Tag Archive for Film Studies
by Olivia Drake •
by Olivia Drake •
Randall MacLowry ’86, visiting instructor in film studies, co-produced, directed and wrote an episode for the PBS history series American Experience. Titled “The Rise and Fall of Penn Station,” the hour-long episode premieres at 9 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 18.
Pennsylvania Station, a monumental train terminal in the heart of Manhattan, finally opened to the public on Nov. 27, 1910. Covering nearly eight acres, the building was the fourth largest in the world. By 1945, more than 100 million passengers traveled through Penn Station each year.
But by the 1960s, what was supposed to last forever was slated for destruction. In 1961, the financially strapped Pennsylvania Railroad, which had been losing customers to air and automobile travel, announced that it had sold the air rights above Penn Station. In 1963, the demolition of the grand edifice began and construction on the new station was completed in 1968. Watch a preview of “The Rise and Fall of Penn Station” online here.
MacLowry is an award-winning filmmaker with over 25 years experience as producer, director, writer and editor, and is co-founder of The Film Posse with producer and partner Tracy Heather Strain. His work for American Experience includes “Silicon Valley,” “The Gold Rush” (2007 Erik Barnouw Award), “Building the Alaska Highway,” “A Brilliant Madness and Stephen Foster;” he also served as editor of “The Polio Crusade” and an episode of the two-part series “Reconstruction: America’s Second Civil War.”
MacLowry majored in art with a film studies concentration at Wesleyan.
by Olivia Drake •
Seven films, all with English subtitles, will be screened during the annual Israeli Film Festival this spring.
The festival aims to educate and explore the richness, diversity and creativity of Israeli culture as witnessed through the flourishing of contemporary Israeli cinema. Each film screening is followed by a guest speaker or Wesleyan faculty who comments on the film from a particular perspective.
FIlms this year include Fill the Void, Wherever You Go, Welcome and our Condolences, Zaytoun, By Summer’s End, Six Million and One, Back by Popular Demand: Eyes Wide Open.
Films run every Thursday at 8 p.m. from Jan. 30 to March 6 in the Goldsmith Family Cinema. Admission is free.
The Festival is organized by Dalit Katz, adjunct assistant professor of Religion and Israel Studies and cultural coordinator of Israeli events at Wesleyan University. It is sponsored by the Ring Family, Jewish and Israel Studies and co sponsored by the Film Studies Department.
For more information about the films and the full schedule, visit the Israeli Film Festival website.
by Bill Fisher •
Brooks Kraft ’87 has been named 2013 International Photographer of the Year, the top honor given by the International Photography Awards (IPA) in its annual competition. The award was announced at New York’s Carnegie Hall during the 11th annual Lucie Awards ceremony recognizing the accomplishments of photographers working in editorial, advertising, journalism, fine art, fashion and beyond. The IPA’s competition is one of the most ambitious and comprehensive in the photography world today; this year’s field included more than 10,000 entries from 103 countries.
Kraft received the top honor for his portfolio “The Last Days of Barack Obama’s Campaign,” which follows the American President during the final days of the long 2012-election cycle. Kraft captured his award-winning images as President Obama traveled around the country holding multiple large rallies a day in front of crowds of tens of thousands.
Born in New York City, Kraft graduated from Wesleyan with a degree in photography and film. Early in his career, he spent a year as an apprentice to photographer Irving Penn and traveled with Nelson Mandela during the historic South African Presidential election of 1994. (Kraft’s portrait of Mandela was featured on the front page of the Wall Street Journal the day after Mandela’s death on December 5.)
Immersed in commercial photography for the past twenty-five years, Kraft has become one of the world’s most well known and accomplished photojournalists. His work has appeared across the globe in thousands of publications and his iconic images have graced the cover of magazines such as Time, US News, Forbes, Business Week, Life, People, The New Republic and The Atlantic.
As a White House photographer with Time magazine for ten years and a veteran of six presidential campaigns, Kraft traveled with the president on Air Force One throughout America and to more than fifty countries. In the corporate world his diverse clients include Google, Apple, Goldman Sachs, Harvard University and the Wall Street Journal.
by Kate Carlisle •
Whether you’re a serious student of Joss Whedon’s oeuvre or your inner geek has just really, really wanted to see Buffy’s scythe close up, an exhibit on view in the Cinema Archives’ Nicita Gallery should satisfy every fan of the prolific ’87 Wes alumnus.
