Faculty Shout-Out by Dr. Joshua Yumibe: “I’m fortunate to have met Lindsay when she was a freshman in Introduction to Film, and then to have had her again as a senior in a film history survey. She aced them both. It’s not just that she was brilliant in her assignments, or that she loves the films and writings of Eisenstein (see her wry spotlight responses), or her always excellent contributions to class discussions, but she brings immense insight and eloquence to everything she does. In writing this past fall about the Parisian film Ménilmontant from 1926, which features a number of moving scenes around the river Seine, Lindsay concluded her brief essay with a reverie on the film’s profound sense of time: “. . . there’s no going back, there is only moving forward. This is told by the river aspect of it all; it must always keep moving, it never stops nor does it move backwards. It may hit an obstacle but it moves around it and does not let it stop the flow, it will always and forever move forward.” This seems even more timely now, in the midst both of current obstacles and also well-earned celebrations. I am so very excited to see where Lindsay goes next.
How would you describe your time as an English or Film Studies major at MSU?
I would describe my time as an English and Film Studies student quite simply as eye-opening. I knew I was passionate about these topics, but the ability to study both was something I had never even considered. Once I learned I could pursue both, it was incredible to see how these two separate subjects could overlap. The opportunities that came with these classes, as well as the connections I made during them, made my experience beyond anything I could’ve asked for. The students I had the opportunity to work on projects with were always so passionate, unique, and incredible. The professors who helped me along my journey always pushed me to challenge myself and try new things, always showing me I’m capable of more than I know. This campus is such a unique place, whether it be in terms of courses and professors, or students and opportunities; there is nothing like it. I love that each student’s experience is entirely their own; I loved that I had the ability to pursue my passions in any way that I wanted.
Which classes, instructors, or experiences particularly stand out for you and why? How did they prepare you for the next phase of your life?
When thinking of instructors who have stood out to me, the first professor that pops into my head is Jeff Wray. I originally had him for my first screenwriting class, and he was unlike any professor I’d ever had. I had him again, the following year, for film directing. As I presented my projects in class, he began to praise me on skills that I was very insecure about, and he gave me confidence in my writing and acting abilities. Our first assignment in Film Directing was a monologue, a daunting task; I decided to challenge myself to write and perform my own. After I presented it to the class, and the class was dismissed, Jeff made a point to tell me how exceptional it was. His praise stuck with me because of how heavily he stressed its brilliance; it seemed nothing out of the ordinary to me. It was the first time I had gotten such a positive reaction to one of my projects. He had faith in me, which allowed me to take confidence in my skills. Instilling this confidence in me encouraged me to experiment with my acting and my writing, as he urged me to explore outside of my comfort zone. He single handedly convinced me that I was able to pursue the thing I am the most passionate about.
Another professor I would like to shout-out is Justus Nieland. I had him for one film class before he transitioned into Chairperson. In this class, he presented challenging material, but didn’t allow students to become discouraged for a second. He was so passionate about what he was teaching, his energy spread through the classroom; it was virtually impossible to be disinterested in what he was saying. He encouraged participation from us, and rewarded every response with validation that made us feel like equals, not like students. My favorite section of the class was when we analyzed The Incredibles. When we studied that film, I remember leaving class and feeling so unexpectedly inspired by him and the lesson. It was one of the times I felt validated in knowing this is exactly what I love. I remember thinking how lucky I was to be participating in discussions such as that one, learning a whole new side to films, even ones I loved as a child. I felt so fortunate to be at this university, studying something I loved so deeply, with others who cared as much as me. It was such a powerful and reassuring feeling that I won’t soon forget.
Both Jeff Wray and Justus Nieland inspired something in me. Whether it was convincing me to believe in myself, or validating my passion, they both left a lasting impact on me. On account of these two professors, I know what I love and what I want to pursue for the rest of my life. Knowing I have their belief in me gives me confidence to go after whatever I want in life.
Outside of these two professors, I’d like to thank Josh Yumibe, who is the Director of the Film Studies Program. He is insanely intelligent in his field of study and it’s inspiring to have discussions with him to hear his perspective, as well as seeing how welcoming he is of other’s perspectives. He has set up a program unlike any other.
Along with those I’ve named, I’d like to shout out my advisors and all professors I’ve had. I would not be the person I am without their unique impact.
