Narrative Non-Fiction Writing—A Class You Don’t Want to Miss!

By Gina Kim
MS Journalism ’16
BU College of Communication

The end of March means a lot of important things, but most of all, it reminds us that COM students have to pick out courses for the Fall. With just a month to go with our current Spring 2015 courses, it’s quite daunting to realize that we have to start planning out our final semester at COM. In the midst of advising appointments, checking off that list of whether we fulfilled our required courses for our disciplines, and beginning to sketch a broad outline of what our possible graduate theses will be in the fall, we often forget that there are certain courses that may not be required for most students, but will still be important to take nonetheless.

Professor Mark Kramer’s JO 527 Art of Non-Fiction Narrative Writing course is just one of many great writing classes that is welcome to all COM students, whether you’re Print, Broadcast, or even an undergrad student. It’s for anyone wishing to hone in on their already superb writing skills or to learn a completely different craft. It fulfills a student’s desire to understand the intricate mechanics of writing in such a way that cannot be taught by reading published examples alone. It’s something to constantly practice, sharpen, and eventually add on to your mile long list of skill-sets to boast about when you’re thrust into the industry.

Michelle Marino, a final semester Print Journalism graduate student at COM is currently enrolled in JO 527, where she’s been learning how to write for an audience, getting readers involved and practicing how to build upon a single great idea.

“Going into it, I knew it’d be a rigorous class that demanded lots of attention and sleepless nights of re-drafts and rewrites. I’d already taken Feature Writing last fall with Professor Ruppel-Shell, and it changed my life. I decided to take Non-Fiction Narrative as well, because I wanted to tell a more compelling story but in a different way. Narrative is about informing and educating people while still presenting them with hard facts,” she said.

There’s a lot to take away from a course like non-fiction narrative. COM already has a superb list of phenomenal, skill-building courses for students to take, and with a superstar lineup of faculty in all long-form writing courses, Professor Mark Kramer rounds out that list with JO 527.

“First of all, there’s no syllabus,” Michelle said. “Students are to come up with seven ideas that you’d plan to write about for the semester. You then narrow your idea down to the point where you have a viable one to focus on. Kramer than chips away at something until you find the core focus. After being approved, you report a first draft. You get to take a whack at it for the next class if there are things to fix. There’s a long process of going through several drafts but it’s so helpful because it forces you to take your time to produce the absolute best you can.”

Hunting for an informative course where you can have fun and tap into your full writing potential? Look no further. Check out JO 527 and make room for it either this Fall or Spring 2016 semester!

COM Career Fair: Networking for Grads and Undergrads

By Ali Parisi
MS Public Relations ’16
BU College of Communication

Whenever I ask people for advice on job searching, all I hear is: network.  How am I supposed to have time to network while in grad school? How can I go to employers and just strike up a conversation about me and what I want to do with my life?

Actually, I can, and I did!  COM’s Career Fair (Feb 24 and 25) gave me that exact opportunity.  Over 20 employers from all three communication disciplines came to BU specifically to chat with more than 340 COM students about potential employment opportunities.  Among the attendees were Arnold Worldwide, Big Block Productions, Communispace, Gupta Media, Ketchum PR, SHIFT Communications, NESN and WCVB-TV-ABC.

The career fair was held over two days, with representatives from each company set up at tables.  Students could talk to any company that was there, giving them the chance to both learn more about the companies and share about themselves.

“We try to get a mix so that all three departments are covered,” says Kelly Forde, Assistant Director of COM Career Services.  “We’re looking for employers that have both internship and full time opportunities.”

Career Fair

Alexis Feinberg, a graduate PR student, was particularly excited to meet with Ketchum PR regarding a potential summer internship.  “I wanted to find out more about the program, if they indeed had an internship program, and what it means for a graduate-level student,” she said.  More specifically, Feinberg was interested in Ketchum’s subsidiary, Harrison &Shriftman – a fashion PR firm and showroom based in Miami.  “Serena, the Talent Acquisition Manager for Ketchum was more than happy to answer my questions and was open to connecting my information with Harrison &Shriftman.”

