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Dean's word for the FAMU News to students.

OCTOBER 2021

Dear Students,

Welcome to the new academic year. The most important thing I wish to say to welcome you is: Go to school. A seemingly banal wish or invitation has an entirely new meaning and urgency now, in the context of the past one and a half years. One year ago, we started school with stringent sanitary and safety precautions, yet also with cautious optimism. Ten days later, we were compelled to switch to distance instruction and almost completely quit hands-on classes. In addition to many other things, the past period has taught us that however justified or firm our assumptions – and the resultant expectations of the future – may be, our position in relation to the planned reality is unstable. We are now starting school with a keen awareness of how fragile the current status and opportunities are. Make full use of every day when you can be physically present at school, see your schoolmates, talk to your teachers in person, work on practical tasks assigned to you during your classes, and create both individually and in teams.

The lockdown times allowed us to explore the less exposed or realised parts of ourselves – the focused, independent or even solitary sides of ourselves, which are more aware of immersion into private, intimate worlds. The beginning of the academic year is again opening the room for you to open up those sides of yourselves to a more intensive dialogue, to everyday sharing in space and time with people who have the same passion for audiovisual or visual expression, for creative thinking, and also for learning about the world the way it is presented to us and to those with whom we will experience everyday school. May this shared experience be a source of stimulation and development for you.

Andrea Slováková

Dean

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OCTOBER 2020

Dear Students,


Welcome back to school. I wish us all an inspiring presentation of your year-end and final exercises and films during the clausura examination. Make sure to see clausura exams in other Departments in addition to yours – you can see interesting exercises in your field and gain better insights into what and how your schoolmates in other fields do.
I would especially like to address our new students who are joining us in their first year of study. You will get to know each other, also through working on hands-on exercises. During your studies, you will form bonds that may last and be of use to you in your future professional careers. The time that you get to spend in school is an exceptional period in terms of what you can/should focus on and use your time and mental space for. Of course, you have your other interests and activities, and sometimes you need to do some work. I understand the tension between taking care of your life and fulfilling your school duties (and joys!) from my experience. What is crucial is that you should focus on school and collaboration in classes with full attention and commitment, so that your connection with activities in school achieves a certain degree of intensity – and I cordially wish that you attain this. Thematise your tensions, speak about them and seek advice if need be – ask your teachers, the school psychologist and/or our ombudswoman. Try to seek balance for managing those parts of your life, because the time and concentration that you focus on school in this form of free space for divergent creative thinking and education is something that you will not enjoy to have later on in your professional life. Make sure to use the space and the opportunities for seeking, for open personal expression and for working together with your schoolmates when thinking and working together on shared exercises, now and in the years to come.

I wish you an inspiring time of preparation for the upcoming semester.

Andrea Slováková
Dean

Dear Students,

You are currently working on your hands-on exercises and creations at the most intense pace for all of the year. I get to encounter you in the corridors and tea kitchens and in Lažanský Palace, and it appears to me that you are in your element – you are happy even though sometimes things may not be working the way you intended. You may have had to resign on certain specificities of your initial plans, but try to approach such changes and inconveniences resulting from time limits and/or previous restrictions on hands-on production as obstacles that challenge you to devise creative and unorthodox solutions, to be a different type of seekers than you would normally think of.
Also, try to finish your projects so that all the specialists in your crews get to participate in them – make sure to manage to do the final cut, colour correction, and sound design. I remember how turbulent and hectic the times of finishing films are from the time of my own studies. At any rate, the conditions under which you need to think about and produce your projects will never be the same again in your professional lives, so I hope that you will make the best use of them.
I wish you an intensive and exploratory rest of the summer.

Yours sincerely,
Andrea Slováková
Dean

Dear Students,

The exhibition of the year’s works from the Centre for Audiovisual Studies made me happy last week. We are experiencing a difficult academic year, and it has been difficult primarily for you, our students. The gravity of the fluid uncertainty all around us is reflected in the content of many of the works, yet I admired many ingenious, multi-layered and aesthetically diverse works of art. The students of the Department of Photography have also presented some of their year’s work. I am happy to see that the creative visions, which many of the works show, are clear, well thought-out and resolute. Perhaps they have become the proverbial firm places for you to stand on. I would like to thank the teachers who encouraged and motivated the students during the entire year and made the teaching process happen fully despite the unusual situation.

