Solidification of a story

Gradlife Instagram photo by @steezsister

McGill Gradlife Instagram photo by @steezsister

 

Literally, the word “solidification” means making or becoming hard or solid, making stronger. I like to think of this word as a phase change, like from water to ice, or from magma to crystals or marble. The story that I have told so far in “The beginning of a story” and “Successes: the story continues…” has a liquid status that this text aims to solidify. A character without name will get one, a spatial location will be drawn around his body, a past will carve out his shape throughout the page. (more…)

The next step may be abroad

The picture of Dante holding the Commedia in his left hand is a reproduction of Domenico di Michelino's painting, Florence, 1465.

The picture of Dante holding the Commedia in his left hand is a reproduction of Domenico di Michelino’s painting, Florence, 1465.

 

What the…What is Dante Alighieri doing on GradLife’s Blog???

Dear Graduate Students, maybe this is going to be your last year at McGill, maybe not. Maybe you are graduating and thinking about what you can do after having gone through the Hell of your thesis and finally got outside of it, on the peaceful and lightened sand of Dante’s Purgatory. If that is the case, then you may find this post interesting. Before writing it, I was thinking about what to publish, then I told myself: “Hey, you are an international student and you took one of the most important decision of your life, let’s talk about how you choose where to go and what to do!”. Here it is then, a few words about people and things that may help you in choosing which path you want to take to climb the mountain of the Purgatory. (more…)

Paper or Not?

Paper or Not?

We occupy the most rapidly evolving age of human kind to date, technology has started to become obsolete or outdated faster than my wardrobe. Big-shots in the technological field predict a fast approaching singularity  of technological advancement; expect that to happen when computers start to design computers for designing better computers. During the interim though, we’ve got what we’ve got in the present, and it’s expensive, so what’s worth your hard earned money? (more…)

#DesautelsFamily

Bronfman Building, Desautels Faculty of Management and snow

Bronfman Building, Desautels Faculty of Management and snow || Photo by Akshay Kohli

It’s been a while now that I stood in front of the Bronfman building’s main entrance at Sherbrooke and admired the history of it all and the legacy that I am a part of. A year, to be precise, since that moment when I ‘looked up’ to realize my existence in front of a building which, in the last few decades, has made many dreams come true. I, like 76 other MBA students, started my MBA at Desautels Faculty of Management in August 2015 and remember when most of us saw the building for the first time, gazing at the red frame shining in the sun, smiling in hope. The construction in front of the gates doesn’t help but we have completely forgotten to stand still, take a breath and look up to the place we are at. The place which has been our home for the last one year.

                The MBA students at Desautels faculty of Management spend most of their time at the third floor. It is not uncommon for students to spend five or maybe six days a week at that floor attending classes, meeting for group projects, completing assignments, planning for club events, chilling, meeting with faculty, tweaking resumes, flirting, writing cover letters, reading cases, searching incessantly for job postings, writing emails in the name of networking and what not. Just as we fail to notice the significance of the Bronfman building in the midst of it all, we forget that these wonderfully passionate people who are at it day in and day out are life stories which are germinating at the moment in the ‘greenhouse of careers’ that Bronfman building is. Typing away amidst all the anxiousness, loneliness, happiness, irritation, joy, disappointments, deprivation, and other spectrum of feelings that an MBA student goes through what keeps them going is the passion that they came here with (and the fact that the debt is real).

                A mother of two toils away to learn to apply business strategy and at the same time hopes that the kids are taken good care of by the husband, a husband, living away from his wife with the hope to change careers and can’t travel home on all weekends due to the piling school work, students from the other side of the world are looking to only go back home to meet their dear ones once they have a job that they want, and some students have been experts in their fields, in their country, but change of location has deemed their skill not as valuable. The struggle is real, but at the end of the day (or semester) these, and many more students, still have a smile on their faces because all of us care. The faculty of management brands us as the #DesautelsFamily but it is not just a branding exercise, it is the root of our existence and success at Bronfman.

