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Alumni news.

Bronstein ’89, Selkow ’96 join Reza Aslan for CNN Documentary Series ‘Believer’

“We have to give a shout-out to Jeanine Basinger, who changed all of our lives with her incredible mind and teaching,” Bronstein adds. “Exactly—teaching the principles of story, the foundation of drama and cinema, which we were rigorous in trying to apply to the series.”—Selkow Adds Basinger, the Corwin-Fuller Professor of Film Studies:  “I am really looking forward to seeing this show.  I’m very excited that two of my very best film students, Ben and Liz, are working together on this.  It’s a good example of the collaboration that all students who study film at Wesleyan learn.

Two film alumni, Liz Bronstein ’89 and Ben Selkow ’98 collaborated on the new CNN series, Believer. “We have to give a shout-out to Jeanine Basinger, who changed all of our lives with her incredible mind and teaching,” Bronstein notes.
Selkow concurs, adding “She taught us the principles of story, the foundation of drama and cinema, which we were rigorous in trying to apply to the series.”
For her part, Basinger, the Corwin-Fuller Professor of Film Studies says she’s looking forward to the show. “I’m very excited that two of my very best film students, Ben and Liz, are working together on this. It’s a good example of the collaboration that all students who study film at Wesleyan learn.”

A new CNN original series, Believer with Reza Aslan, premieres Sunday, March 5, at 10 p.m. ET. Billed as a “spiritual adventure series,” in which Aslan, acclaimed author and religious scholar, will “immerse himself in the world’s most fascinating faith-based groups to experience life as a true believer.” The show employs the talents of two alumni who majored in film at Wesleyan: executive producer and show runner Liz Bronstein ’89 and director Ben Selkow ’96. Additionally, Professor of Religion Liza McAlister provided both academic scholarship and on-the-ground connections when the crew traveled to Haiti for the segment on Vodou, which will air as third in the series.

Bronstein joined the project soon after a close friend sold Believer to CNN. “He told me, ‘This is the show you were born to run—and he was right.” Growing up with a “spiritually curious mother” who’d often invite different gurus to their home—and with a sister who’d left to join what the family viewed as a cult—Bronstein welcomed this opportunity “to tell the stories that I’d always wanted to tell.”

She began searching for a nonfiction television director who was also a filmmaker. Selkow fit the bill, and, like Bronstein, came with a unique backstory: he had spent most of his youth living with his mother on a religious commune. Both envisioned the show as an immersive experience. The team formed a tight bond, which became crucial in what Selkow calls “dicey situations.”

In one of these (see the trailer), Aslan is seated on the sand next to a cannibalistic tribe member, whose gestures and mood turn threatening. Aslan calls Selkow over from off-camera for assistance.

“The adage in filmmaking is that when you stop rolling, that’s when the action gets good—so we kept rolling,” Selkow recalls. “And It’s amazing to watch the scene unfold, with Reza slowly realizing that he’s in a perhaps dangerous situation and figuring out how to handle it.”

The new CNN series, Believer with Reza Aslan takes viewers on an immersive tour with the noted scholar, with Liz Bronstein ’89 as executive producer and Ben Selkow ’96 as director.

The new CNN series, Believer with Reza Aslan takes viewers on an immersive tour with the noted scholar, with Liz Bronstein ’89 as executive producer and Ben Selkow ’96 as director. (Photo © Ben Selkow)

One of the biggest challenges in filming the show was gaining access to religious communities that were often closed off and wary of outsiders. Bronstein found that working with academic scholars who had done extensive field research often opened a lot of doors in local communities.

For the episode exploring Vodou in Haiti, she researched foremost scholars: “Everybody we talked to said, ‘Liza McAlister is the one.’”

In the episode, McAlister provides Aslan with both the historical and cultural perspective on Vodou. “But more than that, she acted as an incredible ambassador and helped us get access to people we wouldn’t have known,” said Bronstein.

“You could see her years of work in the community,” said Selkow. “She was deeply trusted—and Reza would mine her for as much info as he could off-camera.”

More than gaining access, integrating cultural knowledge, and immersing themselves in the experience, the filmmakers had a further challenge:

“How are we going to tell stories about religion in a way that’s visually and emotionally exciting?” asks Bronstein. “In hour-long episodes, how will Reza participate? Scenes of people praying and mediating don’t make for the best TV. So figuring out what Reza would be doing was paramount.”

