My Thesis: Old Heads, New Hearts (end)

By Francisco Castro

Cuban university students.  Photo: Caridad
Cuban university students. Photo: Caridad

“What do you think the faculty could have contributed to you over your five years of study, and what did you feel that you lacked when it came time to confront the real working world?”

This was one of the questions that Cuban film director Ernesto Daranas Serrano (“Los dioses rotos”/The Broken Gods) posed to me in his function of challenging my thesis defense.  There could have been nothing better to conclude my presentation, which was graded, along with that of Ana María, my photographer.

These years at the faculty have opened my eyes to a fascinating world of images and sounds, which I already knew were there but never realized were so expansive.

It has opened up the doors to the knowledge of history and storytelling, and has added fuel to the flame of research.

A deep, wide and long abyss – the gap in what I still must learn – has also been opened up, but I have been shown the tools to build the bridge that can take me to the other side.

Concretely, these years at the faculty have shown me a method of working.  But the faculty (and also Cuban TV) have especially furnished me with an enormous reserve of patience.

The faculty has given me patience to tolerate displays of intolerance and mediocrity that eat away at its foundation, allowing me to count up to ten (million) before responding with a correct but foolish answer.  It has endowed me of a previously unknown ability to achieve my objectives without institutional support; it has given me the potential to think of a different future for incoming students, a better future of course; and it has gave me, lastly, a university degree.

So what was missing?   No less than receiving classes on the direction of actors.  The casting of professional actors in my short film “The End” (my thesis project) was when I received my first lesson in this matter, thanks to my tutor.

Such a gap can be something really fatal when you consider that the basic raw material with which a director works is the actor.

I also needed, but didn’t get, instruction in professional ethics, which was generously provided in the process of working.  I got the positive part of this from my tutor, as well as several specialists, just as I got the negative part from other specialists.

I need real classes in photography and in editing.  And I need to learn about what’s involved in movie sound tracks.  Each one of the fellow students that worked in these specialties, with their advisers, did exactly what was requested of them by the faculty.  Fortunately they made valuable creative contributions.

However, not receiving these specialties in filmmaking – putting direction of actors at the top – are the great deficiencies in my training as a director.

Lastly, what I lack when it comes time to facing the work world is knowledge of television.  Each one of the steps of pre-production was a great discovery for me, preceded by the violent shocks in finding so many absurdities along the way.