What advice would you give future English or Film Studies majors, based on your experiences in the department?
If I were to give advice to future Film Studies students, I would ask you please take advantage of your resources while you have them. There are loads of professors out there who want to help you. When you genuinely talk with them, you can build a relationship as peers. This type of relationship can open up so many doors for connections, projects, or perspectives that you wouldn’t think of on your own. Even if you don’t like Battleship Potemkin or the great and wise Sergei Eisenstein, say you do! Professors LOVE that, and someday you’ll learn to love Sergei too. You don’t always have to go to office hours, but stay after class, talk to them for a little. Ask advice on papers, projects, scripts; they want to help you. Learn to love B122 Wells, and don’t feel weird when you still have classes their senior year. It’s a golden room, debatably the best on campus. There are film labs, check out cameras, check out lighting equipment and sound equipment, check out anything you can get your hands on. Make things with that equipment! Even if you don’t plan to shoot a project, test things out, it might inspire you to make something. It’s thousands of dollars of equipment for you to borrow, like the best library of all time. Write scripts with your friends, and shoot them. Getting involved is ridiculously fun, you meet insane people who inspire you and push you and want nothing but to help you on your journey. If you think your idea is dumb, it’s not. Write it. Share it. Become yourself, shamelessly. I envy the time you have laid out in front of you.
What coursework-related projects were/are you working on this year, and what interests or excites you about them?
During the fall semester of this glorious senior year, I helped out a lot by acting in my friend’s projects. It was just small performances here and there, but it felt so good to get in front of the camera whenever I could. On top of this, a good friend of mine asked me to be in their final Film Directing project. For the final of this class, the students put together all their short films to create a feature length film. They premiere this feature film for anyone who was involved in the class, and any professors or fellow students that want to attend. Since I was in one of those projects, I got invited, and it was so powerful seeing myself on screen in such an environment, and afterward, the praise following my performance floored me. It reassured me that my dream of acting can be a reality.
Currently I am working with Jeff Wray on my independent study. Our plans had to change slightly because of the current state of the world, but we are working on a project to highlight my writing and acting in a series of scripts that I am to perform. I’m super excited for the final result, even if it may not be what I expected it to be; any writing and acting experience is crucial in this time of practice. I feel very lucky to get notes from such an educated professor who works in the industry that I am so passionately working towards.
What are your hopes and aspirations, post-graduation?
My hopes and aspirations post-graduation have altered slightly since the occurrence of the pandemic. I would LOVE to be an actress who writes — dream job. Eventually, my dream is to move out to LA and work in the industry. I know some friends who are moving out there, or some who have graduated that already made the move. Having those connections is comforting for when I take the step and move out there. I hope one day to become like Rashida Jones, or Mindy Kaling, writing complex characters and having the ability to breathe life into them as an actress. Even if I only got the chance to either write or act, I would feel so fortunate to be able to share my creativity with those around me, putting my work into the world. I yearn for the rewarding feeling that would come with my work being seen by other people that aren’t my friends or family. I love that the film industry is seeing more women becoming prominent in every role, it inspires me every day. Women taking the roles of writers, directors, and producers and making names for themselves keeps me hopeful and motivated to follow in their footsteps.
Please reflect a bit on the strange experience of being a graduating senior during this moment of local and global crisis. What resources have been most useful to you in navigating this unprecedented situation?
This is a very unique situation that my graduating class is in, we aren’t experiencing a lot of the things that senior spring seniors do. That being said, there’s solace knowing we are all in it together, and the professors are being super accommodating through everything. They’re very lenient with us, knowing that this is just as hard for us as it is for them. I am fortunate to feel comfortable enough contacting any/all professors with questions or concerns, they have been nothing but understanding and flexible. The weirdest part is outside of academia, being away from the friends I know are moving states away from me, or friends who have years left before they graduate. I wasn’t prepared mentally to leave this early, so the abrupt eviction of everyone from campus was the hardest pill to swallow. It’s almost as if I’m stuck feeling nostalgic, as if I’m thinking about all the good times I’ve been through during my years here, but I’m not quite allowed to move on from them yet because I am still here, and I cannot walk for graduation to allow for the next chapter of my life to begin. A very interesting limbo that this graduating class is cemented in right now, but there’s an odd comfort knowing we’re all in it together. It’s hard to articulate how it feels living through history.