The team worked with a thesis statement for each episode, often finding the dramatic structure through a conflict. “Most episodes look at a religion that’s under siege or at least highly misunderstood for a variety of reasons,” Selkow says.

Bronstein gives an example: “For Scientology, we asked, ‘Is this what a religious reformation looks like?’ We focus on people who have left the Church of Scientology but still believe that L. Ron Hubbard is their prophet. We compare it to the Protestant reformation. The true believers featured in the series feel like, ‘The church may be corrupt, but we’re taking back the religion and doing it our way.'”

Despite preparation, the team found surprises: “With our Wesleyan film background, Liz and I know that you go into each documentary super prepared—and the outline goes out the window the first day your feet hit the ground. We’d watch Reza starting every time with ‘All right; this is what I can expect to happen,’ and then there would be a great revelation and we’d watch him go through that—and it was extraordinary.”

While the show was filmed a year ago, the two agree that the series is even more relevant today. “It demonstrates compassion for others, domestically and globally,” says Selkow.

Bronstein concurs. “During the filming of each segment we had different people on the set look at the camera and finish this sentence: ‘I believe…’. I thought it might be a cool way to end each episode. It was just an experiment we thought we’d try and it ended up working pretty well. Now CNN is doing a campaign where users can send in their own ‘I believe’ videos. In these crazy times there’s so much need for tolerance and respect for others who don’t share your beliefs.”

The production crew of Believer joined Reza Aslan in Mexico for ceremonies celebrating Santa Muerte. (Photo © Ben Selkow)

The production crew of Believer joined Reza Aslan in Mexico for ceremonies honoring Santa Muerte. (Photo © Ben Selkow)

Medina ’00, MD, MPH, Explores Structural Racism in Health Care

Eduardo Medina ’00, M.D. (photo credit: Emily Rumsey Photography )

Eduardo Medina ’00, MD, MPH, is one of the authors of “Structural Racism and Supporting Black Lives,” published in the New England Journal of Medicine. (Photo by Emily Rumsey Photography)

When the news broke of Philando Castile’s tragic death at the hands of a St. Paul police officer last summer, Eduardo Medina ’00, MD, MPH, like many Americans, felt called to action. As a native of New York City and a Minneapolis resident for the past 10 years, he was familiar with a number of high profile cases of police misconduct and says that he felt compelled to address the structural racism that was the underlying cause of this tragedy.

Working with colleagues Dr. Rachel Hardeman and Dr. Katy Kozhimannil, both professors in the Division of Health Policy and Management at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health, they set out to address the link between premature deaths, both in the criminal justice system and in the healthcare system in America.

Their efforts culminated in “Structural Racism and Supporting Black Lives — The Role of Health Professionals” published last December in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine. In it, the authors assert that structural racism not only plagues American policing practices, but has also corrupted the ways in which American doctors care for their patients.

Different from interpersonal racism, structural racism is, they write, “a confluence of institutions, culture, history, ideology, and codified practices that generate and perpetuate inequity among racial and ethnic groups,” so while few physicians express overt racism, they still work within a racist system. Medina cites evidence that, African American’s receive fewer referrals for cardiac catheterization and children of color often receive less adequate pain management in emergency rooms. This is, the authors believe, something that the field needs to more thoroughly acknowledge. Yet as they astutely note in their article, the term “racism” scarcely appears in medical literature.

Their research featured a shocking statistic about race and medicine in America. Citing a study published earlier in 2016, that found “50% of white medical students and residents hold false beliefs about biologic differences between black and white people,” such as: the blood of black people coagulates more quickly; the skin of black people is thicker than that of white people.

“Sadly, these misconceptions do not entirely surprise me,”Medina says, “considering America’s history of perpetuating the myth of differences based on racial classification, segregated care and medical experimentation on communities of color.”

To tackle these inequities, medical professionals “will have to recognize racism, not just race,” they write. Instead of simply attributing health disparities solely to biological differences, professionals ought to also examine other, broader, more structural factors that influence the health of their patients. A solution, the authors propose, is to integrate anti-racism programs along with traditional healthcare when dealing with illnesses such as diabetes, whose complications disproportionately effect black Americans.