I was speaking to a first year MBA student and he said that despite all the challenges that students face at school and in the Canadian market, the reason that we are still going strong is because “They Care”, the faculty cares for each student. No matter what the circumstance, the students of our MBA program should learn one thing- to “Take Care” of their surroundings and the people in them. The students of the #DesautelsFamily, in my opinion, don’t necessarily want to take over the world, but to “make the world a better place” and it’s happening right here at the Bronfman building.

Finally, the construction in front of Bronfman building has stopped and I finally got a chance to stand still, this time in the snow, and admire the house of our big family. Visit us sometime.

———————

For philosophical musings, Twitter @akshayleo25

Dear Edward Snowden…

Instagram @gradlifemcgill // photo by : @digitalpigeons

Instagram @gradlifemcgill // photo by : @digitalpigeons

“Standing in line to

See the show tonight

And there’s a light on

Heavy glow….”

(Lyrics from The Red Hot Chili Peppers – By the Way)

Verses, words that many of us know, words that came to my mind that late afternoon when nobody-knows-how many students, professors, people of the McGill community waited for hours before listening to Edward Snowden. I was among them and I strongly believe that GradLife should have a page about this event, about his words.

(more…)

The beginning of a story…

Instagram @gradlifemcgill Photo by @na0mirlima

Instagram @gradlifemcgill Photo by @na0mirlima

 

Definitions of stories are enough to say that they are the way our life runs, works and expresses itself. Every act, every action, every single gesture or word is a component of that story that we tell by living. Then, let’s write a different story, one that would not describe a graduate life as a report, but one that conveys the sensations that graduate students feel in their day-by-day journey. Let’s put a character in the middle of something, a character that shows the way we are, faces reality the way it is, as many of us do. Although generally known as fiction, sometimes narratives can be the only way to clearly describe what we feel, what things are and not what they should be. Enjoy.

(more…)

That blind-spot in our Graduate Life…

At a first sight, the word surroundings sounds like something similar to shiny rounded rings enclosing something important in its center. However, these surroundings have often an importance in themselves and can be as relevant as the center on which we are too obsessively, crazily, stressfully focused. If my first post was about the relationship between graduate life and Time, the second one will investigate (wow, I’m so academic here) how the former relates to Space. Obviously, the two are strictly correlated and we will see that the idea of discovering our surroundings depends also on the choice to give time to this process of discovering and exploring. Yet, I do not want to be boringsophical here, just tell something that any graduate student may feel on his or her own skin.

(more…)

Waiting for Midnight

1.5

The year may change and so might the setting, but those final moments leading up to midnight always feel the same. The champagne cork will pop soon, and the clock will shove December and the last twelve months aside. We wait in anticipation to welcome a year that’s new – a set of four digits we are not yet used to writing out. The countdown to midnight always comes with a whole lot of excitement and a little bit of angst. It is a chance to start fresh, but it also comes with some pressure to think ahead, to set new goals, to better ourselves and change all those little pesky things about our lives that we wish we could change! Who knows what the year will bring. That is the beauty and the scariness of life, after all…

When I welcomed 2013, I wished for a whole lot, like any ambitious, hopeful person would! I wished to surprise myself with my progress in my PhD work and be successful, even (and especially) outside of my comfort zone. I wished to cherish simplicity and beauty, and to recognize those important moments in time, before they become memories. I hoped to be able to dwell less on what is not absolutely crucial and to worry less (which, I admit, is easier said than done). I vowed to make more time for family and for people I care most about. It was also important to me to make time for new creative projects and for passions that add to who I am – and who I wish to become. I wanted to write plenty, travel plenty, cook plenty, photograph plenty, and love plenty.

Looking back, 2013 turned out to be a great year.

(more…)

Reflections. And then some.

Last week I was talking to a fellow graduate student. This particular graduate student and I do not meet very often. Yet we share the bonds and camaraderie of ones going through their PhD programs. During the conversation we both realized that we do not know too many details of one-another’s lives, yet we could safely assume that during the few years we been in our degree programs, we have all been through some of the worst phases of our lives. And we learnt to live through them.

