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Josie Sabo: Backpack Filmmaking in Italy

Josie Sabo’s spring term course in Italy helped her parse out what she is good at and what she’s not — and gave her confidence in her own abilities.

Imagine being in a foreign city with nothing but a suitcase, backpack and camera — and no plans for food or a place to sleep.

That was just one of the many challenges that Coopersville junior Josie Sabo had to navigate during her spring term course on backpack filmmaking in Italy. Her experiences there helped her parse out what she is good at and what she’s not — and gave her confidence in her own abilities.

<em>Josie Sabo<br><br></em>Josie Sabo

“When I was first starting out, I was so scared, because I wasn’t very strong in my camera capabilities,” she says. “I thought I should stay in a group. But I realized I was getting frustrated with trying to coordinate with other people.

“We were told, ‘You shouldn’t go off alone,’ but I found that was the best thing for me to do,” she says. “I grew a lot being able to go out and not worry about the group and more about my own work.”

The students had one or two video assignments at each city. At first, the students were primarily worried about the visual aspects of their films, but later they started to focus on sound and audio quality. The students shared their videography on Vimeo and their photography on Instagram using the hashtag #bfilm.

“Since I was a one-person camera crew, I learned what part of the production stages I’d like to work on after this experience,” says Sabo, who is majoring in new media studies and art.

She realized that she enjoys thinking about the pre-production aspects of filmmaking.

“I’m really good at planning,” she says. “There was a time when we had to go off on our own. We had 24 hours with no housing and plans, so I made a huge spreadsheet and figured out everything I needed to stay for the night.

“Four other students really liked my idea, and so they all came with me, and I became the group leader for that,” says Sabo. “I feel like that was the moment I realized, ‘Oh, I’m really good at planning, I should be doing more of this kind of stuff for a crew.’”

Being able to work solo helped grow her confidence.

“I was very in-the-shell before I left on the trip, very reserved, and I didn’t really share a lot of my work,” she says. “After being in such close quarters with a lot of my other classmates, I discovered that it’s okay to share with others or ask for help.”

Josie’s spring term experience in Italy was funded in part by her Alma Venture grant.

Watch Josie’s Venture video.

Story published on February 11, 2016