Sempai Profile: Becca Shapass

Zoe Lockard
Published in
3 min readDec 13, 2017


Becca Shapass captured by Michael Taylor

Becca stands at about 5'1" with dark bangs, a long 90s summer dress and combat boots. She is, to this writer, New York City impersonated; takes no BS, works humbly hard, and is as incredibly generous as she is talented.

Having just graduated from NYU film school, Becca Shapass melted seamlessly into the Gakko summer of 2018 as a sempai and documentor for the Romania and Bali camps. She captured Gakko Magic in her films.

Gakko Camp Moments: Romania 2018 by Becca Shapass
Gakko Camp Moments: Bali 2018 by Becca Shapass

In addition to her skillful film-making, Becca led an Open Studio workshop at camp in Romania and Bali, every night. She invited curious kohai to come play, understand, and test the boundaries of film. In this collaborative process, kohai were able to learn, make films, and ultimately, see each other through a different lens — pun intended.

DV still from a Kohai made film

Here is Becca’s take on Open Studio

Late in the evening, when the camp day is done, when kohai and sempai bellies are full from dinner and their minds are brimming with ideas from the very long, inspiring, difficult, beautiful day, a few creatives convene upstairs in the wooden haven of Blanquita [Romania] or bamboo body of Minag [Bali]. My fellow ‘docu-mentor’ and I set up a photo studio that is not far from the ones I mastered as a teenager — a large sheet of white fabric as a drop and an exceptionally old, bright light. Scrappy magic.

DV still from a Kohai made film

We lay our gear out on the table — digital and analog cameras, lenses, rigs, flashes, DV tapes, and a lone strip of 16mm film pulled from the bottom of my suitcase: home.

The first kohai begin to file in. Some are the same familiar faces, those devoted to attending Open Studio every other night whether it be to take photos with Michael, illustrate with Sam, or edit videos with me. Sometimes others stop in — sempai and kohai alike. They easily slip into our studio sessions, which explored anything from technical lessons on exposure, composition, and lighting, to discussions on art and feminism — demonstrations and conversations that gleefully led us into the late night.

DV still from a Kohai made film

There were times when no art was made. Nights when talking about ideas and creating morphed into a comfortable place to get to know one another. Those nights were where Open Studio really became open: the nights that we shared.

Whispering secrets to one another floors, six humans lay in a puddle of feelings. Across the room, a group laughs as they photograph one another, moving flashlights frantically in front of the camera’s lens to create dreamy long exposures. In this space, we’re all creating in a different way — art, bonds, community, safety, ideas. And in this instant, surrounded by vulnerable humans loving one another, I look forward to an Open Studio every day.

Becca with Kohai in Bali captured by Michael Taylor

Check out Becca’s website here: