Additional Student Letters
– Pier Marton’s Teaching of Media –
I wanted to say, Wash U really lost a big figure, and I hope you see how influential you’ve been to all of us, not only as a mentor in film but in life and human spirit. To those of us who had the ability to recognize it, I really believe you embody film in all its sensitivity and awareness, as a tool to consciousness and bravery. That’s why I think so many of us have awakened to really expressive lifestyles, it’s a spark you inspired partly in just being there with us, that we can and should express who we are. It’s an ineffable effect you had, and hard to explain which is why my online petition posting has felt incomplete, but thank you so much! You had a powerful effect on me, my classes with you were among few experiences at that school that really did. Perhaps another institution will recognize your power on students.
Cary Euwer (in a private letter)
Your class was the one useful course I took in my whole college career and the one class I still use in my daily life.
MK – filmmaker/composer
I have learned more from you than from all the other professors in the film department combined – and not just about film. The sorts of things you have taught me go beyond film and storytelling. While frequently frustrated by your assignments, I found them most rewarding. Your tendency for metaphor in teaching allowed you to touch upon the most ineffable sensitivities of life while merely discussing the difficulties of learning the Final Cut software. I am so grateful to have been your student.
One-of-a-kind teacher, a genuine mentor, someone who cares about each of his students’ projects. His office hours are often full, because he is approachable and sincerely willing to advise. His eye for the craft is rare, with the incredible ability to convey his experienced understanding to students.
Professor Marton has an incredible eye for images. He taught me the fundamentals of composition—how to use space and movement, light and dark, balance, and most of all, subtlety to translate my ideas into an image. His teaching style is interactive, almost a performance, with demonstrations that allowed me to understand film in a more real, less abstract way. I have not experienced this in any other class at WashU. When I was struggling with my short film, the films he recommended I watch were a huge source of inspiration. I have applied the lessons I learned from Professor Marton to every branch of digital media and design.
It is hard to look back and imagine my WashU education without Pier Marton. In my four years there, I was frequently asked to work, but almost never to think. Pier’s classes were the exception. He challenged me not just to work, but to THINK and FEEL in a deeply personal way.
When I trace my path from a directionless undergrad to the point I am now, working as a professional filmmaker that trajectory runs directly through the classroom of Pier Marton. In fact, I have continued work on a project I began my senior year in Pier’s Documentary Production class that will be entered into film festivals this year and will receive international distribution. I would never have been able to achieve any of this without Pier’s support, advice, and friendship.
After completing my undergraduate and legal degrees, and being removed from Wash U for nearly four years, I look back at Pier Marton’s class as an obvious highlight. I have taken a diverse course-load throughout my formal education, have experienced a wide range of teaching styles, and I unquestionably believe that the opportunity I had to learn from him is unlike any other learning experience I have ever had. I consider him an exceptional professor, not only because he is adept at teaching the fundamentals of filmmaking, but more importantly because he has the unique talent to encourage and inspire his students. He demonstrates a patience and devotion to his students and their work that I have never seen in another professor, and he undeniably inspired me to do my best work.
Professor Marton is truly a rare find in a film professor; far from finding his classes superfluous to the Film and Media Studies program, I think it is criminal that there aren’t more classes like them, more teachers like him.
Not only is he the sole film production oriented professor, Pier Marton values the art and beauty of images and successfully relates these ideas to his students through practical means. Pier has given me an invaluable learning opportunity within the Film and Media Studies major. Without his guidance I surely would have not have fallen in love with filmmaking.
Your class was one of the most valuable that I have taken at WashU. I know you have a lot you can and want to teach us.
I feel my time at Washington University as a double major, as well as my considerable experience in production classes, give me a unique perspective. Most teachers do not seem to care what their students take away from a class. Courses are defined by papers, tests, attendance, and grades. In Moving Images and Sound, however, the grade was an afterthought, a formality of the institution. Students were rewarded with something tangible that truly reflected work ethic better than any grade ever could, as well as a deep satisfaction with one’s own work. Moving Images and Sound, as well as the other production classes at Washington University, are a wonderful opportunity for students to express themselves (something that very few other classes allow) while also learning the practical skills behind modern visual media. A basic understanding of production is essential to critical studies classes; we must understand how these films are made in order to analyze them on a deeper level. I can’t imagine these classes taught by anyone but you. Not only is Pier Marton able to combine storytelling, camera work, and post production into a single class, but he pushes students to explore their artistic inclinations. This is a huge asset to the Film and Media Studies department.
