MFA Studies in Prague
by Juliet Hutchings
As I sit here in my pension, looking out my double-glass windows, sipping a mug of green tea and listening to Damien Rice's "Prague," I am sobered to realize that I love it here. I feel this emotion, here, more in 4 days than I can ever say I felt in Washington DC over the course of 1.5 years. It's so fantastic to me to realize that a city really CAN suit a personality--it's not always a matter of just wanting it enough--it actually has to fit you--just like people, really.
I am so amazed at the wealth of knowledge here at FAMU (Film and TV School of the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague). The students in our program, from AU, Brown, Vasser College, Sarah Lawrence and the U of Pittsburgh, are all beginning to work together really well.
We're in the first phase of making our movies, and that involves thinking up numerous ideas, getting extremely attached to them, pitching them to each other and our teachers, and having them resoundingly shot down. No, I'm kidding. Our directing and scriptwriting professors (both named Pavel--oy!) have been giving us great feedback on our ideas and how to really nurse them into more than just scattered themes and characters.
Here's a rundown of the classes I'm in:
Master Class, which is broken down into the following sections:
Scriptwriting and Analysis with Pavel Jech. He's really helping us understand what a short film requires and how very different it is from a feature film story. And, we're being challenged to use zero dialogue -- a very exciting hurdle.
Directing with Pavel Marek. A very introspective filmmaker, he has worked as both an actor and a director. He is providing us with a very safe environment to really explore our motivations in making movies and telling our individual stories. We've only had two classes, and both times I've felt safe enough to "expose my belly," if you will, and really show my vulnerable side--all in an effort to get to the soul of my story ideas.
Camera Works with Michael Gahut, an extremely experienced cinematographer, who is teaching us the physics of being a director of photography and how the camera really works -- mind-bending fun. He's definitely got a lot to contend with, as most of us are NOT camera operators and can't seem to add 2 + 2 or figure out an F-stop, but he's getting us there, even if he has to drag us.
Cinema Grammar and Language wwith Marek Jicha, a soft-spoken but highly intelligent and opinionated cinematographer, who is offering us the radical idea that a "medium shot" in film is a waste of time. He's all about the "close up" and the "wide" or "long shot." Some classmates are refuting his ideas altogether, but that's what it's all about. I'm rather content with his perspective and find it a refreshing addition to the arsenal of information I've been collecting since I started film school at AU.
Acting with Dasa Blahova, is an experienced Czech actress, who spent 20 years working professionally in film and theater in Australia. We're all having a lot of fun improv-ing with her and each other. As our final project for acting, we will film ourselves and direct each other on camera--should be eye-opening. Directing actors is a huge challenge.
On top of that, I am taking a Czech Language class, a history course on Central European cinema, the History of American Avant Garde Cinema, the History of the Czech Republic, Practical Directing and Theory of Directing. We also have at least three movie screenings per week, as well as a semi-mandatory excursion to some historic sites in Prague on Friday mornings. It's a full load, but we still manage to have three day weekends to take excursions, explore Prague and, well, do homework!
We will be taking these courses through the end of March, and then, beginning in April, we will produce our films. We will have the help of a Czech FAMU student who will act as our production manager and help us to get locations, actors and props. As part of our program here, FAMU has given us a stipend to pay actors, pay for locations and pay for technical expenses. I feel very blessed.