ATHENS, Ohio (Feb. 16, 2016)—Five students from the School of Media Arts & Studies, along with five others from the schools of Journalism and Visual Communication, spent their winter break in Spain studying screenwriting and documentary storytelling.
The students began their course of study in the Catalonian capital of Barcelona, in northeast Spain, where they were introduced to the distinctive style of “God’s Architect,” Antoni Gaudi, with a visit to Parc Guell, a public park composed of gardens and architectonic elements, which was originally part of Gaudi’s remarkable but commercially unsuccessful attempt to create a unique urban community.
The students also visited Gaudi’s magnum opus, La Familia Sagrada, a Roman Catholic basilica whose breathtaking facades and spires have been under construction since 1882.
“La Familia Sagrada cannot be put into words and seeing it in real life almost made me cry,” said MDIA student Schuyler Fasteneau.
From Barcelona the students traveled to the southern city of Seville, which served as the program’s base of operation. Each student was required to adapt a short story from Spanish literature into a short film script. Several students selected stories from “Tales of the Alhambra,” written by Washington Irving, the American author who lived and wrote for a time in Granada, in an apartment within the walls of the Alhambra, an ancient palace and fortress. A weekend trip to Granada and a tour of the Alhambra brought Irving’s stories to life.
Working in teams of two, students were also required to write a 15-30-page non-fiction/documentary script about a subject they’d chosen to research during the program’s orientation sessions back in Athens. MDIA majors Marissa Donovan and Rylee Axner named their documentary project “The Spirits of Seville,” and focused on myths and legends throughout the city. They even followed a group of local ghost hunters one evening in search of paranormal activity.
“As a screenwriting major, I really wanted to get a strong grasp of a variety of writing formats before entering the work force,” said Marissa. “This program allowed me to learn through hands on experience how to develop and write a documentary, which is something I had never done prior to studying abroad. Our professor, Frederick Lewis, allowed us to branch out and explore the city in order to add more detail to our scripts.”
“I am a journalism major, so the writing I do for reporting is very different from scriptwriting,” said Cheyenne Buckingham. “I had an absolute blast trying my hand at a documentary and a short story adaptation, because it enabled me to be creative in a new platform. After this trip I plan to declare a specialization in media arts so that I can continue to take classes such as the two I took in Spain.”
Cheyenne’s documentary project partner, Madeline Keener, is also a journalism major. Their topic was “The History of Andalusian Cuisine”.
“I thoroughly enjoyed working with the translator that was assigned to my documentary group,” recalled Keener. “She not only helped translate interviews, she came up with ideas, gave suggestions and was as interested in the project as we were. We are still in contact with our translator and chat regularly. We have gained a lifelong friend.”
Schuyler Fasteneau teamed up with fellow MDIA major Kristin Weiss to produce a documentary script on the history of Flamenco.
“What I gained was too valuable to describe,” said Fasteneau. “To get the opportunity to write a documentary featuring world famous performers is something that is sure to help build any resume. The credits gained help to complete my screenwriting and producing degree, which is incredible to say I managed that abroad. Being able to also see the script writing process in real life situations with complete strangers who had busy schedules and working around that made it feel like a real production. That's something you can't get in many classes offered on campus.”
For Madeline Keener the trip was “a dream come true. I have always desired to visit Spain and getting to live there for an entire month was fantastic. Though knowing Spanish was not a requirement for this excursion, I found that my Spanish minor became a very useful tool. I will always remember the feeling of freedom, serenity and self-assurance that I felt walking the streets of Spain. They say that studying abroad is a life changing experience--and whoever “they” are--they are completely correct. Studying abroad in Spain was rejuvenating and has given me a new outlook on life and my future.”
Next winter break’s Spain: Screenwriting and Documentary Storytelling Program will take place December 11, 2016—January 7, 2017. Applications are available now: Here
For questions contact Program Director Frederick Lewis at firstname.lastname@example.org.