We are all overwhelmed by multitude of information every day. Critical thinking provides useful navigation in the deluge. An approach that takes into consideration multiple possible views of an issue also allows for understanding the context of information or opinion. The source from which a message comes is substantial – who says it, where, when, and under what circumstances. However, it is also important to what they respond with their message. If it is a personal Facebook status, albeit widely shared, was it a response to another message or to media content? If such a text contains information that disturbs you, verify it. Often, it is not very difficult to find a reliable open source to confront personal or emotional statements with and obtain information or context as the foundation for one’s own critical thinking.

Many of you will make or finish your films and other clausura works this summer. I wish you a lot of focus, creative strength and joy of the work.

Andrea Slováková
Dean

 

Dear Students,

I am happy to note that the production of your exercises and films is running full steam ahead now. In addition, you are also working on your written assignments – whether they are smaller seminar papers, final qualification theses, or the output for your grants. If you seek resources, books and texts relevant for your topic, reference services may prove a useful tool. One of the best, which also covers the audiovisual field and various theme areas within it, is Oxford Reference, which our library has prepaid for you. You can read more in the article. You may have happened to find more focused time, and to use it for reading, during the ‘closed times’ of the different stages of lockdown. If a love of books has held sway over you in addition to your cinephile passion, do not give it up. I wish you that, every day, you find reading that will make you happy with the various ways that it develops critical thinking and methods of arguing and opens up sources of inspiration and viewing cinema and the world from new angles.

Andrea Slováková
Dean

Dear Students,

I am happy to note that most of you are already working on your hands-on exercises, making films. Let me voice my admiration and praise for those who have managed to thoroughly prepare their projects in the past months, so that they can start producing them now.

We worked on certain documents during the past weeks that involved various statistics; let me share one of the stats with you: FAMU has 23 associate professors, of whom just two are female, and 18 professors, of whom just one is female. Even though I did notice that it is mostly men who submit applications for associate professorship and professorship procedures, the ratio of this disproportion surprised me. I remembered speaking to three of our great female teachers and artists and asking them if they were considering associate professorship. They explained that there were various issues, in particular regarding time, that prevented them from doing so, even though they would like to. I also remembered how I wanted to staff certain councils and panels ensuring a better gender balance earlier during my tenure, and I struggled with a shortage of women with higher academic degrees (and not only in-house at FAMU). This phenomenon is well-known and common in academia. I would like to use this opportunity to convey the following message: if you know of any teachers who would like to become associate professors with their art work but are short of time to prepare for the procedure, encourage them to speak to us about the obstacles they have to tackle: to speak to the heads of their Departments or to the Dean’s office. We will be happy to encourage them, for example by means of a creative sabbatical (the terms and conditions of which are described in the collective bargaining agreement), by reconsidering the current structure of their other obligations, and so on. I invite you, dear students: encourage them too. Such a dialogue enables us at the Faculty to continue working on the preparation of systemic measures geared towards giving more consistent assistance to people who foster children.

