Adventures in India: I just wanted a PB&J

My name is Shae Spence and I am a senior Radio, Television, and Film major.  I will be updating you on the adventures of the Indian Cinema Seminar in Hyderabad, India.

I wake up unable to breathe through my nose. The tickle I felt in the back of my throat in the forest yesterday proves to be no fluke. Thankfully, today is sort of the down day of our trip to Hyderabad.

Most teams are only editing. The films are due at six pm and other than that, our day is ours to make.

IMG_8380On the hunt for some fruit-filled fluids, I join a group on the hunt for the rumored convenience store that we’ve been told exists, but that none of us has been able to find. For this trip, however, we’ll have a tour guide. Akil, one of the Annapurna students, leads us –down the street, past Annapurna, to the bottom of a hill and into a crowded Indian street. The area surrounding our hotel is relatively quiet, so it’s surprising to find such a bustling area so very close.  I’ve found that I take a certain delight in crossing the streets here in India. I suspect it’s the New Yorker in me, a proud pedestrian.

Instead of bringing us to a convenience store, Akil brings us to a super market. We are told to leave our bags outside and are given tokens to pick them up with when we’re done shopping. I get my Vitamin C fix first, picking up a variety of fruit juices.  I also pick up some non-American chocolate, Tim Tams and Kinder Eggs. I look for lotion – the hotel brand leaves something to be desired as most hotel brands do – but find, unfortunately, that almost all of the lotion here is skin whitening.  I decide I can suffer what the hotel has to offer for a few more days. I stock up on water and check out.

One of the members of our team falls a little sun sick and some others want to look at clothes, so I venture back to the hotel alone.  Walking back with my bags, an intersection of my life at home and my existence here (apple juice travels along lychee, peanut butter rides with red chili powder), I feel a rare moment of being just a part of the crowd. I’m not on the street to look, to marvel, to document. I’m just another body with bags trying to get from one point to another.

Adventures in India: Jugaad

My name is Shae Spence and I am a senior Radio, Television, and Film major.  I will be updating you on the adventures of the Indian Cinema Seminar in Hyderabad, India.

Shae's crewLet the 48-hour film festival begin! We begin shooting at 8 AM. My group, shooting in a forest, wipes our arms, legs and necks down with mosquito repellent. We shouldn’t worry about the snakes, one of the Indian team members tell us, because they mostly come out at night.

We spend the day at the mouth of a shallow cave at the bottom of a large hill. It’s a small crew, so excepting the director, DP (DOP in India) and sound recorder, roles are amorphous. Other groups work atop the hill. The teams don’t spread far from one another. I expect certain teams will have accidental cameos in their friends’ films.

Film ShootingLunch is quieter today, people re-composing themselves after long days shooting in the sun. The cold bottle of water we’re each handed is quite the boon. I swallow the contents of mine too quickly.

Our group wraps early. The Indian students mount their motorbikes with the footage, taking it to their hostel to put together a rough cut.

I buy dinner at a restaurant down the street. I choose a meal that has chicken and rice in the title, but when it’s delivered to me, I find it nearly impossible to eat – it’s the spiciest thing I’ve had all trip. Instead, I sip on a strawberry milkshake.

Global Media and Communications Seminar: American in London

My name is Savannah Birnbaum and I am a sophomore Radio, Television, and Film major.  I will be updating you on the adventures of the Global Media and Communication Seminar in London, UK.

Tuesday’s speaker was Myria Georgiou, explaining her research on media in global cities. She prompted an insightful conversation about the influence of media on cities, and what makes a city in itself global. She spoke about the way different creative media—TV shows like Sex and the City and The Wire were good examples—capitalize on a city’s existing identity, but also contribute to forming it. It was one of our more energetic discussions—people were almost at each others throats to get a word in, which I’m sure the professors in the room were loving. 

11063258_10206583265365459_494887995_n

 

From LSE, we walked a few blocks to the Shaftesbury Theatre on the West End, where we met their manager for a tour of the space. The venue has ushered the success of huge London shows in the past, Hair most famously, and is currently enjoying a run of Memphis starring Beverley Knight. We climbed through winding back passageways, spent a long time gaping at the atrium, and some of us practically squealed as he gave us a look backstage. There was a collective cringe when we realized the fuddy-duddy salmon-and-pink color scheme of the molding was actually slathered over some beautiful original gold leaf and murals. Just one of their plans for the future includes righting that particular wrong.