Medina’s integration of social justice and medicine, he notes, actually echoes a history of political activism amongst Latin American physicians, like Che Guevara and Salvador Allende, something he studied as a Latin American Studies major, even while on the pre-med track at Wesleyan.

“Wesleyan offered a lot of opportunities that I was able to build on as I went forward with my career,” he says. Outside of class, he found a “rich intellectual, cultural and spiritual community” particularly among students of color. Medina even had the opportunity to fulfill his work-study at a local health care clinic.

Today, Medina still keeps up with several Wesleyan friends, including Lauren Gilchrist ’99, Senior Policy Advisor to the Governor of  Minnesota. Meanwhile, he and his spouse, Dr. Hardeman, intend to keep fighting for justice and equity for marginalized patients. “As medical professionals of color if we’re not doing this work,” he asks, “then who else is?”

Lawrence-Riddell ’98 Brings Hip-Hop To Classrooms As Mr. El-Are

Michael Lawrence-Riddell ’98, a middle school language arts teacher, composes hip-hop songs to teach literature and history. (photo: Lauren Lawrence-Riddell)

Michael Lawrence-Riddell ’98, a middle school language arts teacher, composes hip-hop songs to teach literature and history. (Photo by Lauren Lawrence-Riddell)

It turns out that Lin-Manuel Miranda ’02 is not the only Wesleyan alumnus presenting history through the sounds of hip-hop. Just upstream from Wesleyan, in Amherst, Mass., Michael Lawrence-Riddell ’98 has worked to bring hip-hop music from the stage into the classroom with the help of several other Wesleyan alumni.

So far, this middle school language arts teacher has written and recorded more than a dozen original songs, each intended to engage students while offering context and analysis of literature and history. Some historical topics mentioned in his work include the Harlem Renaissance, Hurricane Katrina and the Stono Rebellion. His songs also tackle American literary classics like The Great Gatsby, Catcher in the Rye and To Kill a Mockingbird. One song “Descendants of Cain,” about John Steinbeck’s famous novella Of Mice and Men, focuses on the many allusions found throughout the work, as well as its central theme of solitude. For many of these 15 songs, Lawrence-Riddell also offers unique lesson plans intended for use by other teachers.

Lawrence-Riddell has received plenty of support for his project, called Mind Your Music, including the skills of Wesleyan friends Kimani Rogers ’97, Tarik Holder ’98 and Keith Witty ’99, as well as financial backing from a Kickstarter campaign.

Cover copyAs an African American Studies major at Wesleyan, Lawrence-Riddell always sought ways to communicate the complex history of race and racism in America. Music would become a conduit for this mission. In the unapologetically political and pro-Black stances of many of his favorite hip-hop groups he found a call to action and inspiration to create socially conscious art.

Attending Wesleyan during a ‘golden age’ of independent hip-hop, he remembers returning from class with his friends to their Nicholson and Hewitt dorm rooms on Tuesday afternoons to discuss and listen to the latest albums. Together, Rogers, Holder and Lawrence-Riddell also worked for the student hip-hop publication Off Tha Top. When Rogers and Holder formed the hip-hop group The Masterminds, Lawrence-Riddell served as their manager, touring the country with hip-hop legends like A Tribe Called Quest, Mos Def, MF Doom and others.

“The experiences and memories that we built were incredible…those guys were, and are to this day, my brothers,” he says.

For those who’d like a sample of the hip-hop art of Mister El-Are, Lawrence-Riddell notes that YouTube offers a video for the song “Firebrands (Stand Up!) about the Stono Rebellion, Nat Turner and his insurrection, Denmark Vesey’s plotted rebellion, and John Brown and the raid on Harper’s Ferry. Lawrence-Riddell, Holder, Rogers and Akrobatik provide bombastic lyrical delivery and hard hitting beats that align with the radically progressive message of the subject matter.

Alumni Speak to Students about Careers in Management Consulting

Two Wesleyan alumni and two students who have experience working for global management consulting firms Deloitte Consulting and McKinsey & Company visited Wesleyan’s Gordon Career Center on Feb. 17 to speak with undergraduates about “Management Consulting 101.”

The alumni, Michele Drossner ’14 (Deloitte) and Winston Soh ’14 (Deloitte), and students Cindy Horng ’17 (Deloitte) and Asad Hassanali ’17 (McKinsey) advised the students to prepare themselves for internships and full-time recruiting. The event concluded with a Q&A session.