I wish you a lot of strength for work and joy of filming.
Andrea Slováková
Dean

Dear Students,

Even though the space of our school still remains largely virtual for us all, I am happy when we all take part in its operation, transformation and reflections. It makes me happy when you suggest the topics and competences to develop and improve as part of the modules, when you complete the subject evaluation forms like you did in February, when you contribute your footage to the FAMU time-lapse film that we have been ‘collecting’ since October. It is great when you share your feelings about distance learning with each other and with teachers, and when you are active in debates and solving tasks in classes. And when you individually deliver those of your hands-on assignments that you can actually work on. You may well feel that it is unfair for you to be stricken by the pandemic times and the non-standard hands-on classes. Things are difficult for you. With that said, not all the differences are necessarily bad – the conditions under which you are currently thinking, fantasising and creating are simply very different from what your older schoolmates experienced. Delivering on audiovisual assignments individually may push you forward in many respects, deepen your insights, and offer you a different view of why and how you want to film, photograph, write or create. Be persistent in your individual assignments. We at the Faculty headquarters and FAMU Studio keep doing everything we can so that we can launch hands-on assignments for crews as soon as possible. You can also use the present days to finalise your scripts, storyboards and filming preparations. Maybe you have had to change your plans. Just remember the film Five Obstructions where Lars von Trier challenged his mentor Jørgen Leth to remake his own famed The Perfect Human subject to the restrictions set by Trier. This way, he updated and pointed to one of the key components of Leth’s creative method: setting oneself rules and obstacles as a concept. Let us update Leth’s method, and we may even succeed in turning some of the bothersome obstructions into fruitful, surprising or entertaining ones.
They may even turn into discoveries.

Andrea Slováková
Dean

Dear Students,

The summer semester has begun with modified schedules, distance instruction and limited possibilities for hands-on work. You may say to yourselves how unfair it is for you to be disadvantaged compared with other years’ students. It has been difficult for you. However, some of the disadvantages could be turned into advantages. You have more of focused and/or introspective time, so read, watch films, write and think about your films and works of art. Individual hands-on work is permitted, so you can create smaller assignments or exercises. These difficult and sometimes downright annoying times could also serve us to focus on reflection more – in the sense that we can reflect on art, films and texts in order to cultivate our analytical and critical thinking.

The purpose of the structure of instruction in this semester is to ensure that as many subjects without hands-on activities as possible are taught during the first six weeks, so that, starting from mid-April, we are ready to spend as much time as possible filming if it is possible.

During the past months, we focused a lot on the methodology for online instruction. We are offering teachers individual consultations to discuss the possible form of the subjects that they teach. Online course platforms that have been in existence for many years also provide various sources of inspiration. You can help too – by being actively involved in classes, asking the teachers questions, offer suggestions and participate in debates or initiate them. Remember our online St. Nicolas Party – how much fun the online quiz was: you can make similar ones in classes, interconnect platforms and be inventive. If you have ideas and good experience, share them. Do not hesitate to share them even with us at the Dean’s Office – so that we can seek and find various forms of distance learning together to make them enriching and functional as well as intriguing and pleasing for you.

I wish you a lot of strength and joy of studying and creating (individually for the time being).

Yours sincerely,
Andrea Slováková
Dean

Dear Students,

We are closing a difficult winter semester. You can deliver your hands-on tasks only individually; you cannot work in crews, which must be difficult and sad for you. We all believe in and try to contribute towards reversing the epidemic developments through widely shared efforts and by acting responsibly, so that hands-on instruction in groups can be renewed as soon as possible. We are also in contact with the Ministry of Education regarding the specificities of our instruction, trying to obtain reasonable exemptions.

As the semester is coming to a close, I would like to encourage you to give your feedback on teaching in the forms that are available in the KOS for every subject and will be open until 16 February. The Heads of Departments were informed about it at a Collegium meeting in December and student ambassadors were informed in January, and the questionnaire includes both multiple choice questions and space for your comments (your comments are not mandatory – this is space for your suggestions should you have any that you want to share).

We have encountered more frequent occurrences of disinformation during the past month. Disinformation is powerful. It works a bit like gossip – misleading or incorrect information can resonate if it is set cleverly in a seemingly logical narrative, and it spreads on. Eradication of the disinformation, however credible or supported, sill not reach many of those who received the initial disinformation, so the original or even evolving disinformation survives in the conscience. Your opinion is important for the life of the school and for the development of study programmes! It matters to us to ensure that you have free and safe space to express it. This is why I wish to encourage you to verify your information. Confront multiple reliable sources, ask multiple people actively including outside your bubble, and seek context and circumstances.

If you are going through difficult times or not feeling well, you can consult our faculty psychologist, the amazing Ms Hedvika Boukarová. In addition, an ombudswoman will work here from February. This position is not very common in the Czech Republic (it exists at the Palacký University and the University of South Bohemia), but it is a common way of offering support to students and employees abroad. I believe that Ms Klára Laurenčíková will contribute towards better internal culture, calm, fairness and security in our school environment.

