Over winter break, eight Champlain College students travelled to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia to co-produce two short films, alongside local Saudi filmmakers as part of a one-credit travel embedded course. The students’ majors include Filmmaking, Broadcast Media Production, and Creative Media. Professors John Rasmussen, Julia Swift, and Van Dora Williams were faculty leaders of the trip. This was the first year the trip was offered, but Rasmussen says it certainly won’t be the last.
Pre-production of the films took place took place prior to departure. Students wrote scripts and communicated with the Saudi filmmakers over Skype. Once they arrived, shooting begun almost immediately. Students came back to Burlington with rough cuts of the films.
“The Wishlist,” one of the students’ film that was shot in Arabic, is about an Arabic woman re-adapting to her culture after having lived abroad since she was 18. “Cake” is another film about the roadblocks a Columbian chef encounters while trying to deliver a cake to his client’s daughter’s birthday party.
On the trip, the attendees learned a lot about Saudi culture, both in general and in terms of filmmaking. “It’s cool to go to a place where you don’t know the people or culture, but you have the craft in common so you can start to work right away,” said Rasmussen.
“Most visitors to other countries go on tours, which is great for architecture, but working alongside people has more weight. It’s powerful to meet people who’ve had such different experiences, yet still bond over common movies.”
Student Blake Donovan said he learned a lot about how the film industry operates in Saudi Arabia. “They’re still working out the details, as their industry is beginning to grow now that film is legalized in the country, but they have already developed processes for themselves of how to do things. Some of these processes are based on the industries in other countries, and some they have made on their own. The passion and love for art and story is the same as anywhere else, though – and that’s a wonderful thing.”
Donovan went on to say that “when you truly observe, the differences are not that large. Politically there are differences. Religiously there are as well. However, the crux of every society is the humans that live there, and I found that humans are quite similar no matter where you live.”
On February 27, the two finished films will be screened in the alumni auditorium. There will also be a Q & A session with the crew.
Erika Skorstad ’21—Contributor