The intersection between travel and education lends exponential advantage to each experience, and global learning is a growing trend in our interconnected world. Dedicated to experiential education, York’s School of the Arts, Media, Performance & Design is actively helping its students access study and career development opportunities beyond its borders.
The school recently established a Travel Assistantship Program to help AMPD students advance their training, widen their cultural horizons and extend their professional networks through travel and work. Four AMPD students talked about their experiences.
Stefan Jablonski, a fourth-year film production student, said he was thrilled to spend 10 days in May on the French Riviera at the Marché du Film, the international film market of the Cannes Festival, widely considered the world’s most prestigious film fest. Boasting some 10,500 participants and 1,500 screenings, the Marché is an integral part of the festival, facilitating networking and providing accredited professionals with services and tools to exchange information, negotiate contracts and uncover new opportunities.
Jablonski worked at the market as a business intern with Halcyon International, an American full service sales and licensing company specializing in the worldwide distribution of sci-fi and action adventure feature films.
His role involved vetting individuals requesting meetings to determine whether the buyers passing through the Halcyon booth could potentially become clients, based on the film rights Halcyon had available for sale and the territories the buyers were seeking.
“It was an amazing opportunity to get hands-on professional experience and witness how film licensing and distribution deals are made in an extremely fast-paced environment,” Jablonski said.
Jablonski’s interest in the business aspect of the film industry was piqued by a course called the Business of Film and Television, taught at York by contract faculty member Jenn Kuzmyk Ruch. The course provides thorough overview of the current environment in which films, television programs and other moving image productions are financed, developed, produced and distributed – a grounding that Jablonski said stood him in good stead at Cannes.
From working behind the scenes like Jablonski to literally being backstage, freshly-minted theatre grad Caitlin McKenzie (BFA ’15) and Beth Beardsley, who is heading into her fourth year in York’s Theatre Program, travelled to Sulmona, Italy in late June to apprentice as stage managers at the Centre for Opera Studies in Italy (COSI).
During their month-long stay, they received intensive Italian language training and professional training while they worked backstage in the highly specialized opera environment. After completing their apprenticeships, both will receive a Canadian Actors Equity Association credit, bringing them one step closer to becoming professionally recognized stage managers.
McKenzie and Beardsley worked on two shows at COSI: the 18th-century rom-com Così fan tutte by Mozart and the mythological baroque opera La Calisto by Cavalli. As apprentice stage managers, they were responsible for handling props at rehearsals and performances, blocking notation (keeping a written record of where on stage the director wants the actors to be), coordinating schedules and organizing the rehearsal hall.
The duo did not go to Italy unprepared: both had completed a course in stage management at York University, as well as a practicum course serving as stage managers for a Theatre @ York production. Both jumped on the opportunity to extend their experiential education at COSI, where they are working closely with veteran Canadian stage manager Isolde Pleasants-Faulkner, whose credits include many productions for the Canadian Opera Company.
“To apprentice with Isolde is a privilege,” said McKenzie “And I’m really excited to live in Europe for a month and immerse myself in an art form that has such deep roots in Italy.” Beardsley is equally enthusiastic, embracing “the opportunity to learn the best practices for stage management for opera, as well how to apply those practices to other areas of theatre”.
In addition to shorter field placements like the Cannes film market and COSI, the AMPD Travel Assistantships can also support longer exchanges.
Fourth-year design student Hyojung Julia Seo spent the 2013-2014 academic year studying in the Visual Communication Program at the Bauhaus University in Weimar, Germany. She says the York/Sheridan Program in Design encouraged and prepared her to study abroad.
“Learning about the history of design and the importance of where modern design influence originated from, including the Bauhaus movement in Germany in the early 20th century, was a huge factor that influenced my desire to study there,” she said.
YSDN’s strong reputation preceded Seo, and she felt the Bauhaus professors were excited to welcome her to class.
“York taught me both the practical and technical aspects of design, and how to be a design thinker and look at topics with a critical point of view. I was able to apply this to the methods of teaching at the Bauhaus, and it really helped me to get the full experience as an exchange student,” she said.
AMPD Dean Shawn Brixey met with all four students earlier this year to talk about their aspirations and experiences. “Their energy and artistic ambition are truly inspiring, and they’re excellent ambassadors for AMPD on the world stage,” he said. “I’m so pleased we can help our enterprising students pursue their creative and unique career goals, push their boundaries and amplify their professional experience through these travel awards.”
Information about the AMPD Student Travel Assistantship program can be found at ampd.yorku.ca/awards. Awards available for 2015-16 will be posted in September and the application deadline will be announced at that time.