Fall Semester Done – Cheers!January 20, 2010
I survived my second semester at Syracuse University. After a brief summer and challenging Fall semester, I managed to retain my sanity as I navigated final projects and exams. I completed a class called “Designing Interactivity” focusing on web design through Photoshop, XHTML/HTML coding, CSS, and a bit of Word Press (php coding) and Flash. I have a rough version of a working website for my future master’s project, yet I remain frustrated not having learned as much as I wanted. I am not sure if my expectations were too high or if the reality of trying to learn this type of material requires more time and practice. I appreciate knowing the basics and not fearing the idea of coding. With the future so uncertain, it seems important to have diverse skills as I try to re-build my career; that is why I want to understand this coding world. I don’t want to be a blind consumer or producer for that matter, as I navigate the online world. I want to understand the world behind the pages we navigate. Bring me into the matrix, but don’t let me get lost in it.
I was required to complete a research course and I was lucky to find a class called “Media and Diversity.” I enjoyed the class due to the wide range of issues discussed from the evolution of LGBT media coverage and heteronormativity to race and everyday pornography. Fellow classmates seemed irritated by the class, but I knew this qualitative work would be more enjoyable then other classes focused on quantitative research. The three-ring binder barely held our 451-page group research project on how transgendered characters are portrayed in entertainment media. The class helped me practice my interviewing skills; each of us were asked to interview at least seven individuals, each 40 minutes or more, and transcribe the interviews. The final paper resulted in findings that showed the transgender community searching for community and identity through other outlets rather than through film and television representations.
And finally, my multimedia storytelling class introduced me to the world of video and audio – the heart of why I am traveling down this academic road. I completed six projects: an autobiography and five other features on two sisters losing their memory in an assisted-living facility, a local lesbian community activist, a nurse practitioner running a house call medical service, a traveling juggler/entertainer, and final project on three members of the transgendered community. At times, stress ran high as I battled with technical challenges like finding the correct white balance, using the tripod versus hand-holding, perfecting proper focusing, adding light on location and capturing good audio. I learned from my mistakes and grew. There were certainly moments when I questioned why am I doing all of this, yet I came full circle to embrace the joy of documenting interesting stories with the moving image.
I continue to question the dynamics that this kind of academic environment stirs up. Some teachers are more invested than others; it remains a challenge getting enough feedback without appearing to be too pushing. Sometimes I don’t even know the questions to ask, yet I know that class time will not by itself provide the kind of guidance I am hoping for. I felt like the system worked against me in my undergraduate program where I wandered around lost for too long. I think, at that time, I just trusted in the program and somewhere along the line I missed out on some opportunities. I thought the teachers would guide me, yet in that program it was more about supporting the rising stars. So I remain sensitive now to every student having a chance to grow. If I, by chance, produce an amazing piece, I don’t want to be placed in a group that is perceived to be too good or too advanced to get advice. And if, by chance, I fall on my face on other project, I don’t want to be discounted as lacking in talent or potential. It is rare to find that teaching mentor who really wants you to succeed and who has the time and will to really take you there.
I have been told recently that I have a documentary-feel to my work and I find it to be an interesting comment since I haven’t thought about what my style of story telling is like for a really long time. I tend to just go in and try to answer the questions that I find interesting about a subject via the past, present and future. I also try to look at one’s background and motivations to give the story more depth. I am still learning how to perfect this as I attempt to do better at capturing the heart of the subject and the real emotion of the situation. I am excited by the potential of having more clarity with my purpose. I want to proceed in a direction where talent and passion are working hand in hand. I am intrigued by more long-form work yet it is a complete mystery to me. Does this mean I have a home in television programming or film work? How do I even begin to navigate those arenas at this stage in my career? Do I really have to work again at the lowest entry level and fight my way through advancement? Maybe that won’t even matter if I simply love what I am doing.
Next semester, starting in mid-January, is already stirring up excitement. I will have three classes: Fashion and Portrait Photography, Multimedia Editing, and Documentary Production. My hopes ride high for all three, as each will give me new perspectives on what I can achieve. It is time to charge up that inner strength and embrace the opportunities ahead of me.
All advice welcomed 🙂