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New discoveries

Gradina

 

With the end of the second semester of the first year of my master degree I think I can say that I’ve learned a lot. I took this picture back in January when I titled it “new discoveries’. There are so many things to learn out there and you know how it is: “the more I learn, the more I realize what I don’t know”.

Sometimes, learning can be hard, sometimes it is fun and sometimes the teacher can make it or break it.

I love to learn and not to learn by heart. I love to teach and to pass on all types of knowledge.

 

Iosif

 

 

Cum am făcut masterul de Inovare Culturală

La câteva luni după ce am absolvit de la facultate încă nu mă hotărâsem dacă să dau la masterat, şi dacă da, la ce. După ce am căutat diferite programe şi facultăţi nu mă puteam decide, sau era prea târziu să mă înscriu la admitere. Până la urmă m-am gândit că dacă tot voi locui în Braşov în următoarele luni să mă înscriu la un masterat acolo, şi voi vedea mai departe. În Braşov nu prea poţi studia arte, aşa că cea mai apropiată facultate pe care am găsit-o ca domeniu a fost Facultatea de Litere. Unul din masterate, pregătit de Departamentul de Limbi moderne şi Studii Cultureale sau aşa ceva, se numea “Inovare Culturală” şi din descrierea de pe site-ul facultăţii suna a ceva ce aş fi vrut să urmez. Inovare culturală pentru mine înseamnă să studiezi istorie, mişcări sociale, mişcări artistice, cum se leagă acestea, studii de civilizaţie, studii culturale şi aşa mai departe. Aşa că am dat la acest masterat şi am fost acceptat. Nu prea ştiam la ce să mă aştept, dar mă gândeam că vor fi colegi şi cursuri interesante.

În octombrie a început anul universitar. Facultatea de Litere (nu ştiu cum sunt alte facultăţi din Braşov) nu seamănă deloc cu facultatea pe care o făcusem eu. Aici parcă eram acum vreo 20 de ani cel puţin. Dar treacă. Mi-am cunoscut mulţi dintre colegi din primele zile. Majoritatea erau absolvenţi de litere şi mă întrebau de ce am dat la masterul acesta. Eu le răspundeam că motivul meu a fost dorinţa de a-mi extinde orizonturile, de la cultură vizuală, cinematografie şi fotografie şi în spre alte domenii.

Am început şi cursurile. A fost surprinzător să văd că majoritatea cursurilor se învârteau în jurul literaturii. Şi dezamăgit, într-un fel. Materiile aveau nume de genul “Roman contemporan”, “Publicistică Literară”, “Poezie Contemporană” şi aşa mai departe. Mulţi dintre masteranzi voiau să lucreze în acest domeniu şi erau interesaţi, dar eu nu prea aveam ce căuta. Am aflat că în semestrele următoare urmau alte cursuri ca “Scriere Creatoare” sau “Traduceri”.

Nu mă înţelegeţi greşit, îmi place să citesc. Dar nu vreau să fiu un “cititor profesionist”, aşa cum sunt absolvenţii adevăraţi de litere.

Un alt lucru specific acestui masterat erau lansările de carte. Cam în fiecare săptămână erau vreo două lansări de carte la care masteranzii erau trimişi. S-a întâmplat să se şi spună că “voi face prezenţa”. Nu s-a făcut prezenţa la nico lansare de carte, dar îmi imaginez cum ar fi arătat. “Domnul scriitor va lua o pauză acum ca să vedem dacă studenţii sunt aici. Deci, X. E sau nu e? Nu e? Aha, vede el. Vedeţi domnule scriitor cum cine nu vine la lansarea de carte nu trece cursul?”.

M-am dus la cursuri, mai ales la cele care erau interesante: unul de dramaturgie (despre care însă ştiu mai multe decât se preda acolo, întrucât am făcut în facultate aşa ceva) şi un curs la care se vorbea despre antropologie, dar tot la un nivel pe care cred că l-am depăşit acum câţiva ani.