Drossner majored in economics and psychology and works with clients in the life sciences, business model transformation and strategy. Soh majored in the College of Social Studies and economics and works with clients in consumer products and media, strategy and supply chain logistics. Hassanali is majoring in the College of Social Studies and economics and works with clients in chemicals and energy. And Horng is majoring in economics and French and has client experience in finance. She interned at Deloitte last summer and is returning full-time after graduation.

(Photos by Rebecca Goldfarb Terry ’19)

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Fowler, Gollust ’01 Author Paper on News Coverage of Obamacare

Erika Franklin Fowler is co-director of the Wesleyan Media Project.

Erika Franklin Fowler is co-director of the Wesleyan Media Project.

Associate Professor of Government Erika Franklin Fowler and Sarah Gollust ’01, associate professor at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health, are authors of a new paper published Feb. 16 in the American Journal of Public Health examining local TV news coverage of the Affordable Care Act rollout in 2013 and 2014. Though television news played a key role in providing information about the ACA when Americans were first learning about the details of new insurance options open to them, this is the first analysis of public health-relevant content of this coverage during the ACA’s first open enrollment period.

In an analysis of 1,569 local TV news stories aired between October 1, 2013 and April 19, 2014, the authors found that less than half of the coverage focused on the health insurance products available through the law. They note that key policy aspects of the ACA were surprisingly uncommon even among these stories, with Medicaid mentioned in only 7 percent of them and the availability of subsidies mentioned in only 8 percent. More than a quarter of the stories in the sample focused solely on the politics of the ACA, not mentioning any information about health insurance products.

Fowler and Gollust note that journalistic coverage of the law tended to focus on which side was “winning” and “losing,” with attention to enrollment expectations and achievement, as well as problems with the websites, over policy substance. It also relied heavily on partisan sources, while few news stories included any public health, medical, research, or health advocacy perspectives. They argue that this framing of the law by the local TV media limited citizens’ exposure to the substance of ACA policy content, increasing the likelihood of the public perceiving the law through a politically charged lens.

“Coverage of strategy in news is nothing new, but I was surprised by how little coverage some basic information–such as mentions of subsidies being available–got in local television news,” said Fowler.

The research was supported by a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s SHARE program, which is managed by SHADAC (State Health Access Data Assistance Center). The project began in October 2013, and a group of about 25 students with the Wesleyan Media Project worked on coding local TV news stories from March to July 2015. Two students, Alison Mann ’17 and Courtney Laermer ’17, are acknowledged in the paper for their work developing coding protocols and training other students.

“This is certainly an exciting time to be doing research on the ACA and how the media has impacted it over the years,” said Learner. She is currently working on a senior thesis that is also looking at how local broadcast media (advertisements and news coverage) surrounding the ACA during the first open enrollment period influenced viewers’ opinions of the law.

“In my thesis, I am analyzing whether or not specific content within the media has an impact on viewers’ perceptions, so I am definitely looking forward to investigating this topic further and seeing whether or not the results are consistent and where differences are seen,” she said.

Alumni Couples Share Wesleyan Romance Stories on Valentine’s Day

Did you fall in love at Wesleyan? Dozens of Wesleyan alumni found their significant other at Wesleyan and some shared their romance stories with us on Valentine’s Day!

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Martha Haakmat ‘87 and Stephen Warner ’87.

Martha Haakmat ‘87 and Stephen Warner ’87
This year, Martha and Stephen celebrate 25 years of marriage, and it all started at Wesleyan.

During her junior year, Martha, an African American studies major, joined fellow students to volunteer running a hotline for pregnant women. “We were trained one afternoon, gathered together in a conference room to go over our scripts. We were all women in that room, except for one, slightly awkward, stereotypical white guy. In the 80s, this meant bearded, scruffy and wearing a knit Mexican poncho-sweater,” Martha recalls. “I think I was the only woman of color. I barely glanced at this guy, but did wonder what kind of male would volunteer for this kind of work.”

Despite catching her eye during their training session, they hadn’t seen each other again until they ran into each other at the airport, boarding a flight to Italy for a semester abroad. They had applied for the same program, but didn’t even remember each other’s names.

