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First Year International Students in Film

First Year International Students in Film

Edit Jakab | Jul 6, 2018

From the right, Graham Holford (United Kingdom), Zhe Chen (China), Kanat Omurbekov (Kyrgyzstan), Edit Jakab (Hungary/Canada/USA), Hannah Espia (Philippines), Steven Lee (Republic of Korea), and Anil Srivastha (India), all first year film students. Photo by Daniel King. 


Full version initially posted November 27, 2017:

Ohio University’s Film Division has been traditionally proud of having a wide-reaching array of international students. Out of the 102 countries which were represented by their national flags at the new President’s inauguration in mid-October, graduate students from sixteen nations study filmmaking and film studies at Ohio University. The M.F.A. in film and M.A. in film studies programs alone count first-year students who come from the Far East through Southeast Asia to Europe. Even the boundless steppes of Central Asia are represented by a young Kyrgyz filmmaker in the multi-ethnic first-year class.

The graduate degree programs of the Film Division of OHIO are among the select rare programs in the country that offer generous funding packages to the accepted students. In return, students are expected to participate in the work of the department, thereby giving back a little but most importantly, becoming part of the system and acquiring knowledge of the field. It is equally one of the rare programs that welcomes and accepts people of various academic backgrounds, experiences and ages. For decades, Ohio University has made an impact on international film and television industries and on the faculty rosters in foreign universities as the majority of these students will return to work in their countries after attaining their degrees. Some who are fortunate enough to stay in the U.S. continue to enrich American multiculturalism.


Film Student Kanat Omurbekov





Kanat Omurbekov, Kyrgyzstan:

I didn’t know what university I wanted to go to. I had known about New York Film Academy and UCLA only. I was working as a filmmaker, and applied for the Fulbright Program. The IIE (Institute of International Education), an organization under the Fulbright Program, had four options for me so I sent my portfolio to four universities. (read full interview…)

Film Student Graham Green

Graham Holford, United Kingdom:

The university has a good reputation. It is exactly what I wanted; in the boot camp year, we receive a very firm technical base. We are doing the 16mm film part of the course; hence, we will have a stronger understanding of photography and sound, light, and depth of field. And because of the intensity of the first year, our transition to the second and third year will be more fluid, and I thought that was the perfect type of course for me and other filmmakers who were not sure of the technical or creative side of the profession. I also came here because I wanted to come to America; I wanted to try a different country. But ultimately, this program best fitted my means and my ambitions. How does it compare with British schools? I was a student of film studies before, never of filmmaking. But I can tell you that some schools in the UK are very industry-oriented so you get told a lot of things that simply aren’t true, and if they are true, they tend to change in a couple of years, whereas OHIO doesn’t do that; thus far, it encourages you to pursue what you want to go for. (read full interview…)

Film Student Hannah Espia

Hannah Espia, Philippines:

I am a Fulbright scholar from the Philippines. They apply for schools for us. I got news that I got accepted to OHIO this April, and it had a nice tuition waiver. I had to decide quickly because there was a deadline, but I hadn’t known about OHIO before. I made a feature film that was entered for the Philippines for the Oscars so I have been to the US before. I also have family in Seattle and in LA. The Film program is really intense. I had my B.A. in Film in the Philippines. The approach is much more hands-on here. For example, we recently learned how to load a film camera. In the Philippines we didn’t have enough film cameras for everybody to try it so we basically had to watch our professors load it. But it is different when you can actually touch it and play around with it.

After I get my degree here, I want to teach in my alma mater, at the University of the Philippines Film Institute; as a requirement of the Fulbright, I have to do a service to my country for two years. After that I might also try to get a job in Slovakia, because that is where my husband and I want to settle down. Athens is nice; it is good to be close to nature, and the air is fresh. (read full interview…)

Film student Steven Lee

Steven Lee, Republic of Korea:

I studied film in Cleveland, and I wanted to further my studies because I don’t think I learned enough. I found out that OHIO has the best film program in the State of Ohio, and they gave me all the tuition and scholarship so I decided to come here. I went to Cleveland with my family when I was quite young, after primary school. The campus has a very different feel; I went to Ohio State and Cleveland State. Athens is very classical; it is old-fashioned but not bad old-fashioned, more like vintage, so it’s a different vibe. Cleveland is more modern; it’s the city. I really like the teaching so far.  (read full interview…)

Film student Anil Srivastha

Anil Srivastha, India:

I am from Chennai, South India. I chose OHIO first of all because I really appreciate that it is a three-year program as opposed to most of the other M.F.A. programs that last two years only. Here I will have a whole year for my thesis project as opposed to a semester. The other reason I came here was that this program focuses more on quality than quantity. Most other universities require many films to be made each semester, which seems counterproductive since we need to learn at the same time. So I am glad that during the first year, even if it is only a boot camp, we only have three films to make, starting from the fundamentals. It does seem like a lot with the workload we have for each class, but at the end of the day, it is a nice progression: we start with a no sound film, then with a little dialogue film, and finally a doc. I feel like this really covers the spectrum of making a movie.

I want to work on two to three indie projects as a filmmaker in the States, and then I want to go back to India. I want to settle there because to me, as a creative person, the roots of inspiration come from my society. I was brought up there, that is the place I know so all my ideas and stories come from India, and not from here. Even if I spend ten or fifteen more years here, I might not really connect with this culture. That’s the reason for me to go back. My primary goal is to make films. (read full interview…)

Film student Zhe Chen

Zhe Chen, China:

I studied at SUNY in Buffalo; I received a B.A. in Film Studies there. One of my professors suggested that I apply to Ohio University since they have a very good film studies program here.

The first time I came to Athens was for a campus tour in May. I like the town, the view, the hills; it is a natural area. I personally like to be in a town that is accessible to more cities. Here, the only bigger city is Columbus, which is not a very big city.

Professors are very helpful, and the students are nice. I like the teaching method. I really appreciate how, for example, Dr. Eliaz explains everything very well. It is a higher-level education, more difficult than at the B.A. level. In China, they prefer that the students learn on their own; there are too many people there to receive individual attention. Here, on the other hand, the teaching is in more detailed. (read full interview…)

Film student Edit Jakab

Edit Jakab, Hungary/Canada/USA:

I applied to the M.F.A. program at Ohio University, and to this program alone, because one of my filmmaker friends, who had been a visiting professor here, highly recommended it to me. She said that this was a rather open-spirited program, where they welcome people from any academic background, people with different experiences and of various age. I came here from the discipline of Theoretical and Slavic linguistics, with a joint Ph.D. from Princeton University, but also with a few other degrees in language and literature behind me. As a cultural correspondent of a major Hungarian newspaper, I have been reporting on film and jazz for over a decade now. Montreal, [where I was previously], hosts a number of international film and jazz festivals so I had ample [access] to material. I am glad that I can continue doing this line of work here during the Athens film festival. The structure of the program with the first “boot camp” year (and now I understand why the name) appealed to me because I came here with a meager film experience and thought that this first preparatory year would bring me up to date, so to speak, in the field. I find the program very intense; at the same time, I appreciate that I am being pushed. This is exactly what I needed to acquire the basis of filmmaking and make progress step by step.

I find it equally valuable that the theory is being taught first, and it is immediately reinforced by practice: We write our own screenplays, after which we shoot our films as a team, and finally edit them individually. I especially appreciate that we receive a real, 16mm, film experience, which appeals to my aesthetics. (read full interview…)


Read more stories from the Summer 2018 Dance, Film, and Theater Alumni Newsletter.

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