I am close to the end of my program. In a PhD program, the end is not an event. The end is a process. And I am at the beginning of the end. I can share some reflections. (more…)

Shooting the movie «Saudade »

This post will describe how the shooting of my movie Saudade took place, with all its challenges, misadventures and surprises.

Step 1: Writing

I started writing the script during summer 2010. It took me about 1 year to take the film from ink on paper to concretize it to reality. Writing was a challenging process, because I had to show each draft version I wrote to about 10-15 persons at least, who are all experts in their field, and who would each give me a constructive feedback or guideline that i would follow, and eventually the mold was formed. Now the beauty about this whole writing process is that it is very inquisitive, and it enables you to dig deep into yourself and your past in order to find something that has left an impact or a scar in your heart. Because I can assure you that evry scriptwriter writes something about himself in his scenario, and there is always a hint of autobiography in it.

Step 2: Team Building

Now that I had a script in hand with a plot, a climax-driven story and an evolution of characters, I had to cast the actual actors that were going to play those characters. And this was not a difficult task: i knew already Mounia Akl and Cyril Aris, 2 professional actors/writers/directors, and Yasmina Hatem, a childhood friend. When she was 16-years old, Yasmina had been affected by the death of her mother who was fighting cancer, and cancer happened to be the main theme of my movie. So I decided immediately to cast her as the lead actress, as this would not only serve as a catharsis for her, but also reflect very realistically on her acting on screen. The main actor was a whole other story, because i cast 4 different persons before coming up with someone sufficiently credible for the role (age-wise).  I built the whole cast & crew from afar, prior my arrival to Lebanon. And this was the most challenging part, because when you are doing logistics from abroad, it is hard to make people commit to your project, especially professionals in that field, because they could have other projects coming up for them at the last minute.

Step 3: Pre-production- Meetings, meetings, and… meetings

Pre-production was a real hassle, because as soon as I arrived to Lebanon, we had to arrange meetings with the whole crew, both individually or as a group. Tasks were delegated to each team, be it sound, production, cinematography, art direction, etc… And they included: establishing a detailed budget, reaching out for sponsors, choosing the camera movements, defining the cinematographic language of the movie, its mood / atmosphere, color palette. Then the next step was to sit down with the AD (Assistant Director) to make the decoupage, which is like a written storyboard, detailing all the aspects of the scenes shot by shot, with the sounds, camera movements, and so on. The next step in the process included establishing a work plan, i.e. doing a schedule including when / where each scene was going to be shot. The call sheet was detailing all the contact info of people from the crew, especially the actors, so that the AD could call them while we are on set to tell them to come prior to a scene.

Step4: Production

The shooting itself was a lot of fun. And very magical. I felt many times that it was a bit surreal, that I was floating on a cloud. Everything happened so fast, it was just 4 days of shooting, from 6 am till sometimes midnight. We worked intensive hours, but it was very productive, and eventually we were all very satisfied of the result. I loved so many things during this shoot: I loved the teamwork, the fact that we were all together to accomplish a project and follow our dreams. I loved the fact that there were so many improvs in my movie. I was very lucky because i had such amazing actors, and they were all so natural and brilliant in their acting and improvisation that it added a lot of humor, simplicity and realism to the picture. I loved the rush of having to choose the accessories in art direction and putting them in place quickly, before te DOP and his team starts the lighting. I loved how the words Action and Cut could have such a strong impact and draw the line between reality and fiction. I loved the fact that after 4 days of continuous shooting, we were all so exhausted and dead, but yet so happy, satisfied and proud of our new accomplishment. I loved saying the sentence Its a wrap, on the last day of shooting at midnight, even though there was a pinch in my heart because i never wanted this to end. I wanted it to last forever… But unfortunately, every good thing has an end.

You can watch and share the trailer on Youtube at the following link: www.youtube.com/watch?v=O7G34Zzc-Xe.

