Avi Herman (from left) and Amit Weiner of the Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance discuss the backStorygroup partnership with India Persaud (AB '19) in a video presentation about the program.
For EMST students, collaboration with film composers happens 6,000 miles away in Israel
The Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance (JAMD) is over 6,000 miles away and seven hours ahead of Athens, Georgia and the University of Georgia’s Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication. But that hasn’t stopped entertainment and media studies fourth-year students from working with film composing students to score their final senior films.
This unique partnership began out of the COVID-19 pandemic, when the backStorygroup executive director Wendy Revel figured out a way to continue introducing American and Israeli students to each other. The backStorygroup aims to educate American students about Israel and Israeli culture and grow a relationship between content creators and storytellers from each country.
Previously, the backStorygroup has taken American students on weeklong trips to Israel, where they participate in a masterclass led by an accompanying film professional or music composer and meet students and professors at the JAMD. Grady students have participated in the trips for years, Revel said, so the existing connection inspired the new, virtual collaboration.
“I think there’s a little bit of commonality in the culture of the South and Israel,” Revel said. “That commonality would be sort of a less formal way of doing things, and sometimes out of the box thinking.”
The Back Room began in November 2020 with online masterclass presentations from industry professionals like Jeff Beal and Mitchell Cannold. EMST students and students in the Masters of Composition program at JAMD were also partnered up to work on the Grady students’ final films. The students connect via Zoom and Google Drive to talk about the film and what they envision, and the music composing students bring it to life.
The Israeli students tend to be a few years older than Grady students because they serve between two to three years in the national service after high school. Revel said the age difference and varied livelihoods between students from Georgia and Israel positively impact the creative process and lead to a successful final product.
“It’s very nice for people to see each other’s work and understand each other through their work and through their life experiences,” Revel said.
For fourth-year Madison Otto, the experience of working with someone so far away proved challenging. The time difference was one of the hardest parts, she said, but going through the pandemic at the same time brought her and her film composer partner, Yaniv Kerem, closer together.
“I thought it was an incredible and eye opening experience to work with students all the way in Israel, especially in such a crazy year,” Otto said. “It’s interesting to hear that people on the other side of the world are going through the same thing. Yaniv took a difficult process and made it look easy and natural.”
The opportunity to work with film composing students is immensely important for Grady students, and similarly for the JAMD students to be able to score a film that’s actively being produced and edited. As JAMD film composition professor Tal Yardeni said, the partnership helps students prepare to communicate with each other once they enter the workforce.
“In this project, there is like a language barrier, but it’s not English and Hebrew,” Yardeni said. “It’s music and filmmaking.”
The Back Room will continue next fall, and Otto enjoyed the process so much that she hopes to include her composing partner in her future work.
“I learned that talent partnerships don’t have to be defined by geographical boundaries. It’s such a unique experience I never could have encountered on my own,” she said. “If you’re passionate about your film, then I would say it’s worth the risk to reach out into the unknown.”