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Workshop Highlights International Collaboration

Published: August 8, 2016

This June, four members of CSULB’s Film and Electronic Arts Department (FEA) led a five-day filmmaking workshop at the Hamburg University of Applied Sciences (Hochschule fur Angewandte Wissenschaften Hamburg or HAW) in Germany, fostering a spirit of international collaboration.

The group included FEA’s Kent Hayward (narrative production), Kevin O’Brien (cinematography and film history), Bonnie Blackburn (screenwriting) and newly hired staff member Chris Maldonado (technician and gaffer). Using theory and hands-on practice to discuss the art of storytelling for the screen, the team taught daily units on story, media aesthetics and hands-on studio work.

Thirty-seven German students were directed to write a short script on one of a host of subjects, including “The Other,” new communities and integration. The script “Unknown Chance” (by soon-to-be exchange student at CSULB Luisa Dinglinger) was chosen by the workshop leaders as a jumping-off point to discuss conflict, character and visual storytelling. Through a series of discussions on story, media aesthetics and hands-on filmmaking practicals, this script was workshopped, filmed and edited on campus by four groups of students.

A year before, FEA professors Tom Blomquist and Reed Moran offered a popular directing and screenwriting workshop at HAW.

“In fact, this is the third year that we have been hosted in Hamburg, which we are so pleased about,” said Hayward. “After hosting some fabulous teachers from Hamburg, including Wolfgang Willaschek, Christina Becker and Thomas Görne on the CSULB campus in semesters past, we were all very eager to continue the collaboration. These are well-respected scholars who offered unique insight about media, audio and dramaturgy to our students. It was our turn to reciprocate.

“We have exchanged almost a dozen students between our universities as a result of this relationship and anticipate more in the future,” Hayward continued. “We are searching for a way to make this an official annual collaboration since it has been so positive and so fruitful for the students. It has really been a remarkable exchange of ideas and experiences.”

The goals of the June 6-10 visit to Hamburg were collaboration and the exchange of ideas, Hayward explained. “We learned as much from the students and our counterparts at HAW as they did from us,” he said.

The FEA faculty members were given five days to deliver a workshop which they presented in three parts. Mornings were devoted to story under the tutelage of Blackburn; afternoons were given over to Maldonado and O’Brien, who worked on lighting and camera; and Hayward showed clips from his planned web series called ‘Lunar Estates’ with the goal of explaining the many steps of filmmaking from page to screen, beginning with storyboarding. Student feedback was positive.

The four CSULB instructors facilitating the workshop in Germany were Chris Maldonado, Kent Hayward, Kevin O'Brien and Bonnie Blackburn.
The four CSULB instructors facilitating the workshop in Germany were (back row, l-r) Chris Maldonado, Kent Hayward and Kevin O’Brien; seated: Bonnie Blackburn.

“They were excited to have us, eager with questions, and thirsty to learn more about content and storytelling,” recalled Hayward. “They were fun, talented students.”

The Hamburg visit was not keyed to a particular conference but rather, reinforced an existing relationship.

“Our university’s relationship to theirs benefits us both,” he said. “The Hamburg faculty learned from our approach to storytelling, while we learned a lot as well, including the way they organized their audio facilities and recording studios.”

While the FEA faculty were concerned about the potential for a language barrier, their fears were groundless, soon discovering that most Germans speak English very well.

“We offered the few words we knew in German,” said Hayward, “but the real key was the English fluency among the Germans.”

Hayward hopes Film and Electronic Arts will continue to pursue relationships like these since the experience was positive for everyone.

“HAW’s wonderful dean Dorothea Wenzel immediately expressed her interest in future relations,” said Hayward. “Our goal is to organize the current relationship into an officially annual event. It’s great that it has worked out so far.”

He encourages other faculty to make a similar commitment to outreach. “Be open to collaboration and be ready to apply for that grant,” he advised. “You never know where opportunities will come from.”