Andrea McCarty, the new Charles W. Fries Curator of the Wesleyan Cinema Archives, joined Wesleyan’s Film Studies Department this summer, coming from Santa Monica where she was Director of Archives at HBO. Curating her first exhibit for the Wesleyan’s Rick Nicita [ ’67] gallery for the fall semester, McCarty received an unforgettable lesson in the workings of the “Wesleyan Film Mafia.”
“When I started in August,” she recalls, “we immediately needed to start thinking about a show for the gallery, to get it up in time for the start of the semester.”
Located in the Center for Film Studies, the Rick Nicita Gallery highlights current topics or productions related to the department. It hosts new exhibitions each spring and fall semesters.
This fall, an exhibit based on Beasts of the Southern Wild was the popular—and logical—choice. Prizewinner at both Sundance and Cannes, the indie film was directed by Benh Zeitlin ’04, produced by Dan Janvey ’06, and Michael Gottwold ’06, and featured a host of Wesleyan alumni in its credits—33, to be precise—from the director and producers to camera crew and animal trainer. Furthermore, the film was to be shown as part of the Wesleyan Film Series and Zeitlin, along with the producers, planned to speak on campus.
Given the short turn-around time, the task of mounting a Beasts exhibit seemed daunting, but McCarthy was armed with names and contact info for key Wesleyan Film Studies alumni.
The materials that line the walls of the gallery are testaments to the strength of this network.
Ray Tintori ’06, special effects unit director, sent his photographs.
“If you’ve seen the film, you know that those aurochs are huge, compared to the little girl, “ says McCarty, pointing to Tintori’s color photographs of the threatening beasts who roamed wild in the movie. “Here you can see that they worked through compositing and camera angles with little potbellied pigs and miniature models. It’s pretty amazing. Ray’s photos show how they created this whole world that you are seeing in the film.”
Additionally, Destin Douglas ’09, the second assistant camera, sent his black and white stills. “His pictures give us a sense of what it was like on the set, “ says McCarty. “You see the camaraderie, as well as the hard work they went through to build the set—and the heat and humidity they endured to make the film.”
McCarty notes that archivist Joan Miller was very helpful in mounting the exhibit, and a third alumnus also contributed a key component. “Matthew Greenfield ’90, a vice president Fox Searchlight, came through with all the promotional material for us,” says McCarty, delighted with the Beasts posters.
Additionally, she points out that this is the first time the gallery has used a video. A screen on the wall shows a continuous loop that includes a three-minute feature on Beasts of the Southern Wild, produced by Alice Lee ’14, a behind-the-scenes featurette from Fox, and an Oprah Winfrey Super Soul Sunday show with Zeitlin and the two stars of the film as her guests.
The popularity of the subject, as well as the lure of the screen seems to be drawing visitors through the glass doors to McCarty’s first exhibit at Wesleyan.
McCarty surveys the result. “The task that seemed daunting, to turn it around in a month, actually worked beautifully. I’d heard, ‘Oh, just call these alums and they’ll come through for you,’ and they totally did. It was a really fun project. I was so excited.”