little bit. My job was hardest on the first day when I did the major set dressing for most of the rooms, and then after that I was mostly just involved in continuity and making sure all of the props and set dressing was where it should be in every shot.

It was a great experience. I definitely learned a lot – way more than I could’ve learned in a classroom because I was experience for real, in real time. Furthermore, the things I was learning weren’t restricted to just facts about the camera or lighting equipment or props. I also got to learn general life lessons about filming in general and working with people in a professional environment. For example, while I did learn a lot about film as a medium, I also learned practical things like the drawbacks of working with child actors and the like. I’m definitely glad that I chose to participate in this program, even with all of the ups and downs I’ve experienced while I’ve been in Prague and working with CET.

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That was last week though. This week we’re working on editing our film. Because we were working with 16mm film, we didn’t have the chance to watch what we had filmed on set. We had to wait for two days until it was developed and digitized to actually see our shots. When I actually saw what we had done, I remember feeling surprise and pride. I have done multiple student films in my time at WashU but I don’t think that any of them looked as real or as cinematic as what we had captured on film. I don’t know if it was the fact that we actually had a somewhat professional crew or if it was just the medium itself, but I remember thinking that our project was a movie, not a student film. Film is finicky, inconvenient, and expensive – there’s definitely a reason digital is much more widely used now – but I was, and still am, very grateful that I got the chance to work with it.

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As for the rest of my life at FAMU, this is pretty much the end for me. All classes except electives have been cancelled for film students to give them more time to dedicate to their films, and since I only have one elective I’m pretty much living the high life. I couldn’t be happier that my group was allotted one of the first time slots to start filming; we didn’t have a lot of time for preparations beforehand, but it forced us to work more efficiently and, in the end, we have more time for postproduction and more time to waste away without worry. All in all, we basically have a month of vacation, with a little bit of work on the side, and I’m loving it, especially after all of the work we did in the beginning.

I’m even planning one last trip to commemorate my time in Europe. I’m flying to Greece at the end of the month to spend a few days in Athens and a few on one of the nearby islands, probably Santorini but I’m open to other options. I’m really excited – traveling to Greece was one of my New Year’s Resolutions; I remember how, when I wrote it down, it seemed like a pipe dream. But now that it’s becoming reality, it really solidifies for me how far I’ve come. I am the person that I dreamed I would be when this year first began and it’s exhilarating. I hope to always keep striving for bigger and better things so that, eventually, when I look back on myself I’ll be able to marvel at how much I’ve grown.

So honestly, I recommend studying abroad for everyone. I know that I’ve changed in ways I couldn’t have imagined had I been at WashU. And for those who can’t study abroad, I recommend just having a few concrete goals to achieve over the course of the semester – an objective for every month is probably good pacing.  And make one of those goals a little bit of a pipe dream. Actually making those happen is always amazing.

And just remember that if you accomplish even just one of your objectives, you’ll still be a different person at the end of the year. Inspiring words from Oprah, so you know it’s legit. I hope they inspire you as much as they inspired me.