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Department of Art

Media Arts Major Shares Her Study Abroad Experience Through Film

As A Tribute to all Things Arts, Travel and History, Makenna Buhler Documented the Prague, Berlin, Basel 2023 Study Abroad On Film

Makenna Buhler On Her Study Abroad, Photo Courtesy of Makenna Buhler

I shot a film during the study abroad I attended in Spring term 2023 when we visited Prague, Berlin and Basel. I wanted this film to express the joy and wonder I felt while visiting these historically rich sites along with the connections and insights of the other artists and students on the trip. It was filmed on a Canon C100, my phone, a go pro and a drone, which allowed me to gather powerful images and capture unique moments throughout the experience.

Studying abroad allowed me to see Europe and art in a way that was magical and eye-opening. It gave me a new perspective and opportunity that was so unique to anything else I have experienced. It allowed me to set and plan film goals for myself, to experiment with my environment and seek ways to achieve what I wanted despite limitations. I was able to capture “blink and you’ll miss it moments” that were so integral to the study abroad experience.

I had the opportunity to follow three students as they worked on art pieces on the trip and I gained great insights into the process of creating art, how art affects the artist and viewer and how we can respond to the environment around us in thoughtful ways. It was unique for me as a filmmaker to learn from artists of other mediums and to still be able to connect with them through the commonality of art and wanting to express one's ideas and thoughts in a specific, intentional way.

I chose film as a medium to depict my time on the study abroad because it's the easiest medium for me to express myself (even though this film is a documentary on students other than myself). If you look closely, there are only a handful of shots that are from the filmmakers perspective. This was intentional because, although this video is inherently my artwork, I tried to not make it about me. My experience is reflected in how I viewed others around me, what I chose to capture from the trip and what I included in the film.

The method of film is so adaptable; it's fluid in the sense that it can be from whatever perspective the cinematographer wants. The use of angles and framing can tell a story. A picture is worth a thousand words and film can tell us a lot about the subject even in a single frame. Every aspect of the frame — from the music to the length of it — are all part of this storytelling artform. This is one of the most exciting aspects of film for me: the order, the duration, the music; they are all choices I have to make as an editor to best tell my story. Similar to the size of a watercolor brush or the amount of pigment in glaze, they are part of my tools as an artist.

To me, film is the closest I can get to expressing what I see and how my brain works than any other medium I know. I also take 35mm film photographs but what I can say and do with that is totally different than what I can do with film. That's the magic of art! While I chose film rather than photography for this exhibit, I know it’s what I put into the art is what matters even more than what medium I used.

I plan to pursue a career as a cinematographer and video editor and this trip allowed me to hone my craft of producing, editing and storytelling through film. This experience was a highlight of my studies at BYU and I will forever be able to look on it with thankfulness for what it taught me and what I was able to accomplish.

I hope that as you watch this film you take the time to immerse yourself in the images and enjoy the beauty and rich history of Europe coupled with the insights of the art students. I hope the visuals bring you as much joy and introspectiveness as they brought me.

Makenna Buhler was awarded first place at BYU Kennedy Center’s ISP Film Festival for "Everyone Deserves a Halo," a one-minute version of her study abroad film. See the full film below. 

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