The group assembled in the Franklin Hall commons Monday morning came from backgrounds as varied as medicine, engineering, literature and software development.
But they all share one goal: to collaborate and connect by learning to make films.
The 30 people here for the Beyond Borders: Punjab Film Workshop will do just that for the next three weeks. They’ll work with IU professors and graduate students to develop ideas, learn to capture footage and edit short documentaries about their experiences in Southern Indiana.
“We are looking forward to getting your perspectives,” said Larry Singell, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, in his welcome speech. “The value of these projects is to learn about ourselves through you eyes.”
Earlier this year, these Punjab area residents applied for the program that is a partnership of The Media School and the IU Office of International Development. Betsi Grabe, associate dean at The Media School, and Teshome Alemneh, IU associate vice president for International Development, are leading the project, which is funded by the U.S. Department of State through the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi, India Public Diplomacy Grants Program.
The goal is to bring together young people from both the Indian and Pakistani parts of Punjab, Grabe said. The area that straddles India and Pakistan has been the focus of disputes between India and Pakistan since the late 1940s. Peace talks initiated in 2004 between the two countries have helped to resolve some of the conflict in the region.
The 15 workshop participants from India and 15 from Pakistan will work in three teams of 10 to create short documentaries. IU’s Gateway Office in New Delhi, the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi and the U.S. Consulate in Lahore recruited participants, who are 22 to 30 years old and proficient in English.
The participants range from those who have made or at least studied filmmaking to those who have never held a camera but enjoy watching film.
“Filmmaking is my life,” said Dulcie Suri of India, who is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in filmmaking in her native India. “I want to give a platform to writers to tell their stories.”
For others, studying media is a sharp departure from their professions. For more than one, filmmaking or even media study will be a brand new topic.
Musa Hasan of Pakistan said he had wanted to get into filmmaking since he was three years old. “But this workshop will be my first time trying to do something with filmmaking.”
Abdul Basit of Paskitan is an engineer who likes to experiment with short comedy film. “This workshop will help me go to the next level,” he said.
Arshdeep Arshi of India studied English literature, then discovered theater as a way to connect stories with people. She said she’s looking forward to learning skills to create more of those connections. “This is something I could never afford to do without this program.”
The grant funding supports the participants’ travel and lodging on campus, instruction and a few “road trips” in Southern Indiana for them to get a feel for the people and culture.
The workshop students will learn both production skills and how to develop story ideas based on their impressions of Southern Indiana. Each will pitch film ideas, then discuss in small groups which are most viable. They’ll each have several assignments to help them learn to operate cameras, edit and produce some footage. Then, in 10 teams of three, students will collaborate on one of the 10 final film ideas.
Arshi recounted her first interaction with local Hoosiers when she arrived in town over the weekend. While she and other participants walked around campus, they ran into a family with a small child and a dog. The Punjab visitors struck up a conversation, and Arshi said the child’s comments about her dog led her to arrive at the notion that Hoosiers are creative storytellers.
To work toward their own storytelling, participants will combine discussions and critiques with hands-on learning, taking advantage of The Media School’s faculty and tech expertise. They’ll also watch films at special showings in Franklin Hall and on campus in the IU libraries or IU Cinema.
Also on the docket are field trips so that participants can get a feel for their new environment. These include taking in an IU baseball game with Dean James Shanahan, seeing a show at the Comedy Attic, visiting the Farmers Market, attending performances at the Jacobs School of Music and dining al fresco at Griffy Lake.
“You’ve crossed many borders to come here, and you probably are wondering what you can learn at a university in middle of America,” Singell told the visitors. “You’ll find farmers and scholars, factory workers and artists, engineers and poets. You’ll find a cosmopolitan university in a small Midwest city. And you will make your own connections using power of filmmaking.”