What happens if you combine David Lynch’s secret formula for creativity with guidance from the iconic filmmaker himself? The answer: an amazing Master of Arts degree in Film, which nurtures students from the inside out.
Here’s what former and current students have to say about the program’s unique mix of world-class instruction by top names in the movie industry and the creativity-inducing mental practice of Transcendental Meditation.
The attraction of Consciousness-Based education
For many of the students, it was the David Lynch name that attracted them to join the program. Yet, for some, the yearning to experience something deeper in life through meditation was among the motivating factors for choosing MUM over other educational institutions.
Monica Demes, a Brazilian filmmaker, felt the need to connect with herself 100% in order to create, and she saw MUM as the ideal place for that.
Marc Strauch, who already had on his resume a successful 20-year business and strategic marketing career, joined the program to deepen his meditation practice.
As he describes it, “I see MUM as a real oasis in a world of turmoil and chaos, where you have an opportunity to drop into the Self and use that as the basis for all of education.”
Jennifer Kachler also wished to deepen her Transcendental Meditation practice, which she had already been doing regularly for three years.
“First and foremost,” Kachler said, “I came to grow on a personal level, through meditation, through consciousness and through my creativity. That’s been the best aspect of this program because I’ve transformed into more of me and more of who I’m meant to be.”
Diving within – new experiences
Students who don’t yet practice Transcendental Meditation learn it once they arrive on campus.
Agnes Baginska from Poland, whose short film Milkmaid won her a $25,000 full scholarship for the David Lych MA in Film program, was suprised at the ease with which she could take on daily TM practice.
“I am a type A person,” Agnes said, “and I thought it would be hard for me to sit down and do nothing. I had tried different meditation techniques, but they didn’t work. With TM, you really feel like you are diving and you enjoy it, and for 20 minutes you really feel cool.”
Some who learn TM find unexpected benefits.
Gregor Kresal is a filmmaker and former architect from Slovenia who has made many films based on his adventures as a mountain climber – something he had been doing for 30 years before a tragic accident in Pakistan led to the death of a teammate and the arduous rescue of another one.
“After the 2008 expedition I had a terrible time trying to sleep,” Gregor said. “I was getting thinner and more and more stressed. After I learned TM, I was able to sleep. It was a big relief.”
Laura Bustillos, who also learned TM on campus, mentions her pleasant suprise at how often breakthrough ideas came to her in meditation.
Besides having the chance to talk about their work with David Lynch, the program’s students also receive guidance from other top names in the film industry.
Guest lecturers in the program have included Bill Borden (producer of Mission Impossible 3, High School Musical, An Officer and a Gentleman, etc.), Jim Carrey (actor, four-time Golden Globe Award nominee), Peter Farrelly (writer, producer and/or director of 15 films, including There’s Something About Mary; Me, Myself & Irene; Shallow Hal; and Dumb and Dumber To), and many others of the same calibre.
After a workshop with Roger Wolfson, writer and story editor for Saving Grace and Law & Order, Jennifer Kachler commented: “Roger changed everything for me. He made me look deep inside of who I am as a human, and who I am as a filmmaker, and what I am truly passionate about. And now I have this brilliant idea for a screenplay, and it’s flowing.”
The feedback from David Lynch has also served to build up the students’ confidence. “I won an award for my short film Halloween, and that’s a big deal because David Lynch saw it and he liked it, ” Monica Demes said. “That kind of thing makes you feel good and believe in yourself.”
“Having your little film recognized by someone like Lynch himself is just like every young filmmaker’s dream,” Agnes Baginska agrees.
For her, the fact that David Lynch chose her film as the winner of the scholarship competition meant not only positive encouragement – it also enabled her to attend the program, which she wouldn’t have been able to afford otherwise.
Words of praise
Students are not shy about praising the MA program as a whole.
Déjà Bernhardt credits her time at MUM for allowing her to develop a whole new perspective: “MUM made me the filmmaker I am today, the kind who seeks out the deeper layers in a story, who looks for how things connect up together – which can be hard to do as a filmmaker. It’s much easier to make a film with only one storyline and one thread. It’s my nature to go as deep as I can.”
“The program is focused on getting the best out of yourself and out of an idea you want to develop. I feel I’m a better filmmaker now; I lost the fears I had before. I’ve met very interesting people from all over the world and I feel like I’ve acquired five years of life experience!” Monica Demes adds.
Marc Strauch emphasizes the important of access to high-quality equipment, mentoring, and a focus on teamwork, which help him turn his ideas into quality media productions.
“The MA is a nurturing environment, filled with creativity and support. Even when I don’t think I need support, someone is there for me and helps out,” adds Chandler Baucom.
Some of the students in the MA in Film program have turned their privileged educational experience into projects that aim to be transformative on many levels.
Laura Bustillos moved to the US from Mexico when she was 12 years old. Having gone through the legal and political struggle of immigration, she found the topic close to her heart. Inspired by her personal experiences, she embarked on producing a documentary, Undocumented Freedom.
The documentary is about Beto, a 26-year-old entrepreneur and artist who was brought to the US illegally from Mexico as a small child. He was deported at the age of 19, and ran back across the desert to be reunited with his family.
Bustillos comments, “Beto has opened his home and his life to me with the intention of helping maybe one, maybe millions of lives that also fall between the cracks in immigration laws and the new immigration reforms that are pending.
“How will we do this? Well, I am still not entirely sure, but I know that compassion and kindness often go unpracticed in the prisons and courts where people may need it the most, and I would like to see that change.”
With her work Bustillos hopes to humanize the “concept” of what it’s like to be an undocumented immigrant in the US.
Déjà Bernhardt, daughter of Robin Lim – a midwife whose humanitarian work in Indonesia won her the Alexander Langer Award for Peace in 2006 and CNN Hero of the Year in 2011 – has gained recognition for her films, which are screened globally to promote humanitarian efforts. Her student documentary Chimio Means Little Heart was about the transmission of AIDS through breastfeeding and the stigma that surrounds it.
Déjà’s first feature-length documentary, Guerrilla Midwife, follows her mom on a mesmerizing journey to help Indonesian women in the aftermath of the 2004 tsunami.
Jennifer Kachler hopes that her short film Kennedy Hill about adoption will allow her to make a difference both by raising awareness on the topic and by generating funds to donate to a local adoption organization.
Change begins from within
Jennifer Kachler sums it up beautifully: “Come here with the knowledge that you have and then grow upon that. Take the time to make sure you meditate regularly and focus on the growth of your own personal being. That is the best lesson you’ll learn from being in this program, besides just excelling in your education. It’s about excelling in you!”
For scholarships and additional information, see the David Lych MA in Film webpage