 

11087413_10206583265085452_1289495742_n

We were herded into the Royal Bar to meet John Brant, London-based producer of Memphis, and a representative of the marketing company Joe Public, which is behind the show’s sales strategies. These two gave us a look at what it’s like, I guess put simply, to put up a show and sell it to an audience. The challenge of trying to sell an American “jukebox musical” to a British audience was the oddest and most interesting thing about their perspective. It’s not something I usually think about, the differences between audiences in general: what they buy and what turns them off in one place are completely different precedents anywhere else. It’s similar to something we saw at Ogilvy: they used a French football player in one of their ads to sell French beer to British people, and it was ridiculously successful. Meanwhile, not one of us in the room even recognized this guy’s face—they’d have to write a completely different concept for Americans. Not least because we call football soccer.

We tubed to the Tate Modern next and had a free block to explore and see the Nick Waplington and Alexander McQueen: Working Progress exhibit. The show was a presentation of the collaboration between these two artists, designer and photographer, a series of photos of McQueen’s studio as he prepares his final collection intermingled with photos of recycling plants that show massive amounts of raw materials that ironically resemble the fine fabrics of the clothing. The exhibit was especially poignant because the collaboration markeIMG_2378d McQueen’s final contribution to the world as an artist. His final word is an urgent one, as a designer highlighting the irrelevance and sickness of excess in an age (then in particular) of recession paired nonsensically with materialist-beauty obsession. My favorite part of the Tate visit (aside from the café and these crazy monsters) was passing by all the other student groups from different countries. In the space of 2 hours I’m pretty sure I heard French, Swedish, German, and Italian, all students, and all goofing around just as stupidly as we were (I should disclaim that our behavior was only mildly stupid).

The manager at Shaftesbury was able to hook us up with cheap tickets, so a big group of us went to see Memphis in the evening. It did feel a little unimaginative to see a show about the Hairspray-type American stuff, but there was definitely something special about being able to see Tennessee accents attempted by very British actors.

IMG_2341

Adventures in India: Please Come

My name is Shae Spence and I am a senior Radio, Television, and Film major.  I will be updating you on the adventures of the Indian Cinema Seminar in Hyderabad, India.

IMG_8189It was my belief that my tolerance for spicy food would rise over the course of this trip, but I’ve experienced just the opposite. On just my fourth day in India, I’m desperate for a salad, a pasty piece of chicken and a slice of lightly buttered (gluten-free) bread.

The food here falls into one of two categories.  First is food that has been prepared for Americans. This takes into account our various diets, so is therefore defined by a potpourri of intolerances, allergies, dislikes and socio-political stances. What’s left is usually rice, some sauces, cous cous, eggs and dosa, a crepe made from fennel and rice.

The alternative is food that’s Indian-ness has not been tempered for our infantilized palates and dietary restrictions. Meat, grains, vegetables – all of it is peppered with spices both familiar and foreign. One member of our group claims that even certain sodas here have a slightly spicy aftertaste.

The lunch we have today falls into the former category. The Americans eat from a boxed meal: a bowl of rice sits center, surrounded by different varieties of colorful sauces. Naan rests on the side, wrapped in tin foil. I spread a mild yellow sauce with beans over my rice, and listen intently as a new friend, Shravs (who has a plate of chicken and rice in front of her of which I’d probably survive no more than three forkfuls) tells me a little bit about the way language works in India.

Shravs (short for Shravani) is from Chennai, south of Hyderabad, and is the youngest of the Annapurna grad students.  The language spoken primarily in Chennai is Tamil, one of the Dravidian languages that dominate South India. The major language in India, however, is Hindi, an Indo-Aryan lovechild of Sanskrit (a dead language she likens to Latin) and Persian. We continue to discuss language, Shravs laughing each time she introduces another element and my eyes bulge trying to make sense of it all with a fork and not a pen in my hand.