Forde describes making connections as just one part of the overall goal at the career fair.  “Obviously jobs or internships are really the end goals,” said Forde. “It’s also to practice: to get more comfortable talking to employers, to get more comfortable talking about themselves and selling themselves, and just to kind of up their professionalism.”

COM Career Services also opened up more resume hours and sent out lists of the companies weeks in advance to give students time to prepare.  Ultimately, Forde explains that it is up to the students to come prepared.  “Showing that you do your research sometimes is the best way to set yourself apart,” she said.

Whether it’s finding a job, internship, or just introducing yourself to employers, the career fair is a great way to get your name out there and practice.  I have to admit, I was a little intimidated since I had never been to one before, but I’m so glad I went.  According to Forde,“Every connection is a good connection.” So why not start connecting?  Lord knows I’m going to need a job soon!

One semester down, two to go! I can do this! Right?

By Ali Parisi
MS Public Relations ’16
BU College of Communication

Last semester was definitely one for the books.  I dove head first into grad school and faced the roaring currents head-on.  But after a well-deserved (and much needed) winter break, I’m already back in the thick of it.  Chapters and chapters of reading seem to be piling up faster than I can even order my books.  And yet, something feels different this semester.

For one thing, I finally feel like I’ve got this whole “balance” thing down (even though sometimes I feel like I’m going crazy trying to get all my work done and actually have a life on the side).  When I take a second to stop and think about it though, I know I’m ten times more confident this semester than the last one.

Yes, the workload is still just as intense, if not more. but this time I know how to manage it better.  I know how to prioritize and organize my homework so I’m not overwhelmed.  And I know that if I don’t read every single word of every single assigned reading, it’s ok! Professors care more about understanding the big picture than memorizing and regurgitating minute details.

As much as I may feel more confident and ready to take on a new semester of grad school, I know the stress will still build up.  It’s inevitable when you’re in grad school because frankly, it comes with the territory.  You knowingly sign up for a rigorous academic curriculum and convince yourself that it’ll be just like undergrad.  Unfortunately, it’s not, and you’re still going to forget to complete an assignment or cram the night before an exam.

Again, that’s ok! So what if I get too busy and can’t study for a test as much as I’d like to? And yes, I’m repeating that as much for you as I am for me.  Because even though I can say that it’s okay to screw up every once in a while, I know I inevitably will still stress about it.  Guess I’ll just have to click back to this post if I start to head towards a mental breakdown for a little encouragement.

Because I’ve done it once, and I can do it again. Right? Right.

 

COMLIGHT

A Laboratory for Visual Storytelling: COM’s New Cinema and Media Production MFA

By Michelle Marino
MS Journalism ’15
BU College of Communication

We hear a lot at COM about the shifting media landscape. Every day, new technological advances are making it possible for us to produce and consume media in ways we never have before. Keeping up with technology is essential, but no matter what industry you’re in, one thing is clear: telling a compelling story is at the core of everything we do. COM’s newly re-launched MFA in Cinema and Media Production, spawned out of this philosophy, provides an advanced degree for students interested in taking film beyond its fundamentals and honing their storytelling skills.

“What we have come to realize is students now are much more technically sophisticated,” says Jan Egleson, Associate Professor of the Practice in Film & Television. “In the old days, film school’s function was to teach people arcane technology. Students today are much more adept at using equipment but they still have the difficulty of telling stories. That’s where we’ve been pushing the program.” Though the new MFA does also involve technical skills, they mainly function as support tools for the film’s overall objective. “The focus is storytelling and the skills of fiction film-making,” Egleson says. “You’re working with actors, breaking down scenes, and structuring a story to convey it visually.”