Am continuat să merg, neştiind dacă să renunţ sau nu la acest master. Mă va ajuta cu ceva? Voi putea să îmi dau examenele? Voi învăţa ceva? Mă întrebam aceste lucruri pentru că mereu se presupunea că ai terminat Litere sau că ştiai toate romanele din lume. Mereu temele erau de scris despre cărţi post-moderne şi cine le-a influenţat. Romanul post-modern abc are influenţe confucianiste, motive balzaciene şi câte şi mai câte. Eu nu citisem nici romanul şi nici multe dintre referinţe, aşa că nu ştiu ce căutam acolo.

Am aflat însă tot felul de lucrui şi sunt mulţumit cu ele. Profesorii sunt buni, unii dintre cei înscrişi erau chiar nişte profesionişti şi mă bucur că am fost la acele cursuri.

Am decis să renunţ la acest masterat după câteva luni. Nu mă vedeam scriind o dizertaţie pe o temă literară sau conexă cu literatura. Când mi-am scris licenţa, chiar dacă nu este cea mai grozavă lucrare din lume, este o lucrare scrisă de mine şi de nimeni altcineva. Mulţi m-au întrebat de ce sunt mirat că aşa erau cursurile în condiţiile în care eram la facultatea de litere. Le-am răspuns că facultatea pe care o făcusem eu se numea “Facultatea de Teatru şi TV”, dar care avea un departament de cinematografie şi media, unde se studiază cinematografie. De ce la departamentul de studii culturale se studiază literatură nu prea ştiu. Există încă în lume culturi care nu au literatură sau scriere.

După ce m-am dus să îmi iau înapoi diploma depusă şi ce mai era de ridicat, le-am scris colegilor un mail în care le-am spus că nu voi mai fi masterand la această facultate, că le urez succes şi aşa mai departe. Le-am lăsat şi adresa mea de e-mail şi le-am spus că dacă au nevoie de mine sau vor să mai păstrăm legătura, să mă caute. Nu mi-a răspuns nimeni.

În concluzie vreau să spun că nu e un program de master rău, dar e un program pentru cei ce vor să se facă scriitori sau să lucreze într-un domeniu adiacent. Nu ştiu ce voi face în continuare, dar deocamdată nu sunt student şi mă ocup de alte lucruri. Mi-ar plăcea să redescopăr studenţia, dar nu ştiu dacă se poate, pe ce cale şi când.

 

College boy II

In the second year I made a shot film called “fears”, and guess what it is about. I regret only one shot out of it, but that’s ok. The rest were quite bad, I must say… I don’t know, some were better, some were not so good.

We also started writing scripts, which is by the way, harder than you can imagine. The first times I had to write something out of my head, whether there was a storyline or a dialogue, I found it too hard for me to handle. I put all my ambition into movement and in a year or two became one of the best at writing. Now I know that my “being good at it” is not good enough. And the same goes for everything. It wasn’t until after college when I read, studied and learned what art is and how culture works.

Back then, I did not have a clear idea of what I thought and of what I wanted to do, but two of my colleagues had. I was getting along with them quite well, which was great, because they helped me a lot and I am grateful for that. I wish I could have helped them more, but I hope they didn’t hesitate to ask me when they needed me. Anyway, these two boys started around the second year of school I guess to make a web series. Their idea was, I can only imagine, “let’s make what we make in school, which is short films, but not have to deal with everyone’s criticism. Let’s let (as it is only normal) the public decide. As it was somehow expected, the reaction they got from the school was very bad. Students and teachers commented on their web series, saying how awful it is. And I can say it was not the best thing in the world, but that didn’t even matter, as it was a small hit online. Even though their audience was not the demographic they had gone for, they had tons of people telling them how great their series is. Now that’s a strange thing, don’t you think? The Internet and film are all about reaching an audience. A film without an audience does not exist. Maybe in two hundred years it will be discovered and sold for a gazillion something at an auction but generally this medium is made for immediate viewing. Especially in today’s world. I made a documentary but it was ment to be shown only for my family, it was a gift, because it was a montage of videos I had shot over the years.

