So I'll be up front about something here: I'm ridiculously proud of this video release. Setting aside the statements to the contrary that will no doubt populate this post, this episode represents exactly what I was hoping for when I originally pitched the idea to Columbia University last fall. It was a labor of both love and frustration and I hope that some of you enjoy a bit of background.
Now, at the risk of starting with one of the aforementioned self-deprecations, this episode featured my best friend Tim and therefore felt a little like cheating. In addition to spending the last five months bringing my cameras to parties, hang-outs and camping trips knowing that a video about him was in the works, I was also lucky to have an assortment of clips of him from random events over the past two years to which I happened to bring a camera. I had a hugeamount of good content and our friendship allowed me the level of comfort needed to demand that he make time for more filming and more recording and more of everything as the project progressed. I have shots of him at home, playing Frisbee, hiking, partying, cooking. Like I said, I had so much to work with I felt like I was cheating.
Throughout this video series, I've tried to walk a line between a documentary style and a reality style. Having studied neither style in a formal capacity, each episode evolved unpredictably through the writing, filming and editing stages. What is unique about these videos is that, at their core, they are a contradiction. The goal is not, in fact, to tell a story and they are neither documentaries nor reality shows. They are promotional videos and the goals of the series are to paint a picture of life in Beer Sheva and to answer the questions that pre-med students want answered about this med school experience. This concept is one I've struggled with over the past five months as I've tried to figure out what students want out of this experience? What constitutes the ideal? At a foundational level, I also have to know who is asking the question and what do they want out of life in a broader sense.
People choose to attend this school for an incredibly wide variety of reasons. Some have a cultural or religious connection to Israel and see their medical education at MSIH as a journey in which the historical land of Israel plays an integral role. Some have no connection to the dominant religious or political narratives of this land and have chosen this school with trepidation due to the implication that attending the school represents tacit support of one particular narrative. Still others make the choice to actively separate themselves from conversations of this nature because, hell, it's med school after all. Who has time for that bullshit?
What is ultimately comes down to, in my opinion, is guts. Anyone who decides to become a doctor has guts for days in my opinion but to go to a different country, learn a new language and study medicine in a new language surrounded by an unfamiliar culture? That takes guts. What I've tried to weave through these videos is the message that if you come to this school, your peers will be a cadre of students who do not make a habit of fucking around. And no, these people are hardly perfect and none of us, regardless of what country or stage of life we're in, are always at our best. Nevertheless I've seen these students, who can stack the academic, social and cultural pressures they face against any med student out there, step up and face these challenges with remarkable composure and grit. This is the contradiction. I have been hired to make a series of comfortable, gentle videos that make the students look approachable and make the school look good. The story I really hope people perceive under the layers of soft smiles and anecdotal musings about Israeli food, is that these students have brains, they have guts and they've got style for days.
So when I feed lines to the students who I am interviewing or I use some cheesy shot of an ethnically balanced group of students studying on a well-lit lawn, yes, I feel a little like a propagandist. But what I know after living through lectures, exams, cultural frustration, language learning and even armed conflict with these people, is that the students who make it through have guts...and they'll be damn good doctors.
Enjoy the video below. There's one more that is scheduled to be released at the end of the month and the playlist of the ones I've finished so far is available here: