Creative collaboration within the MFA(CP)

The capstone projects of the Victoria University of Wellington Master of Fine Arts (Creative Practice) (MFA(CP)) Film and Music/Sound students were showcased recently to mark the culmination of a year’s intensive study.

A still from Night Shift.
A still from Night Shift.

The MFA(CP) at Victoria University includes a final creative project in which students are mentored to complete work that highlights their abilities and encourages them to push boundaries in their field. This might involve producing and directing a show reel, or doing cinematography, sound design or art department work on several films or other artworks.

Collaboration between students is a key element of the MFA(CP); with the Film and Music/Sound disciplines of the MFA(CP) both taught in part at the University’s Miramar Creative Centre, these final projects often exhibit the combined talents of Film and Music/Sound students.

One such project is a film entitled Night Shift, written and directed by Jacinda Kumar (MFA(CP) Film student) and with sound design by Harry Benson-Rea (MFA(CP) Music/Sound student). The film focuses on Keira, a young female pharmacist, who notices a morphine addict following her on board a train to the city. He threatens her and for her own safety, and his, she must act to save both of their lives.

Jacinda discovered that the creative process involved in developing her film was not linear: “The interdisciplinary input of my production crew helped me to shape my project. Harry’s ideas in particular inspired me to picture specific effects and tones to create Night Shift’s soundscape. This collaboration with other disciplines and the encouragement to take risks and experiment with style and genre are fundamental within the MFA(CP); I have been motivated to think beyond conventional terms and generalist understanding.”

Harry’s aim was to produce quality audio that enhanced the storytelling of Jacinda’s film. “My collaboration with other students in the MFA(CP) involved getting to know their discipline as well as my own. We would bounce ideas off each other; learning what Jacinda wanted to convey in her film was a constant part of the process from preproduction all the way to post-production. I built on my existing skills and also learned entirely new skills at the same time.”

Dr Paul Wolffram, Film Programme Coordinator for the MFA(CP), says at the start of the year he challenges his students to develop their skills and work towards this final creative project.

“I ask them to be bold, take risks, to say something meaningful and aspire to create art. I put no caveats on them. They can explore fiction, documentary, or experimental forms. They know they will be judged, not by academic standards but by industry professionals. I’m immensely proud of what they have all achieved this year.”

Sound is often undervalued in the world of film making in favour of the visual element, even though sound has such a crucial role to play, says Thomas Voyce, Music/Sound Programme Coordinator for the MFA(CP). “This is not the case within the MFA(CP). It is wonderful to see the students working together, sharing ideas about how sound, music and moving image can function together to help produce strong narratives. This year’s final projects clearly show how carefully considered sound design and picture can achieve fantastic, festival-ready results.”

Several of the films were shown recently in a special screening for industry professionals at Park Road Post Production. The films will be submitted for New Zealand and international film festivals throughout 2019.