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Interviews with Film Studies abroad students

Benjamin Champagne - Class of 2020 - Prague

  • In terms of film, what made you choose Prague as your choice for studying abroad? 
    • I had very little knowledge of study abroad film programs and only considered studying abroad for the opportunity to create my own 16mm short film in Prague. The program was recommended to me through a UMass student who studied abroad before me. As I researched studying abroad, this was really the only program of its kind available. So, I applied and was accepted.
  • What were you hoping to gain out of your experience abroad? 
    • I took this opportunity with the goal of gaining more production experience in narrative filmmaking as well as the opportunity to DP with professional guidance and tools on 16mm film.
  • What types of classes did you take in Prague? 
    • The vast majority of the classes I took were film-oriented with the exception of one Czech language class. There were classes that aided our groups through each aspect of filmmaking from script to editing. See the detailed classes in the attachment I send Barbara for specific classes.
  • What was the hardest part for you in Prague?
    • Prague had a laundry list of challenges, in not speaking the native language, being unfamiliar with cultural norms, even simple things like grocery shopping can become tricky. As well, we were living in apartments and had to commute to class. So the whole experience was manageable but taxing.
  • What did your role as a DP entail?
    • As the DP on my production, I was in charge of taking the script and providing visuals that would fit the narrative. This meant many sessions of script revisions for storytelling fluidity, a great deal of pre-production planning (shot list, lighting plan, crew know-how, mentor meetings, location scouting, and related blueprints), acting as DP during production (which entails working closely with the director to block and stage scenes, direct the crew to deliver necessary equipment for the camera department or to set up lighting, actually shooting the film, etc. etc.). I also took the color grading of the visuals very seriously in post-production.
  • What productions were you part of in Prague?
    • I was a DP for my group of two, I was a gaffer for a different short film, and 1st AC for two other groups.
  • What was your favorite class? 
    • Cinematography was my favorite class, the professor carried 'traditional Czech demeanor' meaning he was honest when reviewing our work. His assignments and mentoring greatly benefited my visual craft. All of the information he discussed was practical and important in this line of work. 
  • What was an area of film you were hoping to gain more experience in? 
    • I went to Prague to gain more experience as a DP and in the camera department. Through the class discussions, assignments, and several productions, I have a sturdy grasp on each role in the camera department. 
  • How has your experience shaped you as a filmmaker? 
    • This experience has improved my filmmaking ability and raised my awareness toward those little details in a production that can make or break a film. I now know how to approach each aspect of filmmaking, knowing what's expected of me and how to play my role. I've also gained confidence in leading crew.
  • Do you have any advice to UMass students looking into studying abroad for film?
    • To UMass students looking to study abroad for film, Prague was a great experience - it's a lovely city and FAMU is a great institution. I would survey my options closely but if you are lacking the rudimentary filmmaking production skills (most beneficial for Directors and DP) and you want to find them abroad, you will leave this program with a solid skill set.