Film FSP students share music videos on Monday

| 11/5/12 11:00pm

Last night, 12 students who attended the first film and media studies department Foreign Study Program in Edinburgh, Scotland over the summer showcased their culminating projects from their weeks abroad three extremely different but equally impressive student-made music videos in Loew Auditorium in the Black Family Visual Arts Center. The videos depicted a variety of scenes a red string following a hip-hop artist backward through his day of drinking and partying; the sun shining upon members of a brass band, happily dancing through parks and libraries while playing their instruments; and a lone man standing in a dark room, illuminating polaroid pictures of a lost love with a flashlight and wondering what happened.

When the term ended, the students screened their videos at the Screen Academy Scotland, where the students took their courses. The students and faculty members involved wanted to show the Dartmouth community what they had accomplished by bringing the screening back to Hanover, according to film department chair and professor Jeffrey Ruoff, who came up with the concept for the program.

"This event is conceived to show the music videos first and foremost, because they're really tremendous," Ruoff said. "Also to talk about the other things we did in Scotland, both traveling and socially on the FSP, and things specific to the curriculum."

The showing included an overview of the FSP by Ruoff, multiple personal anecdotes from the students themselves and the showing of the three final music videos. The students also screened four sequence shots, which were the final projects for a digital cinematography course they took while in Edinburgh.

In Edinburgh, the film department and the Screen Academy searched for three local bands that would be interested in having the students create music videos to accompany their album releases.

After listening to the three very different songs, students pitched their ideas for a music video. The band members picked their favorites, and students split into groups of four as a directors, producers, cinematographers or editors of the videos, according to FSP participant Alex Stockton '15.

The music videos are a clear testament to how much all of the students learned about production in a real-world environment, according to FSP participant Chrissy Bettencourt '13.

Ruoff designed the program so that film students could get more exposure to the real world of film production and expand their knowledge of film studies, according to Stockton.

Ruoff initially came up with the idea for a film FSP when he began attending film festivals several years ago.

"At some point, I thought it would be interesting to study this in more depth, share it with students and maybe it would be possible to have a film FSP where we have never had one," he said.

In 2008, he traveled to Scotland for the Edinburgh International Film Festival and began scouting to determine whether it would be a good location for a film study abroad program. Then-Dean of the Faculty Carol Folt said that the College would consider proposals for one-time FSPs, and Ruoff wrote a proposal for a one-time film FSP that was later approved and eventually received funding.

"Dartmouth distinguishes itself by its FSPs and the kind of global and international presence we have as a result of that," Ruoff said. "We in [the film department] have long been interested in having one or more FSPs. It was exciting to join the language departments and other arts departments with an FSP of our own."

While many students who took part in the program are looking to major or minor in film, those who wanted to attend were only required to take Film 1 and one other class in the department to participate. Interviews and letters of recommendation were also required for interested students.

While there, students took three film courses, including a class with Ruoff that focused on film festivals. Julian Schwantz, a professional digital cinematographer and professor at Screen Academy Scotland, taught a course on digital cinematography, and professional music video producers Abby Warrilow and Lewis Gourlay taught a course on the production of music videos.

Ruoff said that the courses were structured to give students daily one-on-one experience with professionals working in different fields.

Students said they enjoyed the living in Edinburgh and taking three film classes, which they might not have felt comfortable doing at the College.

"If I had taken three film classes at Dartmouth, I wouldn't have been happy with it," Bettencourt said. "But being there was a completely different atmosphere, and being in the city is fun and exciting. The whole program allows you to surround yourself with the material."

The Edinburgh International Film Festival started the first week of Summer term, and students were able to attend showings of more than 150 films and the U.K. premiere of "Killer Joe" (2012), directed by "The Exorcist" (1973) director William Friedkin.

"It was a really immersive experience with not only the premieres and galas, but the panels and Q&A events and all kinds of special industry activities that the students had access to," Ruoff said.

Because the film festival started immediately after the students arrived in Edinburgh, some said they felt like fish out of water. Even Ruoff admitted that the number of films shown was daunting.

"I was overwhelmed at first the film festival was not my thing," Bettencourt said. "I'm not a huge film buff, and I don't know a lot of actors, directors or movies, so that was hard for me. It was the first week we were there, so we were just kind of thrown into it."

Overall, students were extremely happy with both the knowledge and experiences they gained from their time abroad.

"My hopes were high, and I think everything was met or exceeded," Stockton said. "I miss it now. I learned a ton, and there were so many opportunities that I got to take advantage of. It was a really brilliantly designed FSP."

The department is currently considering the future of the film FSP and is eager to expand the program further.

"The film department is planning on submitting a proposal to renew the Edinburgh FSP," Ruoff said. "Our long-term hope is to have two FSPs one in L.A. in the Winter term every other year, and one in Edinburgh in the summer every other year."