40 Years of Experience in Making Magic Moments Happen

I first met Peter D. Marshall, albeit briefly, while he was in Los Angeles to film the pilot Directors & Actors course for MediaU, which is being offered through the University of California, Irvine. Marshall, who is originally from Vancouver but currently lives and teaches in Shanghai, had just one difficulty adjusting to his stay in the States: hardly anybody here was using WeChat.

Peter D. Marshall

Peter D. Marshall

How appropriate that an educator who values ease of a centralized communication platform (no, this is not an ad for WeChat — I don’t use the app myself, but I’ve heard good things!) should be teaching the pilot course for MediaU, a film education program built on a cornerstone of online communication and collaboration. With his impressive history as both a filmmaker and an educator (he literally wrote the textbook), Marshall is the kind of instructor a savvy film student seeks out.

Marshall has been working in film for over 40 years as a director for film, television, and documentary, as a consultant, and as the all-important First A.D. (first assistant director — if you’ve spent much time on a film set, you can vouch for what a critical job this is). After two decades in the industry, he began holding small directing workshops in Vancouver. These workshops grew into multi-day seminars, which he then took all around the globe, from New Zealand to Dubai. In 2006, Peter joined the faculty at the Vancouver Film School, eventually heading to China to teach full time at the Shanghai Vancouver Film School, a partnership with Shanghai University.

“My understanding of the filmmaking process has improved immensely because of my teaching experience,” Marshall says. And the opportunity to take his courses to students all over the world, Marshall adds, “has shown me that filmmaking is universal language.”

Peter on set with Goldie Hawn.

Marshall brought his decades of teaching insight, along with previous online course experience, to bear for the first-ever MediaU course, Directors & Actors: Casting. Even so, he says, “the preparation and teaching for this course was a real learning experience for me.” While he’s taught and written about directing, casting, and working with actors for many years, the MediaU experience, “opened my eyes as to how much work is involved when it comes to creating a unique online course where students are creatively inspired to actually ‘learn by doing’ instead of ‘trying to learn by listening.’”

In a long and varied career, Marshall has worked closely with countless students, all striving to bring stories to life through film. Reflecting on those relationships with learners of all ages, from all over planet earth, I asked him if he could possibly begin to describe an “ideal student.”

“What’s an ideal student? To me, it’s someone who has a driving passion to tell their unique stories to the world; it’s someone who has just enough filmmaking experience to know that they don’t know everything (and never will). It’s someone who wants to spend their career in a creative environment with amazingly talented people.” He adds, closing with a healthy dose of realism, “…and work ridiculously long hours!”

Marissa Flaxbart

Author Marissa Flaxbart

Marissa Flaxbart is a writer, creative, and development consultant for film and television who lives and works in Los Angeles.

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