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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Grinnellians study film abroad

Joseph Knopke ’19 learned story writing and screenplay at FAMU. Contributed.

By Quan Tran Minh

Two weeks into the spring semester, most Grinnellians are now settled back into college life. For study-abroad students, however, the new term marks a period of readjusting, whether it is to Grinnell or to a new city.

When it comes to studying film abroad, one of the go-to programs is the FAMU in Prague, Czech Republic. Deemed as one the most prestigious film schools in Europe, FAMU offers a wide range of film studies, from screenwriting, production and editing, to directing, working with actors and acting. Joseph Knopke ’19, who just finished studying at FAMU last fall, believes that the location itself is the cherry on top of an already amazing program.

“I met a lot of incredible people, a lot of talented people and a lot of creative people,” Knopke said.

Knopke first learned of the program back during his first year, when he helped his friend shoot his thesis film. Over the next year, he grew more interested in film. He finally started the program in his first semester of third year and the experience turned out to be unforgettable. 

“[It was] the first time I ever took a film class at a college level, [and] it definitely made me more interested in this line of work. The professor here at Prague [also] taught me so much about story writing and screenplay. That level alone was just huge and invaluable,” Knopke said.

FAMU also caught the eye of another Grinnellian. Helena Gruensteidl ’20, who is currently applying, was drawn to the school also because of its illustrious alumni.

“[FAMU] … offered several Masters classes from people that have worked in the industry and who are directors in the industry. There are also a couple people who have written full length films and have [had] them made,” Gruensteidl said.

The program proves itself to be very selective. As preparation for the application, Gruensteidl is also doing various projects to strengthen her portfolio.

“I just finished working on a music video for the Grinnell artist Squirrel Flower. I’m also going to be on set at Northwestern University working on a film there for the next two weekends,” Gruensteidl said.

While FAMU is a well-known program, it is not the only film studies program accessible to Grinnellians abroad. Cait Mohr ’19 is currently studying at DIS and Kobenhavns Universitetet in Copenhagen, Denmark.

Unlike Gruensteidl and Knopke, Mohr’s path to the program was rather peculiar. They learned about it while they were a biology major. Even after they changed their major to philosophy, the program still intrigued them.

Now, as they try to figure out life in a new country, the experience has been nothing less than refreshing.

“Copenhagen has been beneficial for my mental health and emotional well-being. … It’s been so much easier to cope with my anxiety and depression because there’s just so much more space to take a walk, loiter at bourgie avant-garde boutiques and maybe have a nice public cry in a botanical garden,” Mohr wrote in an email to The S&B. “There are [also] a wild amount of leftist, queer spaces and free art museums to hang around too, which is something I’ve never experienced but have always wanted in a living situation.”

Unfortunately, while students can study film through such study abroad programs, the College itself does not offer a film-studies major and very few film-studies related courses during the academic year. However, this has not stopped Grinnellians from pursuing their passion for film for themselves.

“I personally have a lot of experience without the help of the school at all. Just usually on my own, seeking for film opportunities, seizing them and working on films when I can,” Gruensteidl said.

“It really [doesn’t] matter to be honest. If you go into the program and make the most of it and you’re in the right frame of mind, you can still get out of it as much as any others,” Knopke said.

Joseph Knopke ’19 learned story writing and screenplay at FAMU. Contributed.
FAMU, among other film study opportunities abroad, gives Grinnell students a chance to take college level film classes. Contributed.
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