“Joss Whedon: From Buffy to the Bard” is an intimate and charming retrospective of Whedon’s career, starting with a picture of Whedon shooting a student film at Wesleyan, continuing through souvenirs of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and winding up with a poster from his latest film, “Much Ado About Nothing,” which he previewed during Reunion & Commencement weekend for a wildly enthusiastic crowd of alumni and students.
“It was an awful lot of fun to put together,” said Curator Andrea McCarty, who not only created the exhibit but also designed the special Lucite cases that hold such Whedonalia as script notes and objéts from Whedon’s blockbuster “The Avengers,” based on the Marvel comic. “Joss basically went into his garage – and gave us all this stuff.”
Marvel and Lions Gate Studio also were generous in donating movie ephemera, McCarty said.
The exhibit will be up through December, honoring the prominent film studies alumnus (whose 2013 Commencement speech has now garnered more than a quarter million views on YouTube) as Wesleyan launches its new College of Film and the Moving Image. The college brings the Film Studies Department, the Center for Film Studies, the Cinema Archives and the Wesleyan Film Series under a single umbrella.
The exhibit will be open from noon to 4 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, and also by appointment, allowing visitors to ponder notes and sketches for “Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog;” film and TV posters; and props and artifacts from various Whedon productions.
For more information see the Nicita Gallery’s website.
by Olivia Drake •
Jeanine Basinger, the Corwin-Fuller Professor of Film Studies, is a guest speaker featured in the new HBO documentary, “Casting By.” The documentary premiered Aug. 5. Jeff Bridges, Robert De Niro, Robert Duvall, Clint Eastwood, Al Pacino, Robert Redford and others make appearances in the film.
“Casting By” explores the unsung hero of Hollywood: a casting director. The story focuses on Marion Dougherty, known for pioneering the casting business, long before the Casting Society of America or the Directors Guild of America existed. Dougherty gave actors including James Dean, Glenn Close, Al Pacino, Bette Midler, Warren Beatty, Jon Voight and Diane Lane their first onscreen roles.
Watch the trailer online here.
by Lauren Rubenstein •
In Kilkenny, Ireland, a man spins wool from freshly shorn sheep into rich fibers. A furniture maker in South Pomfret, Vt. studies the natural geometry of wood he turns into tables, chairs and consoles. And in London, England, a silversmith wielding a hammer transforms smooth metal into beautifully shaped and textured bowls, vases and pieces of art.
These and other craftspeople are featured in a series of nine short documentary films produced and directed by Piers Gelly ’13 and Daniel Nass ’13. Each film in the series, titled, “The Minds of Makers,” shows the creative process of a craftsperson working in a different medium—wood, glass, metal, wool. The films are available to view on ArtBabble, a website created by the Indianapolis Museum of Art to showcase art video content.
Gelly, a College of Letters major, won the Writing Program’s Annie Sonnenblick Writing Award last spring and received a grant to travel around France, Ireland and England researching historical recreation. He planned “to visit places where groups of people attempt to preserve and recreate ‘pure’ craft practices for various reasons of historical authenticity.” The “crown jewel,” he explained, was a 13th century chateau fort in Burgundy called Guédelon, which workers are building from scratch using period technology.
When Gelly was home in Milwaukee that spring break, he met up with Jon Prown of the Chipstone Foundation, a Milwaukee-based foundation that promotes craft and design education and scholarship. The two discussed Gelly’s travel and research plans, and Prown said he’d love to have a series of videos made about the people Gelly would be interviewing. Chipstone offered financial support for the project. Gelly then asked Nass, a friend since freshman orientation and a film studies major, if he’d like to come along and work on the films. The two had previously collaborated on two issues of the 48 Hour Magazine, and on articles for Ampersand, the Argus’ comedy supplement.
Gelly attributes his interest in questions of tradition and history largely to the College of Letters curriculum, and, in particular, to conversations with Javier Castro-Ibaseta, assistant professor of history, assistant professor of letters, and Tula Telfair, professor of art and Gelly’s thesis advisor. In addition, two introductory film classes Gelly took as a freshman “definitely gave me some film knowledge,” he said.