Shravs gives us an informal tour of the Annapurna studio lot before the formal one we’ll receive just an hour later. We spend a lot of time taking pictures with workers on the lot. They can’t speak our language and we can’t speak theirs, but cameras become a medium through which we can converse.

IMG_8192I’ve always felt strange about taking photos of people – especially when I don’t have the words to ask for their consent. Does it fetishize them? Exoticize them?  Here, however, the desire to capture one another on camera – to be captured at all – was mutual.  They pulled out their phones, and we pulled out ours and engaged in a game of camera tag. They took photos of us and with us, and our group did the same. We wave good-bye, everyone grinning.

On the formal tour, we venture deep into the Annapurna lot. We enter into a medium-sized concrete building constructed to hold all of Annapurna founder Nageswara Rao Akkineni’s awards. Upon exiting, I understood why the house was necessary. We visit cavernous soundstages and are allowed to spy on working film and television sets. At one we meet, Nagarjuna, son of Annapurna founder Nageswara Rao Akkineni’s, and an Indian cinema star in his own right. When we enter the set (a massive, beautifully designed house, clearly intended for a joint family) he’s in the middle of a shot, but when cut is called, he bee lines to us. He bears his trademark moustache and shakes our hand, firm and gentle like his voice. He asks how we’re enjoying our trip and thanks us for our presence.  We swoon.

At 5:30, we arrive back at the theatre. Today is the day that the 48 Hour Film Festival is to commence. We are given our parameters: We all must use an umbrella, film at the same gazebo location, and incorporate jugaad – a Hindu word that is defined as either an item or an action that is a simple fix to a real problem.  We are split into groups of eight to ten and spread across the campus to begin planning.

And here, unfortunately, is where my journal entry ends, because I prefer to keep the competition in the dark.

Adventures in India: What Do We Love So Much That We Would Do it for Free

My name is Shae Spence and I am a senior Radio, Television, and Film major.  I will be updating you on the adventures of the Indian Cinema Seminar in Hyderabad, India.

IMG_8148The Annapurna Film School is no more than a five-minute walk from our hotel.  Donning brightly colored visitor passes, our group enters the lot and sets off directly to the first building on our left. Inside the cool black walls of the Annapurna theatre, it’s easy to forgot we are in India. We sit down in large black seats and Sudhakar Vajjha is introduced to us, the man who will be leading a lecture this morning on the role of mythology in early Indian cinema.

Sudhkar has a quiet energy that simmers under his skin, the result of all the work his brain seems to be doing. He plucks films, dates and directors from the air like grapes, then chews them over slowly. His speech is quiet and deliberate. Sudhkar tells us about the way early Indian film revolves around Hindu mythology. He tells us about how mythologicals (Indian films that revolve around the Hindu gods and goddesses) and devotionals (Indian films that focus on humans and their relationship with spirituality) have a political tilt. He tells us about how watching Hindu heroes strike out against outsider foes roused a spirit of Indian Nationalism and inspired the people to act out against the British rule. The talk is edifying, a new political lens through which to view films we’ve already studied. After some questions and answers, we thank Sudhakar for his talk and he is on his way, and so are we, off to visit a radio station.

radio mirchi-logoRadio Mirchi is hot. They know it. In promotional material their station name is underlined with a pepper. One of the station managers comes to greet us, carrying with her a bright smile and behind her, trays upon trays of chocolate milk. This is the energy of Radio Mirchi. Sweetness and joy float through the lobby, through the open office where employee artwork hangs alongside quirky takes on movie posters encouraging people to conserve energy, all the way to back of the offices, where the actual radio studios sit. We go into the studio in small groups, slipping off our shoes beforehand. Smiley Swhati, the DJ for the 11-3 slot, hurries us in and asks our names. The ‘Smiley’ that sits before her name is her own doing, but she has earned the honorific. Swhati appears to be one of the happiest people I’ve ever met. It likely comes from her life philosophy, and the theme of her show: Just Chill.

“Boyfriend trouble? Just chill. Whatever is going on in your life? Just chill”!