But I can’t say I didn’t have fun working at projects. Ok, maybe not until the third year, but anyway. For example, I had a lot of fun working on a project which was shot at night. A girl from my class had this idea that needed to be shot at night, and she asked me to be the assistant to the assistant to the assistant, or something like that, but I promoted myself twice that night. That was a joke I was making around on the two nights of filming. It was cool that she wanted me on the set. I don’t think people liked it that I used to joke around all night, as everyone was exhausted because of the late hours. But it was cool that I was there. A few days after, I think we went out or something and I have to say, my jokes are much more appropriate in a casual environment than in a working one, which is OK with me.

I remember in the third year, before on exam I actually wrote on paper what the teacher would tell us, why our documentary is bad. The documentary was so bad, that it is my favorite film I did in school. It was so bad that I laughed the whole time we watched it together with our teacher and colleagues who were horrified!

We also had really amazing projects which we completed in different prisons of Romania. I, like most or all of my colleagues, had never been to a prison before. I was a different kind of experience, and it catches amazing reactions when I’m on the bus starting a story with “when I was in prison…” I guess the whole purpose was to make us less prejudiced towards people who are in prisons.

I also loved a class where we would record weekly tv shows. Of course they were nothing of what I wished they were, but for me it was an amazing experience. I was also happy to have one or two colleagues I could rely on I guess and they were very helpful. One of them was the girl I talked about earlier, and another was one of the “co-founders” of the on-line series.

Even though they did not get along with each other, I managed to stay in good relations with both. And there were other colleagues I started talking to. But my experiences were different, meaning, they would be friendly with me, but never actually done or say anything friendly.

We also had a colleague from Korea, a girl who was an exchange student, as we had one who went there. I kind of got along well with her, talked about a lot of things and worked on a few projects together. I even interviewed her for our weekly tv show, but I don’t know where that tape is. We even did a big live-like TV show exam, which one of my classmates and I presented. It was fun and I’m sorry I didn’t practice enough before or that I did not have enough experience. As in a lot of things, I feel now I have a lot more experience. Our South-Korean fellow movie maker was cool and had a lot of ideas that are uncommon in our culture: for example, when she worked on a project with me, she wouldn’t come to my place (by the way, now I lived alone in something that used to be a basement) and work there. Which is better than I thought, as my house wasn’t a good representation of myself. I still feel embarrassed of what it looked like when some of my classmates came over. But I loved it that some of them, the girl I talked about earlier for example, got over it and continued to work with me on several projects, help me when I needed it and became a pal. Apparently the basement was a reoccurring thing, as I took classes and lived in one.

I don’t remember what happened, but my thoughts at the end of the 3rd year were that the year ended with an explosion of hypocrisy. Wow, I sure had a lot to say!

It’s funny how in all this time we continuously speak about ideas and personalities colliding and all sort of things except the essential, which is if I was good as a film director or photographer. However, the third year was the time I stated understanding what producing and directing is actually all about.

I also started not to think about all the things I used to think about so much and reconnected with people I knew and people I didn’t have a problem with. That was better!

In the fourth year, I really knew that there was no going back with anything, and it was the year I accidentally did a stand-up improvisation. And, I have to be honest, I kind of brought the house down.

Some people said I changed. I don’t think I changed, I think they got to know me better.

What changed was that I just couldn’t think about it anymore. Not that what I felt changed but I just couldn’t think about it. So, I guess I had my pals and just civil relationships with other people.

There were also students from other years that I talked to and got to know a little bit. It’s weird how until my last year, we were not connected.

The whole senior year was about directing your graduation film. Everyone had huge projects and I was the only one who did not have a Hollywood-inspired production. It was a simple idea, but everyone liked it. Now the problem was to make it into a film that everyone should like. Not everyone, but many people I hoped.