Though Nass is a film major, he said he never had an opportunity to take Wesleyan’s documentary filmmaking course. Instead, he feels that two creative nonfiction writing courses he took—“Distinguished Writers/ New Voices” with Anne Greene, and “Intermediate Nonfiction Workshop” with Lisa Cohen—best prepared him to undertake this project.
“There’s a lot of commonalities [between writing and documentary filmmaking] with the process of gathering materials, conducting interviews and figuring out how to shape what you have into a narrative. The experience I got in those classes helped me a lot when I was thinking about how I want to put these films together,” said Nass.
Gelly and Nass traveled and filmed the documentaries through June and part of July 2012.
The craftspeople featured in the films include subjects from Gelly’s Sonnenblick research, family friends, and people they met through Chipstone.
“All our subjects seemed really pleased to be interviewed. Since most never explain their work to anyone step by step, this was an opportunity for them to share a huge wealth of thoughts and ideas that they normally don’t,” Gelly said. “Some of the most interesting things we discussed were the basics of working with their materials, which these people take for granted but which the rest of us never think to wonder about.”
Nass added, “For many of the people we interviewed, the work that they do just consists of doing. Often, when we would ask them a question about some specific aspect of their technique, it seemed like they would have to figure out how to articulate it. One thing that came up over and over again was the way that an acquired craft is kind of fundamentally not able to be articulated. You have to learn just by doing. They did their best to explain in words how their practices worked.”
Another common theme that emerged in the interviews, said Nass, was “the relationship between tradition and innovation.” For example, they interviewed a basket maker who was one of the last practitioners of a centuries-old craft. In contrast, another subject, who had begun his work in traditional pottery making, went on to creating intricate ornamental objects using new 3-D printing technology.
“Everybody was in some way informed by the past, and chose to either carry on tradition or create something completely new,” Nass said.
In the fall, Gelly and Nass asked some musically-inclined friends—including Ben Seretan ’10, Ashlin Aronin ’13, Jack Ladd ’15 and Danny Sullivan ’13—to contribute soundtrack music for the films.
The first five films went online at ArtBabble in January, and the last four appeared in late March.
Gelly said he hopes the films cause viewers to “take a second look at the objects around them.”
This coming summer, Gelly and Nass plan to make several more films in the series—focusing on American craftspeople—while they shoot a longer documentary for Chipstone about face jugs. As Nass explained, these stoneware jugs with clay faces on them were made by slaves in South Carolina over a limited period of time in the 19th century. “The project is still in its conceptual planning stages, but if all goes well, we’ll be in South Carolina conducting interviews,” Nass said.
Though neither student has concrete plans for the long term, Nass said, “I really love doing independent documentary work like this. I could definitely see myself continuing with it.”
by Olivia Drake •
Jeanine Basinger, the Corwin-Fuller Professor of Film Studies, is the author of I Do and I Don’t: A History of Marriage in the Movies, published by Knopf in January 2013.
This extensively researched and illustrated book examines “the marriage movie;” what it is (or isn’t) and what it has to tell us about the movies—and ourselves. As long as there have been feature movies there have been marriage movies, and yet Hollywood has always been cautious about how to label them—perhaps because, unlike any other genre of film, the marriage movie resonates directly with the experience of almost every adult coming to see it. Here is “happily ever after”—except when things aren’t happy, and when “ever after” is abruptly terminated by divorce, tragedy . . . or even murder.
Basinger traces the many ways Hollywood has tussled with this tricky subject, explicating the relationships of countless marriages from Blondie and Dagwood to the heartrending couple in the Iranian A Separation, from Tracy and Hepburn to Laurel and Hardy (a marriage if ever there was one) to Coach and his wife in Friday Night Lights. The volume contains a treasure trove of movie stills, posters and ads.
by Lauren Rubenstein •
Wesleyan has announced the establishment of a new College of Film and the Moving Image, which includes the Film Studies Department, the Center for Film Studies, the Cinema Archives and the Wesleyan Film Series.