CMPBlogPhoto2

Prospective candidates for the program, which launches in Fall 2015, are required to come in with a baseline of both technical and storytelling skills. Whether they’ve learned it on their own or through an undergraduate film program, they must demonstrate they’ve already mastered the basics to apply to the films they’ll work on during the course of their MFA. When accepted, students already know their designated film making role, whether it be director, producer, or cinematographer. This fall, three producers, three cinematographers, and six directors will join the crew. Before first semester, students are asked to pitch three film ideas, which are continually honed and vetted until arriving on one film concept that will be the focus for the duration of the program.

As the film landscape continuously changes, so do the types of films students will work on. “We’re platform agnostic,” Egleson says. “If you come in and say I want to make a web series – ten, 10-minute webisodes – you can do that. If you want to make a 30 minute film, that works. As long as you can convince us of the clarity of your vision we don’t care what the platform is. That’s the shift.” If you’re dead set on working towards a full length film, you might work on a section of it or a shorter version, says Egleson, which is how many full length features get their start.

CMPBlogPhoto4The new Cinema and Media Production MFA will continue its adaptive response to the new world after the switchover from conventional film to digital media. “Once that happens, it becomes very apparent to everybody that the focus needs to shift to the ideas behind this stuff. It’s very liberating,” Egleson says. “It means we can now be a laboratory for visual storytelling.”

Are you excited about the new face of the MFA in Cinema Media Production or have you thought about applying? Do you think it will support the changing film making landscape? Learn more here.

Bryan Sih

The Redstone Film Festival 2015

By Keiko Talley
MS Journalism ’16
BU College of Communication

The Redstones Film Festival is held each spring semester by the Film and Television Department at COM. The festival showcases works submitted by both graduate and undergraduate students. Films are awarded based on several categories: best film, best cinematography, best screenplay, best editing, best sound design, Fleder/Rosenberg best short screenplay; the festival is basically like the Oscars of Boston University.

This year’s 1st place winner and the winner of Best Screenplay, was Bryan Sih (COM’14.)  His film Winter/Spring, was about a Spanish-speaking couple working on a farm.

What inspired you for this film?

Lots of things. I started thinking of parenthood after reading Sherwood Anderson’s The Untold Lie. I began questioning the bringing of a child into the world when adults are just as confused as a child. Immigrants always inspire me with their bravery and often-tragic necessity to seek an alien world, and so I included that in the film. Then there are the actors themselves, since the film relies on improvisation, they are responsible for a lot. Unfortunately, I wrote the whole script for the spring. When we scouted the farm, it was covered in three feet of snow that refused to melt so I rewrote the film on the spot.

How long and what type of preparation did this film take?

I started preparing the script in December and we were still writing into April. I like to lock myself into a room, get a large piece of paper and write the scenes in blurbs all over the page. It usually lasts a few days and I am constantly rewriting it. I am a terrible writer, so the real preparation begins with the actors. I also have the actors work beforehand. For Winter/Spring, they drove up to the farm together without the crew and when they arrived on set, had formed their own private language. It made them come across as a self-enclosed unit.

RedstoneFirst place winner Bryan Sih (COM’14) flanked by his actors, Herlin Navarro and David Quiroz

What is the message that you wanted to portray in this film?

It was more a question: what does it mean to be ready for parenthood? It is a film about being on the cusp of great life change and not fully being ready, but learning how to work through this struggle together, with tenderness, forgiveness and communication.

You don’t speak Spanish, but your film is in Spanish with English subtitles, why is that?

I grew up in a diverse town with many immigrant families, they’re part of my world. The couple in this film is isolated somewhere in North America, and they’ve retained their spoken language. The film focuses primarily on their relationship actually, not ethnicity. Also, directing in a language you don’t speak makes observing the things that matter all the more vivid.

What does the future entail for you now that you’ve won the Redstone?

The Redstones gave me a camera to shoot more films with, so I hope to be more productive. I’ve learned so much from my experience with Winter/Spring and can’t wait to dive into the next project.