December 13, 2017

Faculty Profile: Michael Bodie

What class(es) do you teach at SCA?
I have taught a wide variety of classes during my time with MA+P, but recently have been focused on IML 335 / 435 Digital Narrative Design, which is our video focused course sequence for our MA+P majors, IML 520 / 521 Non-Fiction Cinematic Practice, which is a documentary video focused course sequence for graduate students, and my favorite, IML 477 Embodied Storytelling and Immersive Docu-Narratives in which students conduct a project-based exploration of various media types and performance styles that they stage in a spatialized environment.

What inspired you to help lead the next generation at USC?
I come from a family of educators (my mother and brother are both art teachers, and my sister is a middle school teacher) and I’ve taught in one capacity or another throughout my adult life, from individual masterclasses in acting, directing, and general filmmaking at various schools, to college level courses at South Lake Tahoe Community College and Cal Poly Pomona. I even did a brief stint teaching middle and high school theatre at the International School of Brussels!

Working with students to identify their unique needs and to help them discover their artistic voices is both challenging and fulfilling. I find the process of distilling and clarifying concepts and skills down to teachable and consumable elements to be a beneficial exercise in and of itself in that it helps me to better understand these elements for use in my own creative work.

Additionally, USC, a top tier research university, provides such an excellent working environment for both students and faculty that I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to join my colleagues in Media Arts + Practice when given the chance in 2012.

What are some of the most exciting recent developments in digital storytelling?
One of the developments in the use of media that I’m most excited about are the myriad explorations of immersive and interactive storytelling that have recently emerged; from AR and VR to location specific performance that incorporates higher levels of digital media production into their storyworlds. It’s thrilling to witness the expansion and melding of tools within storytelling that have helped to create more robust emotional and entertaining experiences for audiences, taking them beyond the more traditional two dimensional use of media we’ve been focused on in the past.

Do you have any projects you are currently working on?
Like most faculty at the School of Cinematic Arts, I usually have multiple projects in various stages of development. Students will discover that shepherding as many ideas forward as possible in their careers is a necessary evil because one never knows which project might come to fruition first.

One of the projects I’m most excited about combines my experience in both film and theatre. It is an installation-based media experience that examines the life of Sandra Bland. My collaborator, Ronit Kirchman (a visual artist and composer), and I are creating a sanctuary-like space in which the audience is provided with the opportunity to better understand Sandra through her own words. This embedded, interactive visual and aural environment will provide an opportunity for the audience to develop awareness, curiosity, and agency; where we challenge their habitual responses so that newly informed ways of seeing can emerge. We feel strongly that one key to effective social change is an educated public who can differentiate the power structures and information flows that shape our collective intelligence. By providing a physical space in which to explore these ideas and feelings the audience will develop both clarity and empathy toward others.

What is something you hope students take from your class, into the career field they are choose?
On top of the tangible skills and theoretical and critical approaches to storytelling that I hope to imbue into all of my students, I want them to realize that the only way to be truly proud of the work they produce is to commit 100% of their time and passion toward each project they create. Even if they’ve been hired to produce something they aren’t completely excited by, or if the final product is less than what they had imagined, at the very least they’ll know that they gave it their all, and in doing so will have learned a great deal from the process. This in turn will allow them to make their next project even better than the last. To this day, I continue to learn through each and every project I’m involved with (whether it’s film, theatre, or a combination of the two!) and I always incorporate those lessons into improving my future work.

What advice would you give to students aspiring to be a media maker?
One thing I guarantee is that the digital media creation tools students are using to make their project today will not be the same tools they’ll be using in ten, five, or maybe even two years from now. With that in mind, I would say that the best thing to do as a student is to truly utilize the time at USC to gain a broad understanding of the current state of technologies that are in use in today’s media production. Learning the hardware, software, and coding skills that are emphasized throughout our curriculum will allow the students to best incorporate these elements into their current creative workflow, as well as provide them with the foundational literacies and confidence to approach, learn, and incorporate any future tech that emerges after they graduate.

Is there any media (film, television show, interactive experience) that you always recommend?
I always like to recommend the interactive documentaries hosted on the National Film Board of Canada’s website. The NFB has funded many different types of web-based media projects, all of which are quite compelling in different ways.

Otherwise I encourage everyone I know to attend any immersive theatrical experiences that are being staged in their city. It’s always exciting to step into a site-specific storyworld that is enhanced by interacting with the unfolding narrative in both time and space. In Los Angeles, The Industry is a modern opera company that innovates within that traditional art form by taking their operas away from the concert hall and bringing them into the community.