The way that Pier Marton teaches his students to approach their work – focusing on the essential, keeping the viewer involved by immersing them in an experience – has truly changed the way that I look at film, and has (I believe) made my work much better. Just as importantly, though, he teaches a way to approach life, one which will certainly serve all your students well in the future. The advice to always engage an experience head first, to always be prepared and never give up, to produce the very best work possible has influenced me strongly, and I suspect will stay with me in the future.
Pier truly enriched my undergrad experience. Storytelling and video production taught in his courses melded amazingly with theoretical, historical, and cultural aspects of media taught in my core curriculum. Moreover, his refusal to accept anything short of excellence pushed me as a student, artist, and individual. His presence added extraordinary depth and character to my studies.
I graduated from WashU, class 2003, with a major in theatre and a minor in film. I always looked forward to class with Pier. It was one of the few classes that were small enough and hands on enough to get personal attention and coaching every step of the way. Pier was not a typical WashU Professor. He had a worldly view and unique multidisciplinary background (mime, experimental film) which empowered me to think beyond the curriculum. He encouraged students to define themselves as artists not just film makers, think critically and create with individuality. Pier had an open mind and an uncanny ability to tune into a student’s interests and give them the tools they need to succeed and grow.
Pier was a true mentor to me and my classmates. He was one of the three faculty members I asked to be my advisors as I worked on my thesis and I was so fortunate to have him on board. To this day I share my ongoing artwork with Pier. Many of his students in fact still keep in touch with him and he continues to inspire and connect us beyond our college experience.
I truly believe Pier Marton is an extremely valuable asset to WashU’s film program. Every year when I send my gift to the alumni fund, Pier is one of the main reasons I do so.
I hope he can continue to teach and inspire the next generations of WashU art and film leaders.
Lora Ivanova – Class of 2003
In my eyes you have been an invaluable resource at this school. You’ve essentially been a one-man department; the one semester I spent learning from you made me depressed at the thought of there being only one of you at the FMS students’ disposal. Even as the department is not focused on production, taking a class with you informs how people watch films in a unique and important way. It’s not just learning by doing, it’s something more, but I don’t really know how to articulate that right now.
I am an alumnus of Washington University in St. Louis, graduating in 2009 with a double major in Earth/Planetary Sciences and Film/Media Studies. I completed two courses with Pier Marton.
Without his honest criticisms, perseverance and dedication to personal growth, my undergraduate experience would have been seriously lacking, As a student with a learning disability and severe time management problems, his advice, along with his continued counsel and patience throughout the semesters, was priceless to me both as a filmmaker and as a student in general. During my year in his classes, Pier became aware that I was going through a very difficult time, dealing with family sickness and the end of a serious long-term relationship.
I am truly thankful to have had Pier Marton as part of my undergraduate experience, and it saddens me that this may not be the case for future students at Washington University. He is one of those few teachers who makes a lasting impression on his students. I am confident that any institution at which Pier teaches will not only be enhanced by his strong credentials but also by his encouraging manner and his dedication to student growth.
Pier is one of the very few professors with whom I have kept in close contact these 3 years after graduating from Wash U. It shows that he really cares about his students.
Not only is he devoted to his students, but he is also a devoted artist. He taught me a lot about the importance of a good work ethic, and attention to craft. From his advice and positive criticism, I learned the significance of sound in moving images. I am still building upon the things I’ve learned from him. Often times I reflect upon his accurate advice and helpful words and I will continue to do so throughout my artistic career.
YA in Japan
I am an artist living and working in New York. Pier is one of the main reason I can truly say that I enjoyed my four years at Wash U.
I often return to concepts I was exposed to by Pier when making my work. Pier believed that work made for his class was not just an assignment, but instead that it could have a greater impact on the world. His belief that the people in his classes would do things with their creativity beyond the walls of the classroom, and that the work in the classroom didn’t need to be limited by lowered expectations, had an impact on myself and many others.
After taking Pier’s classes I now see film not only as a way of telling a story, but actually as a material. As a sculptor, I had never really thought of film as a physical medium, like clay or steel. Through working with Pier I gained a new appreciation for the raw material nature of film. He introduced me to Man with a Movie Camera, Maya Deren, and Kieslowski. These artists used every aspect of the film material’s possibilities to create original works of art.
After working with Pier, I began using light as a medium in my work. I devised a way to do digital projection drawing, and use it to draw live drawings into dance performances. I was actually the first person to do this as far as I know in the world. I ended up working on digital drawing and dance collaborations for 3 years, both with David Marchant in the dance department, and professionally as a guest artist with Atrek Dance, in St. Louis.
Pier’s classes and the many conversations we had and still have till this day were some of the most influential and important for me as a young artist. Some of his comments including, starting with only your best material and working from there, and to look to find mystery in your work, have become key parts of my working process.
More than just in the classroom, Pier always made sure to meet on a one-on-one basis, in which times he would delve deeply in to my project, first trying to understand my vision and then providing more than just advice about what to do to make it better, but also recommending a wide variety of films to watch, books to read, and concepts that might broaden my overall vision.
Pier would always be blunt about the work. It was an exciting time for me, and I liked just about everything I made, but Pier would always try to find the parts that were really working and encourage me to work harder to bring them out.
I continue to this day to work on passing Pier’s class, which to me would mean making something that has a lasting impact on the world and has a life that lives on far beyond my own.
Prem Makeig http://premmakeig.com/
I studied with Pier in 1998 as a Junior pursuing a Painting and Printmaking major. Looking back now, twelve years later, studying with Pier clearly changed my life as an artist…
This is what makes Pier unique as a faculty member: his life-long experience in both the fine arts and the filmmaking world, and his first-hand knowledge of how they have changed over the decades. He has always embraced new technologies and guided his students to make use of them, while emphasizing the importance of becoming a critical and profound cultural producer. This is because he understands the fundamental principles what makes a great film, and a great piece of art. He has a genuine desire and ability to share this gift with his students.
Annie Shaw MFA, Columbia/BA, Washington University. Currently w. New School, Vera List Center, founding board member of Outpost for Contemporary Art
Pier Marton is a consummate and dedicated teacher. He was the first person who was able to explain the intricacies of filmmaking to me in a manner that was both practical and intellectual. His class was the first of many that I have taken and one of the best-remembered as well. We read everything from Bresson’s “Notes on the Cinematographer” to Guy Debord and created and critiqued short films.
As a teacher he inspires to create a culture of intelligent thought in filmmaking, and I still follow his guidance now.
Ambarish Manepalli WU & Columbia University Film Graduate, filmmaker, Paris, France
I am writing to express my gratitude to Pier Marton for his dedication to the international cuisine and film group I led at Washington University in St. Louis. I met Pier in his role of mentor to this club. This program, one of several housing blocs at Washington University, allows students with a common interest to live together and use university funding to plan events to further their knowledge and experience with a topic. As a well-respected film professor at Washington University, Pier’s role as advisor to our bloc was integral to our success throughout the year. As we planned film showings and other events, Pier was always available to suggest lesser known films that would be of great interest, as well as help to select movies that related well to other aspects of our exploration of international cultures.
In particular, Pier engineered an event in coordination with the director of the St. Louis Film Festival. He planned a showing of several trailers and clips led by the director of the festival. Afterwards, Pier had dinner with our group, leading to an impromptu discussion of many aspects of film of which we were unaware. His voluntary participation on occasions such as this completely changed the flavor of our experience with films. He was able to easily educate and help us to explore other cultures without making it into a lecture, an important quality as an advisor to an extracurricular group.
Pier’s extensive knowledge on the subject of film and its relationship to the study of other cultures was essential to our studies throughout the year. Most importantly, his enthusiasm and dedication to both the subject and his students is admirable.
