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UBC Reports | Vol. 47 | No. 17 | November 1 , 2001

Hands-on teamwork spurs creative student film teams

Faculty duo base model on own successful experience

by Michelle Cook staff writer

You'll never hear Creative Writing Assoc. Prof. Peggy Thompson and Film Asst. Prof. Sharon McGowan spouting the old adage "do as I say, and not as I do."

The teaching duo from the Theatre, Film and Creative Writing Dept. have used their longtime professional filmmaking partnership as a model for teaming up students to work on their own creative film projects.

It's an innovative, interdisciplinary teaching style that has produced some winning results.

Most recently, McGowan and Thompson hooked up Creative Writing graduate Geoff Inverarity with recent Film graduate and director Byron LaMarque, and Theatre graduate and producer Kelly-Ruth Mercier.

The trio collaborated on a short screenplay that won the 2001 Fill This Space Odyssey film competition co-sponsored by CBC and BC Film. Now in production, "Still Life with Scissors" will be broadcast on CBC this spring.

Since meeting at an interdisciplinary film program in Edmonton 12 years ago, Thompson and McGowan's own creative collaborations have included two highly acclaimed feature films, "The Lotus Eaters" and "Better Than Chocolate," produced by McGowan with screenplays by Thompson. Currently, the pair is co-producing a new feature film called "Saint Monica" with Sienna Films.

Their academic collaboration began after McGowan joined the Film, Theatre and Creative Writing Dept. three years ago. Thompson has been teaching creative writing at UBC since 1996.

"It was a weird coincidence for us both to be teaching at UBC," Thompson says. "But it has been great for building a vision on how to integrate graduate students into the film industry."

From their own experience, McGowan and Thompson knew teamwork was the key to successful filmmaking, but Thompson says the two never discussed specific approaches to team building. It seemed natural to get students collaborating on projects while they were still learning their craft in school.

Their first attempt at teaming up UBC graduate students occurred two years ago on the Life Television network series "Weird Homes" which McGowan was producing. She brought Thompson in as a story editor, and a number of students to work as researchers, editors, and directors.

Thompson and McGowan credit Film Assoc. Prof. John Wright with introducing interdisciplinary team building to their department when he brought together undergraduate acting and graduate directing students in Film 533, a course on advanced problems in directing.

Wright asked Thompson to add script writing to the mix to give students a feel for the real-life situations they might encounter on a film set.

Both Thompson and McGowan say there's no magic to creating winning student film teams. Successful matching involves looking at students' work to determine who matches who in artistic and work values and aesthetic, and also making themselves available to give teams advice.

"Unlike other areas of life, in film, opposites usually don't attract," McGowan says.

The pair hope to expand the number of interdisciplinary student collaborations in future because they feel the hands-on experience makes students more employable.

Forming partnerships while they're still in school also gives UBC's filmmakers of the future the stability, momentum and artistic edge they'll need to create original, groundbreaking work after they graduate, they add.


Last reviewed 22-Sep-2006

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