Five students from the School of Media Arts & Studies, along with four students from the Scripps School of Journalism, 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 that was originally part of Gaudi’s unsuccessful attempt to create a unique urban community.
The students also toured Casa Vicens, Gaudi’s first residential commission, which has been restored and just recently opened to the public, before visiting the eccentric architect’s magnum opus, La Familia Sagrada, a Roman Catholic basilica whose breathtaking facades and spires have been under construction since 1882. “Sagrada Familia was definitely a highlight of the trip,” noted MDIA student Mackenzie Keaton. “Seeing a structure that he worked on for 43 years and that’s still being constructed was just crazy to me”
From Barcelona the group flew south to Seville, the capital city of the region of Andalusia, and the home base for the program. Working in teams of two, the students were required to write a 15-30 page documentary script about a subject they’d researched prior to departure. MDIA student Taylor McNutt chose to research the 500 year old art form of Flamenco, whose music and dance styles originated in Andalusia. Students from the University of Seville served as translators and interpreters. “Some of my favorite days in Spain were spent during the interview process,” said McNutt. “It allowed us to get more acquainted with the culture and meet some interesting people. It was nice to learn how to write a two-column script because I was not familiar with that.”
Journalism major Maria Lubanovic was part of a team that focused on the burgeoning music scene in Seville: “The documentary project was my favorite part of the trip. We got to meet musicians and go to their gigs, which allowed us to understand the motivations and struggles of the musicians there. We also got to speak with a record producer and a radio host, something that’s difficult to do in the U.S. I also loved working with a translator. Not many people get to do that at such a young age.”
“Learning what it takes to be a good producer is great,” said MDIA student David Craver. “The trip gives you hands on experience that I feel most classes cannot.”
Each student was also required to adapt a short story from Washington Irving’s “Tales of the Alhambra” into a short film screenplay. A two day trip to Granada, to tour the Alhambra, a palace fortress where Irving lived and wrote for a time during the 1820s, helped bring Irving’s stories to life. “Going to Granada helped me a lot with my short story adaptation,” said Lubanovic. “So much of my story is dependent upon the architecture there, and seeing it in person helped me to really solidify what I wanted the mood of my piece to be. The gardens were beautiful and I was so impressed with how ornate it was”.
“Learning how to take a short story and creatively arrange it into a screenplay, while still staying true to the original piece was difficult at first,” said MDIA major Mackenzie Keaton. “But once I got into the process it became fun to tweak the story and add dialogue and create a screenplay from a story I really enjoyed.”
In addition to the workshops, field assignments and field trips, the students met weekly with Spanish filmmakers who screened and discussed their work. “All of the screenings really opened my eyes to how much hard work and time it takes to make a documentary,” said MDIA student Leah Klosterman. “It was also nice to put a face to the filmmaker, instead of just watching the film and leaving immediately after. It made the experience more intimate and effective.”
In addition to spending Christmas and Three Kings Day (Spain’s official end to the holiday festivities) in the ancient city of Seville, the students all took part in an optional trip to southern Portugal to celebrate New Year’s in the Mediterranean beach town of Albufeira. “Seville was incredible and I’d stay there for a semester in a heartbeat,” said journalism student Ben Schwartz. “But Portugal was probably the most beautiful place I’ve ever been. There was a huge stage and a big concert going on that ended with incredible fireworks.”
MDIA major Andrew Stroud saw the trip to Portugal as “a golden opportunity to get to grow closer to the group that you are with and to be able to spend a special holiday with your new friends. And it was 100 % safe.”
“I had an amazing experience,” said Leah Klosterman. “For my first time going abroad, going away for a month was the perfect amount of time. I loved the size of our group and was able to get really close with everyone on the trip. It also helped me get out of my comfort zone and really push myself to be flexible.”
Mackenzie Keaton, Leah’s partner on a documentary project about Spanish architecture agreed: “Spending four weeks in Spain has been life changing and has definitely taught me a lot, not only about Spain and its culture and traditions, but about myself. I’ve learned how to be more independent, how to manage my time and my finances, and how to navigate unfamiliar places confidently and safely. I’ve come away from this trip not only with new friends and an immense appreciation for Spain, but with two great pieces of work that I wouldn’t hesitate to put into my portfolio.”
Applications are now being accepted for next winter break’s “Screenwriting and Storytelling in Spain” program which will be held December 16, 2018 through January 12, 2019. The program is open to all OU students. No screenwriting experience or Spanish language skills are necessary. Acceptances are rolling so apply now by clicking here.
For more information contact Program Director Frederick Lewis at firstname.lastname@example.org