I wish you a lot of strength for completing this semester.

Andrea Slováková
Dean

Dear Students,

I wish you all the best in the new year. First and foremost, I wish good health to you and your loved ones. I know how much you desire to shoot films, take the plans that you have been thinking about during the winter to reality, and work on hands-on assignments. If there is an assignment you can deliver on your own, don’t stop – keep on creating. For exercises and films made with crews, we have to wait until the situation is safe. It is frustrating; you are concerned about managing to make your films on time and the way you envisage. Maybe you will not be able to realise your visions fully. Still, do not stop thinking of each and every aspect of your films, about your creative decisions. Draw your story boards, keep in touch online with other crew members, hunt for inspiration, discuss, watch, and read anything that stimulates, provokes and pushes you. As soon as the epidemic situation improves to level 3, crew filming will start. Times are difficult for you. Different. Your situation is different from that of students in past years. Nevertheless, I believe that the uniqueness of every single of you can manifest despite these different conditions.

I wish you with all my heart that whatever you do is meaningful and fulfilling for you.

Andrea Slováková
Dean

Dear Students,

When you sent in your shots for our October film, my perception was that you were experiencing isolation, emptier environment around you, silence, and individualisation of otherwise collective activities – but I was also under the impression that you were able to find a source of inspiration in these untypical settings, to read the developments in your own vision, and see humorous sides to situations. I was happy to see your creative energy despite the tough times. With effect from Monday, 7 December, you will be able to use your energy in classes again because all hands-on educational activities will be allowed on a presence basis. You are now faced with a few remaining days of largely distance mode of operation when you can think about your ideas and scripts and forms of solving specific practical tasks before you get to solve them in reality.

Many of you are far from your homes and your loved ones during these difficult times, and you don't know when you can see them. It is great that you have stayed in touch with each other and with your Departments during the period of distance instruction. It was a difficult period that hopefully will be balanced out now with hard work on hands-on assignments.

I wish you success and joy in your hands-on classes.

Andrea Slováková
Dean

Dear students,

We have the first month of the winter semester behind us in pandemic conditions. In the first third of the month, the teaching took place according to the traffic light, then only remotely. It is challenging in many ways - for you and your teachers.
But it is also an opportunity - we are a film school and digital audiovisual expression is natural for us. Let's also look at the teaching (about) of film in a virtual environment as a kind of genre, whether it is dominated by performative elements (both by teachers and you, students), found footage procedures (fragments of audiovisual or other works that you debate about), or essay elements of informed and substantiated argumentation. Let's add (self) reflexive moments to these procedures - if you have ideas on how to differentiate and develop meetings within individual subjects, talk to your teachers, think within departments, and also share mutual knowledge of good practices.

We all care about meeting every day with you to have continuous stimuli for thinking and deepening your knowledge, and more than ever, the forms of how to achieve this depend on all of us together.

I wish you a lot of inner strength and a desire for a certain playfulness and constant discovery.
And good health for you and your loved ones.

Andrea Slováková
Dean

Dear Students,

Welcome to the new academic year.

We are opening it under changed and variable circumstances that affect our personal, professional and study lives in many unprecedented ways. The majority of your instruction will take place in a distance mode or in various hybrid forms. You will meet in person less than you have been used to. The school as a whole and the individual departments have been preparing for these methods of teaching. Your teachers face a formidable task of reinventing their subjects, rethinking them and preparing them in a different way. Teaching is a shared process and you play a substantial role in it – you are its co-creators. Online meetings allow for various ways of interactivity and sharing, so do take part in them. If you have ideas and suggestions, talk to your teachers or heads of departments. With the new modes of operation, be teachers too, along with your schoolmates. Deepening our knowledge is the most important shared interest and objective for us all – and whether or not we manage to use the new forms of instruction to that end also depends on us all.

Most of all, I wish you and your loved ones good health. I also wish for the upcoming semester to be beneficial and inspiring to you, albeit in entirely new and perhaps quite unexpected ways.

Andrea Slováková
Dean


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