A Filmmaker in France

May 12, 2014 | by Brian Short

One thing is for sure: If you study abroad in France, you’re going to eat well.

At breakfast with her host family in Grenoble, Screen Arts and Cultures student Caroline Schaper ate baguettes with salted butter and jam. For dinner, Schaper had more baguettes, fresh vegetables from the market, some kind of meat, and salad drizzled with oil. After dinner, there was a yogurt and cheese course that included more baguettes.

There were basically baguettes everywhere.

“It was hard to hang with the French and their eating,” Schaper says. “They do it at really specific times during the day and they take it really seriously. Whereas, here, I will just buy a salad and type on my computer.”

But that seriousness about eating includes the social aspects of sharing food, which was an important bonding opportunity for Schaper and her host family.

“At night we all came back, and everyone in the family helped prepare the meal and set the table,” Schaper says. “And then we would just talk. Like a family, really.”

During the week, Schaper took classes and broke bread with her host family, and on the weekend she adventured across southern France, visiting a new city every weekend, going to film fests and fairs, visiting both world famous and out-of-the-way landmarks. Schaper’s experiences and explorations changed the way she looks at the world around her now that she is back in the states.

Grenoble cityscape

“The architecture there is so different, and in the south [of France] there are mountains everywhere. It was just gorgeous and colorful all the time. Now, I look more at buildings, what they mean and how long they’ve been there, at the colors or absence of colors all around us.”

That focus on the everyday, quotidian details is present in the video Comme Tu Veux that Schaper created from footage that she took during her trip (available at the top of this page), where objects like sunglasses, Pellegrino bottles, and carnival rides take on a luminous, epiphanic quality.

Schaper, who received support from the Department of Screen Arts and Cultures’ Bess Vennema Fund, didn’t go abroad thinking she would make anything like Comme Tu Veux.

“I was never planning to do some kind of filmmaking thing,” Schaper says. “I knew that it would be important for me to have souvenirs that I could look back on if I was feeling nostalgic or sad.

“While I was there, though, I thought, I have these skills, I have my own camera, I have my own editing software, so I’m just going to go for it and film what strikes me as beautiful,” Schaper says.

The title translates as “as you wish” or “as you like,” and it was a phrase that Schaper hadn’t heard in her French classes in LSA.

“My host parents said comme tu veux all the time and people at restaurants said it all the time and the phrase just stuck with me,” Schaper says. “And that’s how I approached my trip abroad. I did the things that I did because I really wanted to do them. And I knew I might not have the opportunity to do those things again.”


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