Sandwiched between a news and politics broadcast in the morning and a film review broadcast in the late afternoon, Swhati tells us that she wants her show to be a break from all that. So that is what it is. Swhati talks to and about her listeners as if they are her friends. I wonder if Swhati is one of the most popular women in Hyderabad.

Across the way from Swhati, we meet a 27-year old self-taught composer. He constructs ads for Radio Mirchi. In India, radio stations produces advertisements in-house. In the brief ten-minute time we are in his office, he constructs an advertisement from start to finish, cutting and combining clips of sound primarily with just a single hand on the keyboard, his fingers dancing rapidly along QWERTY keys as if they were ivory ones. He sings for us a song he’s just composed, I think leaving at least one member of our group starry eyed. We thank him for our time, and he thanks us for listening, a humble genius.

The group reconvenes, has a quick lunch and goes on another studio visit.

The Firefly office is housed in a building that looks much like the others in India—tall, blocky, one of many shades of beige. The offices, however, are a visual playground. Rainbow umbrellas hang upside down from the ceiling. The large, functional columns that support the building are painted in much less functional pastels. The desks, where twenty to thirty t-shirt clad employees toil gleefully, are shaped like brightly colored puzzle pieces.

We are ushered into a room to watch a promotional video meant to show us what Firefly does. We’re told we’re not to clap, but instead whistle, whenever we see anything we like. We each pluck a whistle from a green tub, and the show begins. A chorus of whistles resounds almost immediately, and continues, in beautiful discord, throughout most of the video. We watch long locks of hair animate into a weapon, a phalanx of humanoid robots mobilize into a massive snake and a tsunami swell to ravage an entire city. We are sold.

We are split into three groups to learn more about the phases of the animation process, then reconvene to meet one of the founders of the company. Phani is the second measured man we meet today. He uses words like they cost something, wrapping each one carefully and placing it in our hands like a gift. We are thankful, and we feel the weight. Sitting one leg crossed underneath him, Phani explains how Firefly got its start.

It began with a question a group of friends posed to one another: What do we love so much that we would do it for free? The friends land on film—specifically animation—and every decision they’ve made from then to now seems to be couched in ensuring that they are making important work and having fun doing it.  Firefly has found a fair amount of success in the industry. More than that, however, Firefly appears to be a company of tremendously happy people.

Our group leaves their offices just a little bit lighter.

SoC Internship Program Info Session

Thinking about an internship in LA, NYC, or Chicago? Come to the SoC Internship Program Info Session!

If you are looking for an internship in LA, sign up for a 1:1 internship coaching appointment with David Downs (LA Internship Instructor). Instructions on how to sign up on the homepage of SoConnect! Appointments are available from 12:30 pm- 4: 30 pm on Monday April 6th. Only a few spots available so sign up soon!

SoC Internship Program Info Session

 

Global Media and Communications Seminar: “We Sell, Or Else”

My name is Savannah Birnbaum and I am a sophomore Radio, Television, and Film major.  I will be updating you on the adventures of the Global Media and Communication Seminar in London, UK.

I guess with the time difference it’s been a few days since I first wrote, and arrival day was a wonderful blur. We landed early and got to the hotel around 10 a.m., at which point most of us took a minute to sit around in the lobby staring ahead catatonically. It turned out to be a blessing that our rooms wouldn’t actually be ready until 3 p.m., because it forced us all snap out of it, get out and hold off on sleeping to adjust ourselves to London time. A few of us went to Camden Town to sample the market and get pushed around by the crowd—maybe it was all the tattoo parlors and the smell of fried food, but I was invigorated significantly. Our first dinner was energetic despite the general madness, and I think we all felt a little bit star-struck to be sharing a table with Dean O’Keefe.

Monday morning started off strong with our first lecture from Nick Couldry. We got to see LSE for the first time, and I’ll avoid making the obligatory Harry Potter reference to describe it but you get the idea. To sum up the Couldry lecture, I’ll give you an image. Visualize this Portlandia sketch:

First, a montage of Carrie Brownstein struggling with a manic buildup of emails, facebook notifications, instagram, and twitter alerts. The little red signals and message bubbles pop and pop and pop. Abruptly, she’s sitting in an office and a man behind the desk mutters apathetically: “Okay Ms. Brownstein, you’re here to declare social bankruptcy.” Her social media presence will be erased entirely; she’ll have to start over completely from scratch. “The nuclear option” is what he calls it. At first, it liberates her. She’s free to read or take up hobbies, the one drawback being that her best friend doesn’t seem to know who she is. The sketch builds until her irrelevance is literal and she vanishes into thin air.