“We very quickly became friendly and hung out at cafes in the evening with the same group of Italians who regularly visited our dorm. We had both left significant others back at Wes, but slipped fairly effortlessly into an easy romance. I think we both fell in with the belief that this would only be a thing until we got back to the States,” Martha says.

Thirty-two years later, the couple resides in Brooklyn, N.Y. with three daughters, two in college and one in high school. As their middle daughter finishes her first year at Wes, they could not be happier for her and for themselves, as they are reliving Wes through her stories and loving every minute of it.

“Thanks, Wes, for helping us both to find ourselves as individuals through fabulous classes and rich extra-curriculars, and for putting us in the same sphere to find each other,” Martha says.

Hilleory Neely-Pippenger ‘92 and Phillip Pippenger ’91

Hilleory Neely-Pippenger ‘92 and Phillip Pippenger ’91.

Hilleory Neely-Pippenger ‘92 and Phillip Pippenger ’91
Hilleory Neely-Pippenger ‘92 and Phillip Pippenger ’91 of Evanston, Ill. met on campus on Aug. 31, 1989. A mutual friend, Cherie Spencer ’92, introduced them on the steps of Olin Library. Phillip made an immediate impression on Hilleory because he didn’t fit into any ‘type’ that she had met before.

“You could tell from his ’12-pack’ that he worked out a lot but he wasn’t a jock. He was wearing what could only be described as homemade clothing,” Hilleory recalls. “He had on a pair of cut off sweat pants and a muscle t-shirt that had been cut up so much that it was basically strings. He also was a physics/math major and wore glasses so thick that they resembled magnifying glasses. I thought he looked like Buddy Holly on steroids!”

Nevertheless, American studies major Hilleory found mathematics major Phillip to be “super cute” and on Oct. 13, they went on their first official date to McAndrews restaurant in Middletown.

“I remember that there was a beautiful clear moon that seemed to sit on the horizon as we walked downhill toward town. We joked about how we were off to an ominous start because it was Friday the 13th,” Hilleory says.

The couple celebrated their first Valentine’s Day in 1990 at “a fancy restaurant on the river” called Harbor Park. Hilleory searched every store in the vicinity for a red dress but settled for pink.

Manaster ’01 Exposes the Messiness of Life in New Book

the-done-thing-book-jacketIn The Done Thing (Tyrus Books, 2016), author Tracy Manaster ’01 introduces us to Lida Stearl, a newly retired widow growing more obsessed each day with her ex-brother-in-law Clarence, on death row for the murder of her sister almost 20 years earlier. We watch as Lida strikes up a correspondence with Clarence while posing as a naïve twenty-something in need of a friend. We witness the rawness of Lida’s pain when she realizes that her niece Pamela, whom she raised as her own, has been in contact with the man she has despised for all these years. And we stand by helplessly as we observe Lida’s obsession, once kept in check by her marriage and her career, spiral out of control—setting in motion a chain of events that threatens to destroy the one thing that matters most: her relationship with Pamela. Library Journal, in a starred review, says, “Manaster has written a deeply human and morally saturated novel, with captivating language. Don’t miss this sympathetic examination of how a tragic incident can irrevocably change a life’s course.” While Publishers Weekly says, “In this engrossing story about the effects that vengeance can have on love, Manaster refuses to take the happy, easy way out, instead leaving her strikingly relatable characters with just enough room to breathe.”

In this Q&A, Manaster talks about the characters she brings to life in The Done Thing.

Q: Where did the idea for The Done Thing come from?

A: The Done Thing had its inception in the worst short story written in the 80-year history of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop.  In an attempt to settle a pretentious bar argument about whether or not a piece could have both a twist ending and emotional heft, I had a proto-Lida—I think her name was Joan—puttering about her house in a state of focused fury, knowing that miles away in Arizona a proto-Clarence was being executed for the death of her sister. The twist was that because Arizona does not observe Daylight Saving Time, she misses the actual moment of his passing.

It was a terrible story. I lost the argument. The twist robbed the narrative of emotional resonance. But the premise was a good one, meaty enough to carry a book, and I began to hone in on Lida: her voice, the world she navigates, the impossible resolution she craves. It took nearly a decade—and everything I learned from writing, editing, and publishing my debut, You Could Be Home by Now—for me to become an adept enough writer to be equal to that voice.