It was harder than I thought. I had no location, no actors, no script (just a draft) and no crew! While in the first semester I was ahead of everyone, in the second part of the school year I was one of those who was way behind.

In our last year, we had an attempt at team work, which didn’t come out great. We made three episodes from a series, and I was one of the main actors. I was kind of sad because of different reasons, and I remember how at one time a girl said: “I know why he’s sad. He said he doesn’t have enough close-ups.” Some people actually believed it and I don’t know what was funnier, the joke or that people actually believed it!

Now it was all about finishing that license movie, which was supposed to be seven to twenty minutes long. I had the best coordinating teacher I could ask for, and I am grateful for all the things he thought me through the years. But the production process was a bit slow and I didn’t know what to do, as most of the students were involved in each other’s projects and would not help me.

Through my pal, I reconnected with a teacher we had earlier in our learning process. She was always great and said that she is happy to help me. Because she was highly involved in the theater world, she managed to convince some actors to appear in my film. I also received a lot of help with the script from her and many other things. I finally managed to pull a team together and shot my movie. The film was first shown in a Cluj cinema, at our graduation ceremony. It was a comedy, and to my surprise, it got laughs. My colleagues were not very enthusiastic about it. A girl came and told me her family enjoyed my film, which was a great thing for me. I guess two others showed their appreciation. The teacher who had helped me was there too, and she said it was horrible. Yes, truly horrible and a fail! I was so surprised, not because she didn’t like it, although I wish she had, but because it’s not a good thing, in my opinion, to tell someone how bad their project was at their graduation ceremony. It was fun how everyone was congratulating each other and I didn’t get much feedback. However, when it came to grades, my film was one of the three that got the maximum grade and a lot of great feedback from the commission that evaluated the films.

After the screening and the presentation of our written papers, almost all my colleagues disappeared and I have not seen them since. I did not even receive a message online, like “congrats! See you at the reunion!” My pals and a guy who is one year younger were the only people who talked to me after it was all done. I felt it was strange that 16 people who had been together for four years could not say good-bye to each other. But that’s life.

Now I feel like I wasted so much energy into trying to change people or building something that wasn’t going to be real afterwards anyway. So, as far as I’m concerned they can do whatever the hell they want.

I decided to practice what I preach and allow them to live. If I believe they should accept me for who I am, then I should accept them. And yes, so far this is the key to life.

What I felt lacked in my formation was the fact that we didn’t do any reality shows or other genres. I know it was considered an art school and that everyone was too above it and that even doing reports ment professional prostitution for most, but it’s hard for me to understand why this would lack, given the fact that they are the most common format of the future. Whatever. I’m sticking to my opinion.

I now realize that even though it seemed like nothing came true, those were all the steps I needed to climb to be who I am and know what I know and to can what I can. Too much repetition in the last sentence.

I am really curious how all the people who I knew in college saw it. How did the teachers perceive me, how did the other students see me and what did everyone else make of the whole process?

I don’t know at what stage I am now, but I don’t even want to think of what stage I was when I started.

I am sad that I got judged based on weird reasons, and I am the first one to admit that I did a lot of bad projects. But what we all need to learn is that in the creative work environments failure is necessary and useful in order to progress.

I don’t know how it would have been if I had studied someplace else. When we had our final exams, I met a guy I knew who had studied the same thing in Bucharest. I couldn’t tell him that I used one of his ideas in one of my projects.

All I can say is that I just spoke to my pals and along with a huge bag of knowledge, that’s what I take from college.

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College boy

I know the term “college boy” means someone who is kind of a snob, and if you will, it suits this article if we take it in a very ironic way. But my intention was to truly mean “college boy”. After graduating from four years of film school, I look back at my experience as I was trying to cope with a new city and a crazy crowd. Or maybe not so crazy. I felt a hole in me when I came back after it was all done, even though there was nothing more for me there. I did not feel my best when I was in college, but in the end I tried to make the best of it.