This sketch was the first thing that came to mind when Professor Couldry began discussing various interpretations of the challenges that face us in a media-saturated culture. We came to the same conclusion as Portlandia did: the decision to take yourself offline is the decision to become obsolete. We came away with many perspectives, but essentially the question: “is technology offering us the lives we want to lead?”

Our next stop was Starcom MediaVest Group, where we were met by NU alum Kristen Kelly. She led us through a comprehensive discussion of the company, introducing us to a lively panel of team members with various specialties (at work, they’re called “the talent”). At the end, we got the chance to talk one-on-one with our hosts and everyone got some good mingling in.

 

IMG_2330Next, we journeyed to Canary Wharf on the tube, had lunch and zipped over to our appointment at Ogilvy. After just a short time in this building, I’m ready to drop all of my creative goals and sell my soul to advertising. The office looked somewhere in between a modern art museum and a downtown café with a centrally placed array of awards (which looked deceptively like Oscars from a few steps back). We sat in their sleek boardroom and heard from all sectors of the company, looking at samples of their past and current campaigns like Expedia and Dove. The visit concluded with another opportunity for chatting, and our hosts were entertaining and (unsurprisingly) extremely successful in charming us.

IMG_2333

Then it was dinner, etc. and we all seemed burnt out but somehow stayed up enough to do some walking around. One thing I’ve learned is that when I really want to, I can reach into stores of energy I didn’t even know were there. This should come in handy next round of finals.

Ta—until next time!

Adventures in India: Well I Guess We’re In India Now

My name is Shae Spence and I am a senior Radio, Television, and Film major.  I will be updating you on the adventures of the Indian Cinema Seminar in Hyderabad, India.

I heart hyderabadI wake up at 5 AM. I am never the early bird. I never catch the worm. But jet lag has given me a blessing. Curtains opened, workout playlist set, and hotel room transformed to create some open space, the day and I rise together.

The sun is small and round this morning, a mark of punctuation hanging low in the sky. It’s red, bright red, lit up like a lie, and I am not convinced that it is what it says it is. But after I stretch and begin to sweat, it blossoms into something pinker and more permanent, something I recognize. I’m dancing now and the sun is painting my back and lighting up the room.  By the end, the sky and I are both drenched, the former in a dusty yellow, and I go off to shower. Today, I stroke my speed stick underneath my arm fully and with vigor, like painting a white canvas over with black paint.

After a satisfying breakfast, a small group sets out to find a rumored convenience store. We walk down a hill, passing a couple of ice cream shops (‘Freeze Your Imagination’ is one’s motto), a bakery and a car dealership, but the convenience store remains elusive.  We cross four lanes of traffic, swiftly and with care, to see if what we’re looking for is on the other side, but it’s not. But we do find a small park open four AM to nine AM and four-thirty PM to nine PM. After some confusion, we recognize that these are the times of day when the sun is lowest in the sky.  The yellow beacon beating down on us is very transformed from the pink period I witnessed earlier in the day. We understand that now might not be the optimal time for a leisurely stroll and commit to coming back at the end of the day (although, we won’t).

Our convenience store quest is curbed by an intimidating intersection of no less than six multi-lane roads. We collectively decide that more than twenty four hours in Hyderabad may be necessary before we develop that specific brand of guts. We head back to the hotel and spend our fleeting free hours getting to know the people we haven’t gotten to know.  Then we take to the bus.