Q: Was it always your intention to create a character like Lida, with whom we empathize, even when she’s at her worst? Was it a creative struggle to keep that balance in mind—the fine line between righteous anger and going too far—as you moved through the story?

A: After the initial “hey, wow, this could be an actual book” inspiration, Lida’s essential character gave me very little trouble.

Butler ’90 on JFK’s Legacy

With the approach of the centennial of John F. Kennedy’s birth, it’s fair to ask: Will his legacy endure?
By Tom Kertscher

Emily Jennett Butler '90, a grant writer at the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation in Boston, believes the JFK legacy is enduring and relevan today.

Emily Jennett Butler ’90, a grant writer at the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation in Boston, believes the JFK legacy is relevant today.

Last July [2016], President Barack Obama signed a law creating the John F. Kennedy Centennial Commission, which will develop and carry out activities to mark the 100th anniversary of Kennedy’s birth on May 29, 2017.

Kennedy, polls have shown, continues to be among the most highly regarded presidents. But only about a third of Americans were alive when he was assassinated in 1963.

So, it’s fair to ask: Will Kennedy will remain relevant?

Emily Jennett Butler ’90, a grant writer at the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation in Boston, says “yes” and offers data to prove her point.

While not everyone, of course, recalls the Kennedy years as an idyllic time, his appeal endures:
● In 2015, the library released an iPad app for kids—“The JFK Challenge”—that was featured as a best new app in the Apple Store. It has been downloaded more than 100,000 times.

● Of the library’s 80,000 Twitter followers, more than 40 percent are age 34 and under; and of its 80,000 Facebook fans, 35 percent are in that age group. On Facebook, the 25-34 age group is the most engaged with the library on Facebook.

● The library recently launched the New Frontier Network, a group for young professionals in the Boston area. Its membership of 350 has doubled in the past year.

“I think most of the people who join the network are looking for ways to give back, and certainly JFK’s call to ‘ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country’ still resonates today,” Butler said. “Part of the New Frontier Network’s focus is service projects in the community. So by joining this group, many members are fulfilling a very strong desire to stay engaged and to make a positive contribution to society, locally and globally. A lot of the people currently in the network are involved in politics and believe strongly, as JFK did, that government can be a force for good.”

“I do think it’s probably good for the national psyche to remember a great leader who brought people together.”

Tom Kertscher is a PolitiFact Wisconsin reporter for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and the author of two sports books.

Wesleyan Editors Call for New Books by Alumni, Faculty, Students, Staff

WES_0411Wesleyan is known for its top-notch writing programs and for the accomplishments of its community of award-winning alumni, faculty, students and staff book authors, editors and translators.

Members of the Wesleyan community—alumni, faculty, students and staff—are invited to submit their latest books, as well as information about forthcoming and recently signed titles, and other literary news, to Laurie Kenney, books editor for Wesleyan magazine. Books and information received will be considered for possible coverage in Wesleyan magazine, on the News @ Wes blog and through Wesleyan’s social media channels, as well as through possible in-store display and event opportunities at Wesleyan’s new bookstore—Wesleyan RJ Julia Bookstore—which will open on Main Street in Middletown later this spring.

Fill out our simple Author Questionnaire to submit your book information now.

While the editors can’t guarantee coverage for any book, due to the sheer number published each year, they hope that gathering and sharing information about these projects through various university channels will help to better serve and promote Wesleyan authors and their work.

Advance reading copies and finished review copies can be sent to: Laurie Kenney, Books Editor, Wesleyan University, Office of University Communications, 229 High Street, Middletown, CT 06459.

Macomber ’96 Discusses Producing Comedy by Arteta ’89, White ’92

Bill Macomber '96

Bill Macomber ’96, contributed photo.

Beatriz at Dinner, a darkly comedic film directed by Miguel Arteta ’89, written by Mike White ’92, and co-produced by Bill Macomber ’96, world premiered at the Sundance Film Festival on January 22. The film premiered with positive reviews with magazines like Vanity Fair calling it “remarkable” with a “timely shiver to it.”

After acclaimed films such as Chuck & Buck (2000) and The Good Girl (2002), Arteta and White have reunited again for Beatriz, which starts Salma Hayek as a holistic therapist. She attends a wealthy client’s dinner party after her car breaks down and comes up against a real estate tycoon portrayed by John Lithgow.