Before I actually started everything, I had to go through admission exams. I think those exams were the most important exams of my life. I went through them and got in third!

It all started in the fall, and I was brand new to Cluj. I moved to the city about a day or two before school started, but to me getting used to a city was something I didn’t know how to do, even though I had done it before. The other time I had done it, it was a tourist though.

The building where we were supposed to take classes was just across the street from the main building of the university. The university I attended is quite renowned and said to open quite some doors in its teachers’ and students’ lives.

I discovered that I knew one of my colleagues there. She later moved to another university. However, I felt like everyone was a lot more familiar with the college and with each other. They actually seamed friends. I had no clue how to be around so many new people. I’m not sure how I got to meet each of my colleagues, but I know it wasn’t fast. Being in film school, there were not many students who had been accepted, we were 21 in the first year, and by the end of the fourth year, only 16 had remained. But I still struggled to connect to them and to the teachers.

I found that I felt more connected to some of the teachers than some of colleagues, but I don’t know. Maybe it was all in my head, and I am imagining.

And then, the assignments started coming in. Being a vocational medium, and a very modern faculty, we were supposed to always complete assigments, depending on the class, each week or each month. I had never done a film in my life, I had just tried to film stuff and edit it together, but I had no idea about framing or professional editing! Most of my colleagues, though, seemed to know these things, and I didn’t know from where. I started being sad, because I felt that friendships were created on the base of how good your projects were. Better said, friendships were created on the base on how the teachers evaluated your project. I can remember one time, we had to do an assigment.

I was always being told in photography that my photos weren’t good enough, but this was a video assigment. When the teacher saw that it was filmed in the so-called ‘hand-held’ technique, he was horrified. I can remember being actually scared. Funny thing how later hand-held filming became my trademark thing and I like it to this day. But if the teacher said…

And that’s how it went in the first year: they said, I did, they did not like, they did not approve, I felt like I was falling from a cliff and life continued.

I remember in one of my first days in Cluj, someone told me that I seemed “indie” to him. I replyed asking whether that means like someone who likes Indian cinema. That was the firts contact I had with the “indie” world, which I later connected to the idea of “the hipster”. I could now finally define my colleagues, or at least what they seemed to me. The group reminded me of that picture of the evolution of the hipster: in my year we had them all: from the fauxhemian to the scenester.

And they were all so obsessed with their preferences of directors, art, “art” and films that I constantly kept rolling my eyes. One guy was so emerged in his world, that, I don’t know if conscious or not, he made himself look like Roman Polanski when he was young. I thought that was quite weird, and not in a good way. I was not like that, because I did not know anything about professional cinema and what the art world is actually like, so I was open-minded about anything that came my way and tried to take it in. Of course, after I finished all four years I started finding my voice in terms of creativity and cultural preferences.

One of the first assignments we had was to make self-portraits of us, both video and photo. It was easy. There is a famous say: “Painting is easy when you don’t know how, but very difficult when you do.” Edgar Degas said it. Now if you ask me to make a self-portrait, I don’t know what I would do, but back in my freshman year, I took a picture of myself dressed up in my favorite pajama, holding my hand near my heart, something like a religious painting I guess. One of my teachers considered it to be cheesy, while others had nothing to say I guess. On video, it was another story. I first did a clip, edited in Movie Maker, about how I had written a lot but didn’t want anyone to read it. The second self-portrait was a symbolic attempt, which looking at it now didn’t quite succeed to express the fact that I’m a dreaming boy. I don’t know if I need to go on and on about each project that I finished. I mean, I was involved and each assignment I got was the best I could do, with the resources I had, both physical and mental. As a freshman I was quite sad that things did not go my way: I worked very hard, but nothing came through. I did documentaries, reports, animation movies, fiction and almost everything in between.

