Indiana State University Newsroom

Practicing in China: Duo get experience in creating video

July 3, 2012

Jacob Church ran ahead of the 13 other Indiana State University students before turning to face them. He paused to set the tripod before flipping the camera's switch to on and pushing the button to record.

Nearby, Kurt Darling knelt to take pictures of the students and three professors advancing toward them and toward the tomb of Huang Taiji, founding emperor of the Qing Dynasty, who is buried in Shenyang, China.

Church and Darling's efforts went beyond mere sightseers in China. They filmed and photographed the students' and professors' trek across the rising global power to create a video feature on the trip for class credit.

"I was excited because I'd never been out of the country," said Church, a senior communication major from Terre Haute. "I knew it would be a great experience to be on my resume."

Darling, who just completed his freshman year, said the opportunity surprised him.

"ISU does a really good job of presenting opportunities to put into practice what we want to do in the real world," said the Brownsburg native.

That practice took the communication students on an 18-day journey across China from Shanghai to the Three Gorges Dam to Liaoning Province to Beijing. John Conant, economics professor, Mike Chambers, political science professor, and Stephen Aldrich, assistant professor of geography, guided the students through China while teaching a class on environmentally and culturally sustainable local economic development. The class examined the effects of the dam and of coastal redevelopment in Liaoning Province.

"From my perspective, it is important for film and journalism students to get practice doing what they are at ISU to learn to do," Conant said. "This complete immersion in the topic along with the other students will give them the knowledge of the topic necessary to create a film that will be effective in informing its audience of the main issues surrounding sustainable development, thus giving them real experiential learning in filmmaking."

Darlene Hantzis, acting communication department chair, said the department is working to increase the number of majors who travel abroad.

"We recognize the significant role communication plays globally and we want our students to experience and deepen their understanding of that role," she said. "It is pretty clear that communication - and not simply communication technologies - is key to global relations and development."

The department selected Darling and Church because they would represent the program well and would benefit from the experience, according to Hantzis.

"Everyone who travels internationally - particularly in a learning mode - benefits tremendously simply from the act of doing so. We believe that our program is enriched when all students see the kinds of things it is possible to do as an undergraduate majoring in communication," Hantzis said. "Mr. Church and Mr. Darling focus their studies in media production and their work shows what our students can learn to do as makers of media as well as the value of media to learning."

In accumulating hundreds of gigabytes in video to create a film of the trip, Darling and Church interviewed professors and students while on a boat cruising down the Yangtze River, climbed 1,700 stairs to see the world's largest sinkhole and walked part of the Great Wall of China.

"I remember being 12 years old and I told my parents that I wanted to come to China," Church said. "It's been a dream come true to be able to come and experience everything I have on this trip."

One of his memorable experiences came on the Great Wall.

"Not many people get to visit it and I got to shoot pictures and do interviews," he said.

Darling enjoyed shooting pictures at Beiling Park and at the tomb of Huang teiji in Shenyang.

"It was a really interesting place to shoot. It had the most unrefurbished architecture," he said. "It looked authentic. It gave me a variety to shoot the architecture or students on the wall (circling the tomb and courtyard)."

They duo also learned about China, its politics, history, economy and environmental issues by attending the classes with the other students, listening to the professors lecture as the tour bus rolled across China and forming friendships with the Chinese.

"It definitely changed a lot of my views," Darling said. "I thought the government told them what to do, but they give their people options. They basically have a capitalistic economy."

"I had the stereotypes of chopsticks, Oriental structures and art - what I'd seen in movies, which aren't very accurate," Church said. "It's been an eye opening experience culturally."

After spending two and a half weeks shooting every day, Church and Darling said they grew more confident in their work.

"With video or photo, the more you do the better you are at it," Church said.

"I can do a lot more than I thought I could do," Darling said, who has taken one video class. "Coming in I was focused on radio. It gives me options."

Photos: Church and Kurt Darling worked together to capture the ISU trip to China. ISU Photo/Tracy Ford Darling and Jacob Church capture photos and videos in the Lesser Three Gorges on the Daning River in China. ISU Photo

Writer/Contact: Jennifer Sicking, Indiana State University, associate director of media relations, at 812-237-7972 or