Sunday, June 23, 2013

Behaving With Horses - Taster Tape

This is an assignment for my term 2 MA Documentary Film course at the London College of Communication.  The taster tape will end up as a 10-15 min documentary film for my 3rd term graduation project due in December 2013.  In the documentary world, a taster tape is a brief film that provides a glimpse of what your story is about and how the film will be realized.   The idea is to get potential broadcast commissioners to fund and distribute your film.
This documentary is very different from the type of films I have done in the past in terms of addressing a highly sensitive issue regarding young offenders from a female perspective.  I have seen myself grow as a documentary filmmaker in this project and the response I received from this documentary, so far, has been very positive.  Please click the link below to view...

13th Royal Anthropological Institute - International Festival of Ethnographic Film Promotional Video

This is a promotional video that I edited for the Royal Anthropological Institute in London as part of my internship. The promo video is for the 13th RAI Ethnographic Film Festival in Edinburgh, Scotland 2013. The clips are from a selection of films that were shortlisted for the festival. The promo was edited in Premiere Pro and the animated logo intro was achieved with After Effects and Photoshop.  Please click the link below...

Friday, March 22, 2013

Scholar's Walk

On February 16th, Scholars were invited to attend the London Brunel Thames Walk organized by Rotarian Clive Harris.  This walk provided a fascinating historical insight into the 'darker' side of early London life and the key role of the River Thames in the development of this great city.  We learned of pirates, the race to discover the nautical longitudinal clock, and England's first established police force, the Thames River Police, who publicly chained pirates bodies to the river's edge where they would drown when the tide rose above their head, then dismembered their body parts, which then were put on display to the public.

It included a visit to the rarely seen grand entrance of Brunel's                                                                                                                                                                     Tunnel under the Thames as well as the Brunel Museum.  The walking tour was led by the Brunel Museum's Curator, Robert Hulse.  Built between 1825-1834, the Brunel Tunnel was the first ever underwater tunnel constructed, originally designed for horse drawn carriages, but only used as a pedestrian walk way, the tunnel is now used for the London Underground.  The image to the right is a recent book created by the Brunel Museum that offers the entire history of the Brunel Tunnel.

 The tour concluded at the Mayflower pub where it was the exact departure point of the pilgrims sailing to Plymouth.  Everyone gathered at the pub after the tour for food and drinks, but I did not stay because I was under the weather, having a cold and loosing my voice.  I found this tour to be exciting and thrilling because of my interest in historical facts.  I learned quite a bit of history of a part of London that most are not familiar with.  Even some rotarians who attended the walk were hearing this information for the first time.  Really looking forward to more tour walks in the future, and glad I participated in this walk.  

December Fish and Chips

This event is back dated to December, but for some reason it never got published.

I had a lovely evening over the weekend at the York Gate Scholars, Fish and Chips Dinner.  Nothing too eventful, but it was a nice change of pace from the typical large gatherings of previous events.  The London scholars and counselors all came together for a Fish and Chips dinner, which happens to be a traditional meal in the UK.  Chips in the UK are what we Americans refer as french fries, whereas potato chips for us is referred to "crisps" for the English.  Little things like that get a bit confusing at first, but one easily assimilates to the culture.  Just like when someone asks how you are doing, they say "Are you alright?".  This expression, used America, comes across as if there is something wrong with me but the British use the expression frequently.  I have become so accustomed to this saying, that I sometimes catch myself asking people, "You alright?".

                                        The meal was tastey, and conversation was splendid.

Friday, February 1, 2013

New Beginnings at the University of the Arts London

Before the New Year, I was faced with making a very difficult decision.  My current school had still not received its appeal response and the lingering doubts of whether or not I would be able to continue my study at the London Film School were weighing heavy on me.  Despite having completed one term at LFS, I had to take action in finding an alternative solution to my education given the circumstances.  This prompted me to look at other MA Film programs in London, but proved to be a complicated challenge, mostly because programs typically begin in the fall.  My first approach was to look into universities that had a highly trusted status, which meant that student federal loans could be accepted.  Since the London Film School had their highly trusted status revoked, I had to make sure that I would not find myself in same situation.  In my search for universities that would allow me to use my student federal loans, I found suitable film programs, but they began in the fall.  However, these programs did not truly resonate with me as a right fit for my goals and ambitions.  The other problem is that I would be required to return back home since my visa sponsorship would be cancelled from the London Film School, had I chosen a program that began in the fall.  You can imagine how deflating this felt being in this position.  

Then... life happens.   My involvement with the Royal Anthropological Institute (RAI) proved to be a blessing.  Because of my role as the Ethnographic Film Festival Assistant, many networks have been established with my supervisor, Susanne Hammacher from multiple universities and institutions all over the UK.  As she learned of my predicament, she informed me of a professor from the University of the Arts London (UAL) who once served on the judging panel from the previous RAI film festival last year.  Turns out the university is Europe's largest provider of education in art, design, fashion, communication and the performing arts, as well as being on of the most famous and prestigious art universities in the world.  Had I not taken the initiative to intern at the RAI, I would have never learned of this school.  Susanne contacted the judge, Cathy Greenhalgh, from the University of the Arts London who is the principal Lecturer and course director of the BA Film and Video at the London College of Communication (LCC), which happens to be one of the largest campuses of UAL.  Cathy informed Susanne that I would be a perfect candidate for the one year MA in Documentary Film program and just so happens that course begins in January.  Not only was this a stoke of luck, but UAL has a highly trusted status that would allow me to use my student federal loan.  My next step was to contact the school because after researching the program the application deadline date was on October, 31st.  After explaining my situation to admissions, they sympathised with my educational and financial quandary and made an exception for me to state my interest of study to the course director of the MA Documentary Film program, Pratap Rughani.  After personally meeting Pratap for an interview, both he and I were convinced that this was where I needed to be.  

Now that I gained the initial green light from the university, I could not move forward unless I had the blessing from my district sponsor, John Mcquire and from my RI Headquarters scholarship program coordinator, Ken Waterbury.  I communicated with both John and Ken explaining the prospect of transferring to a different university.  Traditionally this is not allowed as it is clearly stated in the Rotary Scholar handbook, but since I have been communicative with both of them about my dilemma from the very beginning they agreed that this was a justified reason and gave me their full support to take the steps necessary in gaining acceptance at LCC.  I had one week to act fast in order to get my application and documentation in time before the holiday break or else it would be too late.  I also had to discuss my intention of transferring with the London Film School in time before they would be on holiday break to request an official withdrawal from the course.  While I am grateful they did all they could to work with me to continue studying at LFS, they completely understood my decision and offered to assist me in anyway possible to facilitate an easy transition on their part.  The only downfall is that I had to pay for a new visa application under the sponsorship of UAL.  Although I am conditionally accepted at UAL, I am still able to attend classes while waiting for approval from the UK Border Agency.  UAL worked very hard advocating for me to the UKBA to understand my extenuating circumstances and hopefully I will receive word soon that my visa has been granted.

I am about to start my fourth week at LCC, and I am absolutely enamoured with my new school and program.  I am the only American student in my class and the distribution of international students is quite vast.  There is a great dynamic between all of us and what binds us all together is the support and direction from our course director and course tutor, Nancy Platt, who is a Chicago native.  Both of them bring years of experience working at the BBC and are award winning documentary filmmakers.  The creative atmosphere at LCC is such a great environment to be in and our instructors have been providing us the tools to foster our own indivdual documentary filmmaking style.  The program couldn't have been more fitting, considering that my interest in filmmaking is documentary focused.  My inspiration is soaring high and I feel that my experience here will be carried out in the world to make films that will make a positive difference for humanity.  My experience at the London Film School is bittersweet and full of challenges.  I over extended myself with attempts to gain additional funding, contacting the US Department of Education, my state Senator from California and still I found myself hanging by a thread.  I know I made the right educational decision and had I known about this school beforehand I would of potentially chosen it as my top choice school in my scholarship application.  The world works in mysterious ways and this has clearly been a blessing in disguise.   

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

End of Term 1

Well, the end of my first term at the London Film School has come to a close.  What a ride it has been!  Apart from the surprise of my US Federal Loan being withdrawn since the first day of school, everything else has been wonderful.  The London Film School student body elected me as their Student Union Welfare Officer.  This role consists of providing paid, volunteer, and internship opportunities to the student body that are presented from internal and external sources. I also had the chance to meet English Film Director and Producer, Danny Boyle.  He did a Q&A at our school and talked about the films he made such as Trainspotting, 28 Days Later, 127 Hours, the Academy Award winning Slumdog Millionaire, and Director of the London 2012 Olympic Opening Ceremony.  That is one of the benefits of the prestige of my school because well known filmmakers are attracted to LFS and love coming to talk to its students.

Because my academic foundation in Anthropology, I have been finding ways to stay involved with anthropological organizations.  I was accepted for an internship with the Royal Anthropological Institute (RAI) Film and Video Archive Department in London.  The RAI is the world's longest established scholarly association dedicated to the furtherance of anthropology in its broadest and most inclusive sense.  I will be assisting with cataloguing the archives, but I have been brought on mostly to help with the upcoming summer RAI Film Festival.  Preparations for the festival are needed and constant stream of ethnographic films are being submitted, which need to be registered and organized.  This will give me a chance to get to know the filmmakers and see films that I envision myself directing in the future.  It is quite a privilege and achievement for me to be brought on board the RAI.

School has definitely challenged me in many ways.  The bar is set quite high at LFS and although in first term the instructors have cut us some slack, they will not be too easy on us next term.  In the beginning of the this term, our class was broken up into four groups and our final projects were to create two film on 16mm black and white film stock.  My roles on the two films were the Assistant Camera and Editor.  However, I also assisted as a Producer. When a final cut of our films were completed we had our films screened on the projector in the school's cinema where the faculty and invited professionals in the filmmaking field critiqued the films immediately afterward.  This was quite intimidating because our whole group had to sit in front of the entire audience to listen to the critique.  Although the critics were blunt, they meant well and the purpose is to learn how to correct our mistakes in the areas of directing, cinematography, producing, and editing.  I found the feedback to be invaluable and l am already looking forward to next terms films.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

US Federal Loan Students Are Left Stranded In London

This is the fight we are up against with the US Department of Education Foreign Participation Team whose actions put us in this very difficult situation.  We have been working tirelessly to get the word out.  We created this video and a Press Release which will be sent out to news media oulets to put pressure on the USDE.  Please visit our blog to read the Press Release and spread the message.