“We’re excited to bring together all the great things we’ve been doing around film—the Film Studies major and minor, the Cinema Archives and the Wesleyan Film Series—under the umbrella of the College of Film and the Moving Image,” said President Michael Roth. “The film curriculum is already so very strong, anchored in liberal learning and connected with the making of new work for cinema, television, and the web. The college structure will enable us to marshal our resources more effectively and to shine a brighter light on the great work that’s been happening in film and related areas for some time.”
Roth announced the creation of the new college at an event for alumni and friends of the university in Los Angeles, Calif. on Feb. 18.
The university already houses three other interdisciplinary colleges: College of Letters, College of the Environment and College of Social Studies. The film program has a long history of supporting interdisciplinary study, with seven other departments cross-listing their courses with film.
“Since its birth around the early 1970s, the Film Studies Department has been interdisciplinary,” said Jeanine Basinger, the Corwin-Fuller Professor of Film Studies, founder and curator of the Wesleyan Cinema Archives. “We are delighted that the College of Film and Moving Image unites the Film Studies Department, the Cinema Archives, the Center for Film Studies, and the Wesleyan Film Series into a single entity. Thanks to President Michael Roth, the Educational Policy Committee, our dean and our provost for all the support that we were given.”
According to Scott Higgins, acting chair and associate professor of film studies, Wesleyan leads all other liberal arts colleges in the area of film studies, and compares well with major film schools, according to such rankings as The Hollywood Reporter’s. Yet, he said, “We are not only a film production program. We offer a true liberal arts approach to the study of the moving image. In the past half-decade, we’ve seen many other liberal arts colleges develop film programs, lots of them employing our model.”
by Lauren Rubenstein •
On Jan. 11, Jeanine Basinger, the Corwin Fuller Professor of Film Studies, reviewed a new book, Hollywood Sketchbook, by Deborah Nadoolman Landis in The Wall Street Journal. Landis, a costume designer herself, “defines the difference between the designer’s costuming goal and the role of the sketch artist. Costume sketches were never intended to be fashion drawings: Kinetic, emotional and drawn for a specific personality or character, they were about much more than clothes,” writes Basinger.
The book contains commentaries and reproduced sketches for 61 designers, including such famous names as Adrian (known for The Wizard of Oz, Camille, and Marie Antoinette, among others), Travis Banton (Blonde Venus) and Walter Plunkett (Gone with the Wind). In her review, Basinger notes flaws in the book, such as incomplete filmographies for each designer and missing identifying information on sketches, yet concludes, “… given the beautiful reproduction, on elegant paper, of so many original sketches impossible to find anywhere else, it is hard to complain. Who wouldn’t want to sip a coffee contemplating Travilla’s design for the hot pink dress, with a large bow across the rear, so famously worn by Marilyn Monroe in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes?”
by Cynthia Rockwell •
Benh Zeitlin ’04, director of Beasts of the Southern Wild, and producer Dan Janvey ’06 joined Director of the Cinema Archives and Corwin-Fuller Professor of Film Studies Jeanine Basinger on Nov. 12 for a free-wheeling Q&A on the making of their indie hit, Beasts of the Southern Wild. The talk took place in the Goldsmith Family Cinema.
They began by showing a segment on the making of the film—“a world premiere,” they noted, adding that it will be included on the DVD when the film is released for home viewing. Currently the Sundance and Cannes award-winner is still showing in theaters and picking up Oscar-buzz. Zeitlin and Janvey provided candid answers on their background in the Film Studies department (teamwork was always key), grassroots methods of casting (similar to the Obama campaign), the rigors of the filming process in Louisiana (“like climbing Mount Everest”), the rewriting required to shoot the film only in the day (avoiding the costs of the lights and accommodating the young age of the main character), and the slow, organic process of joining the community, earning peoples’ trust, and winning cooperation.
“Every part of the process of making this film informed the next part,” explained Janvey. Stories people told were incorporated into the film, and new local friends became cast and crew. Said Zeitlin: “It’s my very favorite part of the film process, getting to meet a place you’d never get to know otherwise. It’s the universal quality of film—everybody loves movies; it’s a great way to explore the world.”
For further information, see this Wesleyan Magazine story.
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