Written by Hadley McCollester, (Bowdoin College) Student Correspondent CET Film Production at FAMU, Fall 2018
The FAMU program through CET is set up in two very distinct and separate sections: Classes and Pitching from August to early November and Film Production from mid-November to the end of the program. As I am currently in this aforementioned Production section of the program, I really only feel qualified to describe a day in the life during the Classes and Pitching section. However, as you will soon see, that even proves to be a challenge as every day, every week, and every month in this program varies widely on schedule, focus, and classes. Nevertheless, I will now attempt to sketch for you a relatively normal day at the FAMU CET program in Prague.
To begin, it is important to know that every Thursday the schedule for the next week’s classes is emailed to all of us students. Some classes can be relied upon to remain the same week after week, for example Czech Language, while others tend to have a nasty habit of jumping around, or being cancelled and then rescheduled, or even extended for hours on end. Most weeks there are a couple of core classes: Screenwriting, Pitching and Directing, Czech Language, Storyboarding, Acting, Film Language, and Camera Works. These classes focus mainly on storytelling (through screenwriting and Pitching and Directing) and cinematography. Although the structure of the program is a bit chaotic at times, it is worth the confusion to be able to learn from professionals in the industry. To give a good idea of a day in my life I will now take you through a usual Monday.
7:00AM- My day usually starts at about 6:30 or 7:00 am when I wake up to do my daily yoga practice. When I first moved into my apartment in Prague, I found that I needed to instill structure into my days to maintain good mental health in such a foreign environment (literally and metaphorically). So I began to do yoga every morning, usually about a 30 minute practice from YouTube videos, to start each day off right. After yoga I take a shower and eat breakfast. Czech breakfast options are pretty varied, even if they aren’t exactly what you might find in the US. I usually go for either yogurt, muesli (which is pretty much granola), and a fruit or toast and fruit. If I want to treat myself, I might walk over to this amazing bakery near my apartment called Liberske Lahudky where you can get amazing Czech pastries for extremely cheap prices.
8:30AM- I try to finish showering, breakfast, and getting ready for the day by 8:30am so that I have time to walk to my 9am class. From my apartment in Prague 1 (which is the main city center), I can walk to my classes at Studio FAMU in about 20 minutes, or take the trams and get there in around 12 minutes. When the weather is nice I try to walk and enjoy the fresh air and architecture of Prague. Now that it is getting to be around Christmas time, I especially love to walk around Prague and enjoy the ever increasing amount of lights and Christmas trees!
9:00AM- The first class of the day is Screenwriting. Most of this class is spent pitching story ideas (either individually or in groups) and then working through how to improve them based on story structure, character development, and theme. After screenwriting, we move into Scripting and Directing. Similar to screenwriting, we discuss story ideas, but we look at them more from a filmic point of view. We take into account film language and the effectiveness of the story on screen versus on the page. These two classes last from 9am to around 12:15pm, so, finally, it is time for lunch!
12:15PM- Depending on how quickly my morning routine moved, I may or may not have packed a lunch. I only have around an hour on Mondays to have lunch, so I never have time to go home and make something fresh, therefore the options are to pack a lunch or to have a lunch at a café near school. While the weather was warmer I would pack a lunch and have a picnic, enjoying the sunshine while lazing around in one of the many parks in Prague. However, now that the weather is colder, I find myself craving a warm meal for lunch, so I settle on a restaurant nearby. Food in the Czech republic is relatively inexpensive, especially for a European city, so eating out does not have to break the bank. One of my new favorite spots is Puzzle Salads, where I got this amazing falafel bowl (vegetarian!) for around 7usd!
1:15PM- After lunch, it is back to work. In my next class, Editing Seminar, we look at clips from, mostly, short films and analyze how specific editing techniques are used to enhance the storytelling. This class is one of my favorites as an aspiring film editor. It is also a great chance to get ideas for the short films that we create here with CET FAMU. This class ends at 2:45pm, and it is time to zip back home for a little regroup and snack before I head to my last class of the day.
4:00PM- On Mondays I attend the CET film elective: Central European Film. Although I had many options for electives through FAMU International, I chose to take the class offered by CET to gain a different, more theoretical perspective on Central European film. This class also gave me the chance to interact with students on other CET programs, not just the film program. When you are in the CET FAMU program, you are only with the same 20 or so people on your program day in and day out. While this creates amazing bonding opportunities and makes finding groups to actually create a film at the end of the semester a bit easier, it can also feel very insular. My last class of the day ends at 7pm and it is time to go home for good.
7:00PM- The minute I get home I put on my coziest pajamas, throw up my hair, and begin to make myself dinner. I love to cook so this is not a burden for me, but, if you do not like to cook, like my roommate, there are also so many amazing quick dinner options all around Prague that she takes advantage of frequently. One of my favorite things to make because it is cheap, delicious, and nutritious, is my take on pasta primavera. Essentially spaghetti with vegetables, I chop up and sauté some onions and fresh veggies along with some frozen peas. I then boil some animal shaped noodles (because they taste better than just spaghetti noodles, am I right) and throw some canned tomatoes, seasonings, and tomato paste in with my sautéing veggies. I simmer the sauce for around 15 minutes while the noodle cook, then I throw it all together, grate some parmesan on top and voila! Dinner is served! Usually I catch up on my Netfilx while I eat dinner and, if I have any homework, I start on that after I do the dishes.
9:30PM- To end my night I have a cup of tea and some cookies, watch an episode of Friends, and text or call my family back home. By 10pm I am in bed, teeth brushed, face washed, and alarm set to do it all again tomorrow.
Each day here in Prague is totally different and tends to go by like a flash. I cannot believe that I have been here for so long already and only have less than a month left! My biggest advice for studying abroad is to try to soak in every day. Although some days can seem to drag on with classes and homework, before you know it they will be gone. Even the busiest most mundane days will be fond memories when we are back in the U.S.