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Pauline Pelsy-Johann

Sorbonne, Paris IV

Pauline Pelsy-Johann

Pauline Pelsy-Johann is a self-proclaimed warrior. She knows what she wants and she is not afraid to grab it.

Therefore, when the opportunity arose for her to further her education through Smith's American Studies Diploma Program and still be able to focus on her passion for studying and making films, Pauline took full advantage. In the yearlong program, Pauline is strengthening her knowledge of American culture, refining her English, making films, and writing a thesis.

For Pauline filmmaking is "not a choice," she says, but a "way of life." Growing up with actor parents, she traveled from theater to theater across Europe, learning to view the world with an eye for drama and style. At age 8, she became acquainted with the camera.

"At 8, I have a video camera in my hands, and at this moment, I think, 'this is my life,'" she recalls. From then on, she focused on filmmaking, dedicated much of her time in high school and college to the subject and directing, producing, and writing a number of films.

It's difficult for Pauline to name her favorite project. "Each movie is a new adventure, a new life," she says. But after a pause, she decides upon her film project, Sous L'oeil d'Iris, a short comedy she created for the CNOUS-CROUS, a French government-sponsored media festival in which she took home first prize. Pauline is partial to the film because its purpose was to show her talent as a director, especially as a woman working in a field that is typically dominated by men.

For her thesis at Smith, Pauline is studying the novel Wise Blood, by Flannery O'Connor, and its cinematographic adaptation by director John Huston, relating them to the building of the American identity through mysticism. The project expands not only on her film career but also upon her master's degree in comparative literature completed at the Sorbonne, Paris IV.

Pauline is working on two other possible film projects as well. One is a documentary about the history of Dawes, the French house on campus and Pauline's current home away from home.

Pauline loves her house at Smith, especially because she and her housemates sometimes cook French dishes, a treat that she desperately misses from home. She is not a huge fan of American food.

She has noticed other cultural differences, as well, such as the fast pace of American life. "Every minute is planned here," she says, recollecting the spontaneity of going out to visit friends at bistros or bars in Paris each evening around 7 p.m. Luckily for Pauline, Dawes house allows her to go out and experience American culture yet still be able to return to a place that resembles her home.

From her success in school to overcoming the obstacles within the male-dominated film profession, Pauline Pelsy-Johann has proven herself to be a determined and strong individual. She expands out of her comfort zone even further as she encounters an entirely new culture here in the United States and pursues her goals with as much focus as ever.

Pauline already knows what she wants to do next. In 2007, she worked as a film studies teacher for high school-aged students and fell in love with the idea of teaching as a career. She plans to earn her doctorate from an American university, teach film studies at the college level, and of course, have the freedom to direct her own films—as she says, her "ideal way of life.

By Kaitlin Burns '15, Global STRIDE Fellow