Ariel Dobkin, Washington University in St. Louis Class of 2012
I just want to tell you that your introducing me to Antonio Porchia’s aphorisms was what made me so enthusiastic about aphorisms in general. In general I want to thank you so much for all your warmth and generosity when i was in school, and how many of the things you exposed me to are very present in my mind to this day (almost 7 years on! which i’m exclaiming because it doesn’t feel like it has been that long), and not in trivial ways, but in very important ways. I find myself wandering back to movies you recommended to me (i.e The Saragossa Manuscript), or clips you showed us in class (i.e Passage à l’acte) and the kind of discipline and willingness to push oneself that you demanded (and which i appreciate more and more with the passage of time, since one realizes that it’s when we stop pushing ourselves that we stop growing).
I still click on your website to look up quotes and inspirational texts/video titles (i.e the Kafka text continues to serve as a touching stone, and I have shared it with others over the years).
I seriously hope you will continue teaching and mentoring and influencing students for many years.
A warm and affectionate *virtual* hug from a student who remembers you dearly!
“Your piece has to be more… shhhhhSHHHHHHH-krish-kroosh-krish-KWOK-KRIWK-crinkle-crinkle-WOOOooooo… see?” – but maybe that’s too informal? hehe.
Demanding, inspiring and challenging each student to create something uniquely truthful and visceral. NO CLICHÉS, NO EXCUSES.
19 years old, Video Production. I’ve never used a video camera. Reading Beckett’s “Fizzles”, and Pier recommends Henri Michaux. He realizes I relate to words. Difficult to find at the time, but I own a large volume now. He shows us “The Powers of Ten”; I now own that. I’m 31. “La Jetée”, I also own and even used a clip in a video essay trying to illustrate Zeno’s paradox of infinite reduction – to the essential image. I still enjoy the lure of rhythm and jolt of interruption. Deliberate pace. Micro-movement within stasis. I think of such aesthetic philosophies when I write, most often only for myself. But I am okay with that.
Causality. One frame creates the next but why? An image becomes another but how? Perhaps I should attribute these ideas to Russian theory or German philosophy, but Pier introduced them in practice – how does a book get from one room to another? I still remember… but the baby is hungry for breakfast.
Professionally, I have strayed. Several years after graduation, I still wanted to make a living making video art. Other jobs have called, and I feel less sincere. Tapes of raw footage lurk on my left. Journals of video ideas, installations, sit in a linen box dedicated to youth, loft, concept. I think one day, but pragmatism spoils. Perhaps I should offer the box to Pier since he still makes art, but I know he has plenty of his own ideas.
Just so you know, one of my biggest regrets of college is dropping your class. I learned so much in one month, and I could have learned even more had I stuck it out. Hindsight is 20/20 of course.
For what it’s worth, I think you are a great professor. You opened my mind to a genre that both fascinates and inspires me.
MOST RECENT COMMENTS FROM “RATE MY PROFESSOR”
A truly fantastic professor. Long lectures can be hard to sit through, but if you care about production, what you take away from his class his invaluable. He is the one of the sweetest people I have ever met, and cares incredibly about his students. He pushes very hard but only to one’s benefit. The most I have ever learned in a class.
If you are incapable of accepting constructive criticism, don’t take this class. However, if you want to develop as a filmmaker and learn something about the art; I highly recommend Pier. He gives just enough guidance to get you going in the right direction, but he won’t do any hand holding. This was a great class.
If you are interested in creating something meaningful, Pier will help you find your voice and help develop your artistic awareness so that your piece is infused with meaning. Also, contrary to a few comments I see, Pier is very humble and open to working with your passion.
Taught one of the greatest classes in the entire film department, highly recommended!! I’m going to take as many classes with him as I can. He was very helpful, insightful, and downright friendly. He’s also friendly outside of class and always full of great information regarding film and more.
Prof. Marton should not be underappreciated. He is a wonderful resource for any student interested in film editing/production. If you are willing as a student to seek out help when you need it, Prof. Marton will be a good match for you. If you expect to be babied, and get an automatic A, maybe you should find a different class. Go Pier.
Pier is obviously very invested in his students and their work. If you have a strong interest in the topic and are willing to put forth a lot of effort, you can do fine. Pier is a nice guy, he just doesn’t seem to put up with students who try to just barely get by — Take the class if you have time to spare & an interest in the subject.
Pier’s classes are great if you want to be there. If you truly love your project then Pier will help you make it that much better. If you half ass it, you’ll get frustrated with how much he expects from you. Pier actually cares about his students and their projects. You’ll have to work hard, but it’s worth it.