San Diego native Talia Mereles is studying motion picture production for three weeks with eight film students as part of a UM faculty-led study abroad program.

I have an obsession with adventure.

I am currently attending the 21-day Film in Japan study abroad program. Ed Talavera, the trip advisor and associate professor of Cinema and Interactive Media in the School of Communication, selected me as a teaching assistant, and I am honored to represent the UM and help lead a fantastic group of students. I traveled with Talavera to Greece last year as a student of the program and fell in love with study abroad. When he told me that he wanted me to be his sidekick for his future exploration, I was ecstatic and accepted the offer immediately. After receiving the incredible news, he explained the trip’s goals and game plan.

UM’s Office of Study Abroad Film in Japan program is all about producing an immense amount of content for students’ reels or resumes. While exploring Tokyo and Kyoto, the students are tasked with crafting a different video every three days. Whether it is narrative, documentary, abstract, or broadcast, each student must be consistently and continuously creating. 

Our program has already come out with horror shorts, news packages, and a litany of narrative films. There are two days of shooting and one day to bunker down and put your piece together. This process continues throughout the entire adventure. The students are given camera and audio equipment from the School of Communication and receive editing help. Once the students produce their work, the whole group gets together and screens everyone’s masterpieces in front of each other. We all give constructive critiques to help each student strive and reach their full potential. This part is my favorite. It is outstanding how much talent and creativity each one of these students has inside of them. We all get to laugh about the struggles and shenanigans we encounter while filming in a foreign country, and it takes the experience to another level.

Each day consists of either a half-day or full-day tour, and then plotted time for us to come up with our next video idea, storyboard, produce, and edit it. There is no time spent in a physical classroom; everyone is continuously learning first-hand about the culture of Japan and improving their filmmaking skills in the field. From this experience, students gain a level of responsibility for exploring a foreign country with urgency to complete work on a deadline.

This program helps me further my broadcast journalism skills as well as my filmmaking talents and drive to teach students valuable information that will benefit their career. It’s only the second week, and I am already enamored with the experiences I’ve had on the program. I’m beyond excited to find out what is yet to come!

Talia Mereles is a junior studying broadcast journalism and motion pictures.