Chowmahalla Palace
Chowmahalla Palace

We arrive at Chowmahalla Palace.  The area in front of the palace proper is an empty yellow square, perhaps two city blocks long, with a grassy green center. The square is made up of segmented yellow corridors. Doors are few, but doorways are many, so despite the fact that the corridors lie in fractions, I can see everything from one end to the other. The grassy middle is always visible, no walls blocking it from view. We hurry through the yellow halls and under undulating archways to the palace proper.  The palace is clean opulence. The room is whites and blues from the floor to the chandeliers hanging just out of reach like expensive fruit. We learn that this place is only a shadow of its former self, over forty acres of land whittled down to a meager fourteen.  The Prince of the palace, in poor health, hasn’t been able to tend to the palace recently. Maintenance of it has been passed on to his first (of four) wives, and she seems to be managing the renovations very well.

Our large group thunders past well-dressed mannequins (custom made for Turkish women, as they were taller and saris have to touch the ground), porcelain eating instruments (shipped from Europe as India is not known for her fine china) and an armory of terrifyingly alien, but effective looking weapons (swords with more curves than Marilyn).  Behind the palace, families sit and talk. Two women in full-length burqas toss water at one another playfully. The joy of the place infects us. We leave the palace with mango juice in our hands and smiles on our faces.

IMG_8117Next is the bazaar: We are told to give money to no beggars. The others will smell the blood in the water and swarm. We are told not to entertain the people who will ask to show us around. They are bad people. We are told to keep our bodies and belongings safe.

The bazaar feels like two Times Squares stuffed into the space of one. As we walk, buses and motorbikes pass by us and through us. There is no distinction between the flesh and blood pedestrian and the metal and rubber vehicles. There is a distinction, however, between those who belong and those who don’t. Our eighteen-person group becomes spectacle as we stagger through the crowd trying to remain connected, a drunken snake of foreign bodies.  We split into self-selected groups to explore the market further with a student guide from the Annapurna film school. My group, four darker skinned students, begins our march deeper into the sea.

Toward the start of our trek, a claw launches out of the crowd toward the bouncing afro of one our members, narrowly missing.  Whether this hand was propelled by curiosity or malice, it spurred a sense that grew in me over the next forty-five minutes of marketplace travel, that I was not quite as human as the rest of the crowd. I wanted to know how I was being seen… so I looked for answers in the eyes that met mine – some wide, many unbothered, too many hardened.  My group steps into a collective armor. It’s in the way we move. It’s in the flatness of our mouths.  I stop looking people in the eye altogether. A white man passes our team twice, a smile plastered on his face, and I wonder how the lighter fraction of our group is faring.

Our time in the bazaar runs out. We take a left, another left, a right, and we are free of the bustle, and on a quiet street. I can look at people again. I look down at my naked skin, thankful to see that I’ve left my armor at the bazaar.

Global Media & Communications Seminar: Are We There Yet?

My name is Savannah Birnbaum and I am a sophomore Radio, Television, and Film major.  I will be updating you on the adventures of the Global Media and Communication Seminar in London, UK.

I’d like to start this with “I’m sure I’m not alone when I say…” but the truth is I probably am when I tell you that James Franco’s whisper from Spring Breakers has been involuntarily repeating like a mantra in my head through finals week. That creepy but oddly siren-esque drawl of “spring break…spring break…spring break forever” has been keeping me going or driving me insane, depending on how you look at it. But finals are behind us now, and at long last the eagerly anticipated London moment has arrived!

When writing this first post, it seems the first thing I should reflect on is: “what GMCS pre-departure has meant to me,” and at this point, it’s meant I’ve been hit with a routine bout of packing anxiety. When taking out my suitcase I thought back to the beginning of the course when we talked about the image of “the creative.” We discussed the common habit of industry trailblazers developing a trademark look and never being caught without it; Peter Marino, Pee Wee Herman, or any cartoon character ever being exhibits A, B, and C. My anxiety defenses must have kicked in, because I had a fleeting instinct to come up with a uniform that could make packing and dressing easier while also (hopefully) propelling me to icon status. Fortunately I calmed down and realized I can’t pull off deep normcore as well as Steve Jobs, and that it’s best not to try and be something I’m not. Then I realized my struggle was just one great big anecdote to connect neatly back to the course! It’s true; I’ve been able to filter most experiences through the influence of “media rituals” and “the creative class,” just two phenomena we have uncovered in Global Media and Communications.