Like the page on Facebook called « Saudade » in order to follow the news for festivals, screenings, pictures of the shooting, plot description and so on, by clicking on the following link: http://www.facebook.com/saudademovie

 

 

 

 

La Dolce Vita

Being a filmmaker has always been my dream. From as long as I can recall, I have been attracted to the world of cinema, with all that it entails: acting, scriptwriting, directing, producing, etc.

This interest was most probably inherited from my father, a big cinephile, who has introduced me at a very young age to this fascinating and addictive art. He used to say “I read more about movies than I watch them”- which was true. He had a huge library with big books on the Italian cinema, the neo-realism and the French New Wave, which he used to read eagerly everytime he had a chance. His favorite one was “Hitchcock by Truffaut”, which is a classic study of the great director and his films, comprising a series of dialogues between Hitchcock and Truffaut. French cineast Francois Truffaut, who was a big admirer of Hitchcock’s work, had the brilliant idea to interview the master of suspense, and collected all the information in a massive book divided scene by scene, film by film. I highly recommend this to anyone who is passionate about the 7th Art. (more…)

Choose Passion. Choose Dreams.

Choose Passion. Choose Dreams.
Passion and Dreams. Two words that should be constantly circling in a loop in our minds. They should be the motor that fuels our daily lives, the oxygen we breathe and the philosophy we adopt. Simply because without them, life would be meaningless and flavorless.
Follow your Passions. Doing a phD in Astrophysics or a Master in Mathematics should not forbid you from doing the things you love as well on the side. For me, grad school has been a discovery of my talents and their exploitation. McGill offers incredible and endless resources to its students, from clubs to NGOs to career centers, etc. My first exposure to that was at the Activities Night at the beginning of the year. It was like a beehive. Things were in constant movement, representatives from all sorts of associations your mind could possibly imagine, from fundraising to volunteering to Acapella to photography to Fine Arts. They have it all. (more…)

Doing

*This is cross-posted at rwoodmass.wordpress.com.*

“What I knew for sure from this experience with you is that we are all called. Everybody has a calling, and your real job in life is to figure out what that is and get about the business of doing it. Every time we have seen a person on this stage who is a success in their life, they spoke of the job, and they spoke of the juice that they receive from doing what they knew they were meant to be doing. …Because that is what a calling is. It lights you up and it lets you know that you are exactly where you’re supposed to be, doing exactly what you’re supposed to be doing. And that is what I want for all of you and hope that you will take from this show. To live from the heart of yourself. You have to make a living; I understand that. But you also have to know what sparks the light in you so that you, in your own way, can illuminate the world.”

-Oprah Winfrey, Farewell

I am currently living the 25th year of my life as Rebecca.  These past 25 years of my life have been wonderful, full of discovery, philosophy, and experimentation.  I am young and full of potential, but I am no longer a child, and it is time for me to start putting all my youthful passion and dreaming into action.  It is time, as Oprah says, to ‘get about the business of doing it’.

Alot of people talk about ‘what they do’, especially in the business of art.  In fact, there is alot of talk in general, and I suspect not nearly as much actually ‘doing’ as there is talking.  The reason I suspect talkers talk more than they do is because I am one of those people.  I paint – but do I really paint?  I dance – but how often do I really dance?  I sing – but do I really put in the daily time required to be the best that I can be?

(more…)

Everything but…

Photo by Gordon Adler

I have been feeling very keenly lately the urgent need for variety in life.  All year, as my posts have reflected, I have been intensely focussed on one current, ongoing goal, which has really taken all of my energy.  The broader questions I have been asking myself lately have been:

  • What is really going to make me happy and healthy?
  • What is happiness, anyway?
  • Are there things in my life that I need to get rid of?  Are there things I need more of?

One resource that has helped me alot has been Eckhart Tolle‘s book, ‘The Power of Now’. (more…)

Blog authors are solely responsible for the content of the blogs listed in the directory. Neither the content of these blogs, nor the links to other web sites, are screened, approved, reviewed or endorsed by McGill University. The text and other material on these blogs are the opinion of the specific author and are not statements of advice, opinion, or information of McGill.