“We are all very excited about this new film,” says Jeanine Basinger, Corwin-Fuller Professor of Film Studies. “We hope to bring Miguel Arteta to Wesleyan this semester to show the film and we are all looking forward to it.”

Bill Macomber ’96, the primary post-producer of the film, said, “When I first read the script I loved it. Environmental issues are really close to my heart. The film is about many things, but it’s a proxy for what’s wrong with climate change deniers and big developers who don’t play by the rules.”

Macomber, whose first post-Wesleyan job was with Arteta after graduation on his first feature film, Star Maps, says, “Beatriz at Dinner is a reunion of sorts, although I was just a production assistant on Star Maps way back in the day.”

College connections are important, he notes, and not just when students are looking for their first job: “For me, the bond between Wesleyan graduates, especially Wesleyan filmmakers, is still as strong at age 43 when it was at age 23. People are as supportive of me now as they were then, and I try to be the same supportive person.”

When asked what advice Macomber has for graduates looking for their first big break, he reflected on advice that film industry veteran and Corwin-Fuller Professor of Film Studies Jeanine Basinger gave him. “Something Jeanine told me a long time ago is that you need to constantly reevaluate whether you enjoy what you’re doing in that moment,” he said. “After working in development, I noticed I wasn’t happy and I wasn’t productive. I switched to the more technical, collaborative work of post-production and my spirits and my careers lifted.”

How do you know if you’re doing what you should be doing? The answer is simple to Macomber: “Be aware if you’re enjoying what you’re doing and if you’re valued for doing that job. Opportunities come from hard work and doing a good job.”

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Watch the trailer for Beatriz at Dinner.

Acopian ’16 Nominated Snapchatter of the Year

Recent Film Studies graduate Ani Acopian ’16 has been nominated for the “Snapchatter of the Year” award, presented on behalf of The Shorty Awards.

Created to honor the best of social media by recognizing those with an influential and significant presence, The Shorty Awards draws nominees from sites such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Tumblr, Instagram, Snapchat and more. Acopian gained significant Snapchat clout with her colorful snaps, specializing in narrative pieces, branded content, and music videos. Some of her work featured in her Shorty Award profile include turning the famous Angkor Wat into a real life Temple Run, and creating content for the healthy restaurant chain Sweetgreen.

Acopian’s videos can be viewed on her Shorty Award profile, and be sure to vote for Acopian everyday until voting closes, Feb. 16.

Belichick ’75 Leads Patriots to Super Bowl Win

Bill Belichick '75

Bill Belichick ’75

Bill Belichick ’75, head coach of the New England Patriots, led his team to the biggest comeback in Super Bowl history on Feb. 5, beating the Atlanta Falcons by a score of 34-28 in OT—the first time an overtime period was ever needed in the 51-year history of the NFL’s annual championship game. The win made Belichick the winningest coach in Super Bowl history. All five of Belichick’s wins have come as head coach of the Patriots, a team he has coached since 2000.

Beginning his NFL career as an assistant coach with the Baltimore Colts in 1975, Belichick moved to the Detroit Lions in 1976, remaining there for two seasons before spending a year in the Denver Broncos organization before moving on the the New York Giants in 1979. In 1991 he was named the head coach of the Cleveland Browns, and also coached for the New York Jets before becoming head coach of the Patriots in 2000. He earned his 200th regular season victory as a head coach after the Patriots’ 30-7 win at Minnesota on Sept. 14, 2014. He became the sixth NFL head coach to reach that mark.

At Wesleyan, Belichick was a football, squash and lacrosse letterwinner, serving as a team captain for the 1975 lacrosse squad, He majored in economics.

Returning to Middletown for Commencement in May, 2002,Belichick received Wesleyan’s Raymond E. Baldwin Medal, the highest honor awarded by the alumni body for extraordinary service to the University and to the public interest. He also spoke to a group of prospective students and their parents during WesFest in April, 2004 and stayed to watch his daughter Amanda ’07 play in a women’s lacrosse game. During Wesleyan’s 2005 Commencement, Belichick received an honorary doctorate from his alma mater and in May, 2008, he became one of the inaugural members of Wesleyan’s newly established Athletics Hall of Fame.