On the surface, the partnership between the School of Communication and Media’s filmmaking program and the College of Continuing Education at the Shanghai Theatre Academy is all about teaching the graduate students from China how to become more proficient filmmakers. But when you interview SCM staff and faculty and the Shanghai filmmakers, you come away with a different, and perhaps more important, take away – that the spirit of cooperation and understanding between people from different backgrounds is the more transcendent message.
From July 11 through 29, students from STA were in residence at Montclair State University for the fourth installment of a filmmaking partnership, the educational goal of which is to help hone the filmmaking skills of the students – from preproduction through postproduction. The culmination to the residency was the screening in the school’s Presentation Hall of the short film the students produced during their stay on campus.
The students working on this year’s film, “Flow,” were supervised by STA faculty member Ji “Max” Peng Fei, who was a part of the original collaboration with SCM in 2014 when he was a graduate student. Current student Zhang “Happy” Yue directed. The characters in the film are ocean scientists, with Yi Liu, a Chinese actor currently residing in New York, playing the lead role.
Max summed up his experience by emphasizing the spirit of cooperation that has embodied the partnership. “It’s important to work with each other, especially in filmmaking. We had to tell the story from an American point-of-view. That way, you really learn how to understand people from different cultures.”
Happy Zhang also noted the cooperation between the Shanghai students and the SCM team of faculty, staff, and students. “The Montclair film people were especially helpful with the use of equipment. Our stay here was all about how to share and cooperate.”
SCM Associate Professor Anthony Pemberton, who joked that his role was “the person in charge of travel,” served as the producer of the film. “As our collaboration with the Chinese has grown,” he observed, “I continue to learn about the cultural things that both separate and unite us. It’s always very enlightening.”
Four years ago, when the College of the Arts began its formal partnership with the STA, students and faculty from China produced “Forever Shakespeare,” a film that they shot on campus and around the Montclair community. Notably, in the following year, students and faculty from SCM traveled to Shanghai to collaborate on the production of “Runaway,” a cross-cultural comedy.