Even though the first year ended in tears, it was best for me to look forward, hoping that things will change. I knew that the dynamic would change, it’s inevitable, I thought, but hopefully it wouldn’t get worse.

Everyone had their obsessions and I was not part of the gang. This was my obsession and I was living with it. I feel like I made everything look so dark and bad, looking through my written thoughts of the time, I was not very happy and felt like everyone was just on drugs and uninterested. And to be honest, to a certain extent they were really uninterested. I remember once asking a guy something and he replied he didn’t care. I was just trying to reach out and start something, because now I remember that they used to tell me that I didn’t do stuff with them. I do not know what they did, but I would like to.

Going onward, I noticed that each student had his or her own thing they would cling to, and not accept other things. I say things, because I can’t find a more general term. One guy was obsessed with westerns, the other with the regime that collapsed in Romania in 1989, a girl was obsessed with “surreal, symbolic things” and another guy with saying “I don’t know, it’s… yes”.

And the teachers didn’t do a great job either. I mean, they would always tell us how bad everything we do is and personally, although I tried, I couldn’t find my voice through elimination. I’m not good at this, I’m not good at that, I can’t do this…

This is something a teacher with whom we had an acting class pointed out, the fact that we’re always being put down and that, surprise, it’s not a good thing. I think I will always be grateful to him for telling us that.

At this point, I feel like everyone hates, the teachers, the students and the staff. I was living with someone and I in my freshman year I had lived at another family. It’s really hard for me to live with someone I don’t want to live with, and to feel excluded and disliked at college! I am wondering if I am going to find my place.

Another thing I had huge problems with was the lack of tolerance. As everyone grew “as artists” and as people, they started not liking each other and not talking to each other, instead of tolerating and accepting. Accept that you have divergent points of views in life, and everything will be a little easier! I am really pissed that they would not accept a different point of view and that they had streams of thought that were really hard to follow and make sense of. But why do I bother?

I don’t know if I asked myself this back then, but I do now: what did I care? Why was I so involved? There is no general truth, and I knew that then as I know it now.

I was told not to photograph the things that I liked, the way I liked it, I was told not to film the way I wanted, not to think the way I was thinking and yet and I somehow I did not give up. I took it all in and tried to learn something from it. Why are they saying this? I’ll admit, most of my “early” work is bad but it’s supposed to be bad. One thing a teacher said once (actually he said it more times and I have a deep respect for him) was that we were not a production company, but a school. So why were we always put down that “we can’t sell this” when we were not doing it for more than a year or two. In this field, you’re not a professional after many years of practice.

I need a vacation! So much struggle, and for what? I remember I felt like there was a “standard”, that needed to be touched. And it wasn’t so much of a bar, but a cumulus of conditions to make a project be considered “good”. For example photojournalism was good, something else was bad. I didn’t like it that everything was done in a hurry and sometimes superficial, while other times we used to focus on an unimportant thing so much, that we overlooked the whole project.

And there was a lot or mockery and I felt there was more unexpressed mockery. I feel, in retrospect, that I put too much of my soul into some projects. I was always being told “don’t take it personal” and I agree and think the same, but as a director I like said “how can you not take it personal?”

I realized at one point that it wasn’t about the grades. I had always had good grades, but this did not bring me any appreciation. I did not know what to eat, what to do, how to do it and how to become better.

In the mean time, our building got a full renovation, and instead of having glasses in a former basement, we had them upstairs, in rooms filled with expensive computers and a studio.

This did not change much for me though. I was amazed by how a lot of people thought that they understand the depth of the human soul, but do not understand simple things. A lot of students also were not coherent at all when it came to creating, thinking and doing things. That’s my opinion.

Was I missing out on things? Maybe. But I didn’t want to do things that were fake or just for trying to feel included. I don’t want to feel included.

I know I am weird, but I hoped people will still befriend me for who I am.

I have not drawn all my conclusions yet.

Read part two of the article here

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