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Global Visiting Scholar inspires film students

V. Renee Russell
VCU Global Education Office
May 22, 2014

From a one-minute trailer titled Amber from Below,” to the 25-minute feature film, “Outside of Virginia,” the capstone projects of 12 seniors in the Department of Photography and Film at the Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts are as different as the students themselves. But all of these works have one thing in common: They were guided by acclaimed Canadian documentary filmmaker Caroline Martel

“I was instructed that the goal of this course was that students ‘complete a film they love,’ said Martel, the artist and researcher who, in January 2014, began a semester-long appointment as a VCU Global Visiting Scholar. “I really appreciated this directive and tried to honor the university’s commitment to the creative process.”

In support of the university’s internationalization goals, the Global Visiting Scholar Award supports departments or schools in hosting an international scholar for a semester or academic year who will contribute to enriching the learning and scholarship of the unit.

Martel was selected to visit VCU because of her artistry and strong reputation as a scholar, according to Sasha Waters Freyer, chair of the Department of Photography and Film.

“I knew of her work and felt it was important for our students to be exposed to a filmmaker with such a wide-ranging body of work,” Freyer said.

Martel’s repertoire spans video, sound, radio, feature films, art installation and projects that include both fine art and broadcast.

“We also felt it would benefit our students to be exposed to an international filmmaker who could provide a unique perspective on different aspects of the industry,” Freyer said.

“I had a very colorful experience during my time there,” said Martel. “I worked with so many different students and they were all so dynamic. It amazed me to see the differences between sophomores and seniors; film students and photography students. There is a richness in the student body that makes VCU a very unique place.”

While at VCU, Martel taught digital filmmaking, the film image and senior portfolio.

Martel, a native of Montréal, Canada, is currently completing a dual-enrollment doctoral program in research creation at Concordia University, one of Montréal’s two English-speaking universities, and the Université de Montréal, one of the city’s three French–speaking universities.  

“I’m accustomed to seeing different university approaches to the same subject,” she said. “I learned cinema through a communication studies program which focused on integrating practice and theory, so I really care that students think about the way they create. It’s not just about making beautiful, artistic pieces, but also about exploring, experimenting, discovering, challenging yourself and ultimately learning.”

Days before the public screening of her 12 seniors’ final projects, Martel held a daylong in-process viewing session for the students, during which classmates provided feedback about how the films could be polished. The films were screened for the public at the Byrd Theater in Richmond on April 26.

Now complete, Martel believes that her time as a Global Visiting Scholar will influence her future research and artistry.

“Being at VCU gave me hope that universities can go beyond bureaucracy and really be about learning and commitment and creativity,” she said. “At a time when universities are operating increasingly like corporations, my semester at VCU renewed my joy in being a part of academia.”

Waters Freyer feels that the department equally benefited from Martel’s visit.

“She was terrific. I am thrilled that she could be here as a Global Visiting Scholar and wish she could be here longer than one semester,” she said.

“In the film and photography department, we feel it’s important to give our students the practical tools, technical skills and professional connections they need to succeed in this industry,” continued Waters Freyer. “At the same time, it’s important that we nurture their creativity and foster their ability to develop their own voices. We must provide them with different ways to build their careers and special opportunities they can’t get elsewhere. Working with a scholar like Caroline is one such opportunity.”


Caroline MartelCaroline Martel

Global Scholars smallLeft to right: Sasha Waters Freyer, chair, Department of Photography and Film; student Troy Grew; Caroline Martel, Global Visiting Scholar; student Jerid Prater. 


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