By Emily Berge-Thielmann
“I was able to be immersed in the intensive filmmaking program with 30 other like-minded peers, who soon became my closest friends and working partners,” says Simon’s Rock senior Yonah Sadeh on his study away experience at the Prague Film School last spring.
Sadeh, a junior when he chose to study abroad, is dual majoring in Visual Studies and Film and Digital Media here at Simon’s Rock. While Sadeh is a current Simon’s Rock college student, he is also a matriculant from Bard Academy.
Sadeh made the decision to pursue his second-semester of junior year abroad so that he could return to Simon’s Rock for his senior year and begin production on his senior thesis film with the knowledge and experience from the Prague Film School top of mind. Sadeh describes the application process for study away with Simon’s Rock as “very straightforward,” with his advisor helping him through the application and the plethora of paperwork. Sadeh says the most memorable part of the application was when he got the signatures of multiple faculty members approving his application. “I was excited to see how happy they were to be sending me off for my semester abroad and how supportive they were of my decision.”
Over his semester at the Prague Film School, Sadeh focused primarily on cinematography and camera operation. Naturally drawn to the camera side of film work, Sadeh intentionally pushed himself out of his comfort zone by taking a writing and directing course, as well. As a lover of all things film gear, Sadeh focused on learning to operate all the professional equipment on hand. “This included large lighting fixtures as well as how to properly handle lenses and other fragile equipment,” says Sadeh.
“I also focused on building my cinematography skills and portfolio, working on as many other student’s sets as possible. In addition to our weekly classes, we had four total projects to write and direct throughout the semester. The first was a basic filmmaking exercise, challenging us to make a 1 minute short film with two characters, no dialogue, and all taking place on one bench. The second project was a directing challenge, where we were given pre-written scripts and had to spend time working with actors to bring my own scene directions to it. Project three was a more open-ended prompt, but we had to create a three-minute short film with our fellow classmates as crew members, and find actors through a casting process. The final project was similar to the third, but instead now with a time limit of five minutes.”
Sadeh’s favorite classes were an advanced camera course, editing, and lighting. With hands-on instruction, Sadeh was able to enrich his experience and knowledge of film production and post-production. “Although I went into this study abroad program with a good amount of experience under my belt, I found that these classes were the ones that I learned the most in, and I felt that throughout the semester I really grew as a filmmaker. The advanced cameras course was mainly focusing on the operation of cinema cameras like the ARRI Alexa, RED Dragon, and URSA Mini. As these are cameras used on professional sets, knowing how to correctly operate them is imperative for working on professional sets in my future.”
Technical details aside, Sadeh cites his favorite part of the academic experience as “simply the ability to be learning and working in an environment where I had a great network of peers and teachers that supported each other on every one of their projects and sets. We all learned together, made mistakes together, and made great friendships that will hopefully continue into all of our professional careers.”
Apart from the impressive academics, Sadeh says his favorite part of study away was exploring the city of Prague. “I spent most of my weekends exploring the indoor sights of Prague, like the old synagogues and churches, and visited the national museum,” he shares. “I loved having the opportunity to be in a place so rich in history and culture. Especially as a creative, exploring the city was so inspiring for me and my learning. Once spring came, and the weather warmed up, I really enjoyed taking long walks around the city, sitting in the island park on the water, and sitting in my favorite park overlooking the city.”
As a self-described foodie, trying new foods was also a real highlight of his experience. “One of my favorite things to do while abroad was to sample all the new delicious food that Prague had to offer. One of my favorite foods was simple, just a pork kielbasa with rye bread and mustard, grilled and piping hot…The best place to go in my opinion was the kielbasa vendor at the farmers market. I ate one every week without fail, and it was one of the dishes that I made sure to give to anyone who visited me during my stay.”
So, what’s next for Sadeh now that he’s back on campus? He’s diving head first into this pivotal senior thesis. “...I will spend the next year working on my thesis project, which will be a 17-minute drama short film, written, directed and produced by me! This is an endeavor which I am very excited about, and I feel that the knowledge and resources that my study abroad semester gave me will be a huge help throughout the production process of this film,” he shares.
What advice would he share with another Rocker deciding to pursue studying away? “My advice is simple, do it!” says Sadeh. “When I was in the process of deciding if I wanted to go or not, I spent lots of time going back and forth. I was worried that it would be hard to adjust to the new environment and I would not enjoy the program. My mind thought up thousands of reasons not to go. In the end, I made up my mind, and I am so happy about my decision…I would say, if you have the opportunity to study abroad anywhere, absolutely take that opportunity. I feel that I learned so much about myself over the course of that semester, living alone and experiencing being in a new place on my own.”