In Professor Verma’s (especially poetic) overview of the class, he highlighted the “opaque historical, technological, political and economic structures that our course will begin to untangle, seeking to understand how they mold creative processes, including how one’s work qualifies as ‘creative’ in the first place.” His description sums up so much about this course that is both fascinating and challenging. The image of “untangling” is spot on, as over the past few months I’ve realized that with so much information online, it’s becoming more and more difficult to extract useful and trustworthy data, and information that’s of interest to industry insiders is easily buried beneath a lot of trash content. It takes a keener eye and a more creative approach to get at the essential messages. As Professor Verma economically calls it, we’ve studied “the business side of ‘show business.’”

This trip part of our seminar promises to be an ecstatic culmination of a quarter’s worth of devouring everything we can about the many spheres of creative industry, and their influence on the world as a whole. We’ve watched films, taken a class trip to see Marie Antoinette at Steppenwolfe, read a well-curated breadth of scholarly and journalistic articles and books, and engaged in consistently stimulating discussion. We had a memorable dossier project in which we broke up into groups that each profiled an event with a major media impact, like Bjork’s MOMA retrospective, the release of Transparent on Amazon, and the “#gamergate” movement, to name a few. After having gone through the course, and now looking at the itinerary, the prospect of meeting our lecturers and hosts in London is extremely exciting. Nick Couldry sticks out as a highlight LSE speaker as his writing has taken a major role in the course so far. Among some of the sites are famed ad company Ogilvy, whose work we’ve sampled in class, and Working Title Films, the production company most recently behind academy award winning film The Theory of Everything. The plan looks as incredible as I’m sure it will be exhausting, and I’m looking forward to rushing around and getting a privileged look inside all these companies and the people behind them.

Unfortunately I’m the only voice here and I can’t claim to speak for the rest of the class, but one of the most important things I’ve learned in this course is how to propel myself to the level of insider simply by knowing where to look and keeping up. There’s a certain amount of pride an RTVF student takes in knowing the lesser-known but far superior work of so-and-so director of such-and-such blockbuster movie, before so-and-so was big, when so-and-so’s work was just so much more raw. A lot of the value of this course for me was in the realization of what it actually means to be immersed in an industry, to access the more ensconced information that contextualizes surface-level social outcome.

I can’t wait to experience the trip I’ve been wondering about all quarter, and that’s all I can say at this point–so as they say in TV, stay tuned for more.

I’ll write again on the other side (of the pond).

Adventures in India: Our Arrival!

My name is Shae Spence and I am a senior Radio, Television, and Film major.  I will be updating you on the adventures of the Indian Cinema Seminar in Hyderabad, India.

As I write this, we enter into our twenty fourth hour of travel. The insistent buzz that energized each member of our group at the start of yesterday’s journey has dulled to a quiet, but constant, hum. We are finally in India, riding in a bus marked: “Sri Sai Ganesh.”

Eyes remained focus inward (for the sleepy) or out on the cityscape that Hyderabad has welcomed us with. Light from storefronts, advertisements and oncoming traffic explodes the purple-black night. Here pedestrians compete with motorcycles, compete with buses, compete with camels. A moped shuttles by, a family of five arranged comfortably on one seat. Our driver keeps his hand trained on the horn, notifying the other vehicles of our presence. Wrapped in the camouflage of rolling metal, this bus ride is the first time in India that our group has had to itself announced. Until now, the spectrum of our complexions and hair textures have done that for us. This is a city of 16 million, but we will not be swallowed up by it easily.

We pass a building shaped and painted to look like a fish and learn that the government built it three years ago for the fishery office. The people here hate it, and it’s never been used. I think it looks like a toy. I imagine an overgrown toddler appearing to wrench its long lost play thing out of the ground.

At around the forty minute mark we arrive at the hotel. I need to shower. Travel brings with it a mild stench that has been magnified by my astonishingly conservative use of a Speed Stick pre-departure. First, though, we eat. And eat well. Wi-Fi codes are passed around and for reasons of love and/or obligation, we reach out to the people we left many time zones away and march off to bed. Tomorrow the adventure continues.