Newsletter 2020

2020 Film Studies Program Annual Update

Film Studies is very proud of our successful students!

Figure 1: L to R: Matthew McDonald, Hailey McGill, Suzanne McAuley and Barbara Hoffman

Films by Seattle University students Barb Hoffman ('20), Hailey McGill ('21) and alum Mathew MacDonald ('19) screened at 2019's prestigious National Film Festival for Talented Youth (NFFTY), a Seattle-based international film festival for filmmakers under the age of 25. Based on the quality of Melons, McGill was also invited to apply for, and won, the T-Mobile Foundation's "T-Mobile Uplifting Voices Challenge." The challenge award included a $2,500 cash prize for McGill's next film project, and mentorship from T-Mobile Content Studio producers and creatives. Hoffman's film Keys, McGill's film Melons and MacDonald's film Mormor were all produced in SU Film Studies courses. Selected from a pool of more than 1,200 submissions, they were screened among the 265 films by filmmakers from 24 states and 24 different countries.

And in the 2020  NFFTY Film Festival a further three students (and alums) screened at this year's NFFTY: Abel Fong, (6.4.89) Christian Krantz (Face to Face) and Barb Hoffman (What We See in the Clouds). Abel's film was produced in Film 3, and Christian's film is from Experimental Film. In addition, Suzanne MacAuley's film, Hey Neighbor was shortlisted for an award at the COVIDeo-19 Film Festival, and Mary Lawrence's film, Am I alone Here? screened at the UK-based Lift Off Film Festival. Both were also produced in Alex Johnston's Experimental Film Class. 

Community Engagement and Professional Pathways

As part of Film's partnership with the Social Justice Film Festival, our students attended "Themes on Courage" panel screenings on campus in October 2019 and for this year's fully virtual festival, Dr Thompson moderated the panel Transform: Another World is Possible, the Indigenous Futures Panel in October 2020. For Tasveer Film Festival we hosted screenings on campus of Kaifinama (Sumantra Ghosal, 2019) and Reason (Anand Patwardhan, 2019) in September and Oct 2019. Dr Thompson and Dr Johnston also participated in a screening and panel discussion of Medicating Normal, Lynn Cunningham's new documentary about the opioid crisis and  Big Pharma. Film's new professional development series Movie Bites continued in 2019-20, in which students get to talk about career paths with practicing professionals from the film industry over a pizza lunch. This year we hosted Academy Award winning Cinematographer Joan Churchill, Sound editor Alan Barker and Animator Dustin Sweet.

In January 2020 Dr Thompson and Dr Johnston  went to Park City, Utah for the Sundance Film Festival as we laid the groundwork for a new annual student trip with official Sundance partner, the Windrider Film Festival. Amidst all the amazing new films and movie stars at Sundance, we also caught up with one of our recent star graduates Sydney Thun. Sydney has previously worked as a production assistant for Disney films and for television and is now working as a Script Consultant for HBO! 

By mid-Winter 2020 COVID-19 struck and Film and Seattle U went mostly online, where we remain still. Film Festivals went fully virtual this year and our third partner, the Seattle International Film Festival was sadly cancelled. But we look forward to returning to Sundance in 2022 with juniors and seniors for our inaugural Seattle U student trip. 

Faculty Successes!

Dr. Alex Johnston's film Evidence of the Evidence, which was previously selected for the prestigious Berlinale (Berlin International Film Festival), was also a finalist for two jury prizes in 2020: Best Documentary at the Mimesis Documentary Festival in Boulder, CO, and Best Experimental Film at the Dublin Independent Film Festival in Dublin, Ireland.

Josefina Valenzuela Cerda's narrative experience The Circle is available on Oculus Go and was an official selection at the Sci-Fi & Fantasy: Genre Lab, and at the Los Angeles Lift-Off Film Festival. Dr Schultz-Figueroa also published two peer reviewed essays, "Mediating Disease: Scientific Transcriptions of Covid-19 into Animal Models"  and "Abandoned Aquariums: Online Animal Attractions during Quarantine"  while Dr Johnston has a chapter in an upcoming book about the filmmaker William Greaves and his Muhammad Ali documentary, The Fight, and explores the parallels between the director's experiences as an African-American filmmaker, and Muhammad Ali's as a Civil Rights icon. 

Both Dr John Trafton and Dr Schultz-Figueroa announced that they had secured publishing contracts for their groundbreaking research. Dr Trafton's Movie-Made Los Angeles: The City of Angels and the Rise of American Film will be with Wayne State Press. Dr Schultz-Figueroa has just completed work on scientific non-theatrical films for The Celluloid Specimen: Moving Image Research into Animal Life and his book will be published in February 2022 by University of California Press. Dr Thompson also published Animation and Advertising (coedited with Malcolm Cook, Palgrave, 2019) the first anthology devoted to the fascinating world of sponsored animation. She was featured on the "Animation and Fantasy" Podcast, and also presented "Animated America: Animated Advertising from Times Square to Walt Disney" as part of Seattle University Lightning Research Talks. She chaired "Kanaka Maoli Childhood, Epistemologies, and Futurity" at the American Studies Conference in Honolulu, Hawaii, won a Summer Faculty fellowship for her work on animation and advertising, a Catholic course development grant and the Inaugural Seattle University Shine Award: Championing Student Professional Formation Service Award. 

The Film Studies program was created in 2009 by the hard work of English Professor Dr Edwin Weihe. Together with Dr Sean McDowell, Dr. Weihe worked tirelessly for many years to grow the Film program, and we are so grateful for their pioneering work. Dr Kirsten Thompson became the new director in 2016 and was joined two years later by Dr. Alex Johnston and Dr Schultz-Figueroa who filled out the team with our colleagues, Justine Barda, Ben Stork, John Trafton, Craig Downing and Josefina Valenzuela-Cerda. The Film faculty recognizes with gratitude the hard work of all the faculty who have taught in the film program over the years, including award winning filmmaker Georg Koszulinski, Catherine Clepper, Bob Cumbow, Richie Meyers and many others. Over the last eleven years we have educated more than seven hundred majors and over 4300 students in film, UCOR and crosslisted classes. Our students have gone on to graduate schools and to jobs in the film industry like HBO, Lifetime and A& E, working as directors, editors, film festival programmers, social media marketers and teachers. As Film leaves English and becomes an independent department in 2021, we look forward to our future with excitement.