How would you describe your time as an English or Film Studies major at MSU?
The two words that come to mind are eye-opening and empowering. I entered the Film Studies program knowing that I loved watching films and that was it. I hoped that Film Studies would be a starting point to explore different areas of film and find what suited me best. After three years, I can confidently say that the program was much more than that. Through learning the history and theory of film, I’ve gained a deep appreciation for the medium and its extraordinary feats. The courses have sparked a passion in me that I never knew I had. As a woman of color in film, the Film Studies program has helped me find my voice and confidence in pursuing a career in a male-dominated field. I am grateful for the support and guidance I’ve received from countless professors and am graduating with an overwhelming feeling of empowerment, ready to tackle any challenges that come my way.
Which classes, instructors, or experiences particularly stand out for you and why? How did they prepare you for the next phase of your life?
It’s difficult to narrow down which classes and instructors stand out because, in all honesty, every film professor that I’ve had has shaped who I am as a writer and filmmaker. Professors Alexandra Hidalgo and Pete Johnston have both been amazing mentors who I’ve been able to rely on for guidance in my career path. I’ve had the amazing opportunity to work with Alex on her feminist film publication agnès films since my freshman year. Alex has taught me so much about collaboration and navigating the film industry as a woman. I would not be the ambitious woman and writer I am today without her. Pete’s unmatched creative and technical skills have guided me in my decision to become a cinematographer. I have always been so impressed by his knowledge of and passion for camera work and am very grateful to have learned from him in FLM 337 and in the film lab. I am also appreciative to have been taught by Professors Joshua Yumibe and Lyn Goeringer. They both have a clear passion for what they teach and the energy they brought to class every day made my experience as a student unforgettable.
What advice would you give future English or Film Studies majors, based on your experiences in the department?
My advice to future film students is to be open to every topic and era of film history. Although not every film movement can be as interesting as the French New Wave, they all have value and build off each other. In my experience, having a broad and diverse knowledge of film history and theory has benefited me in ways I never thought it would. Whether it be in my writing, storyboarding, or conversations with industry professionals, having that foundation of knowledge to draw from has been a huge advantage. To any future film students out there, the next time you’re tempted to skip an 8 am lecture, just know that an understanding of Soviet montage theory or Italian Neorealism can and will come in handy at some point.
Another piece of advice is to not be scared when creating. Filmmaking can be an incredibly vulnerable process. I always shied away from collaborative opportunities with the fear of having my ideas shut down. That’s one thing I really regret, so don’t do what I did and pursue any and every opportunity to create, because it’s really not as scary once you’ve dipped your toes in the water.
What coursework-related projects were/are you working on this year, and what interests or excites you about them?
This school year I had the opportunity to create three short films in FLM 260 that I’m very proud of. I’ve always been the kind of person who starts a project but never finishes it, so I was glad to have the time to really focus on my ideas and bring them into fruition.
What are your hopes and aspirations, post-graduation?
I hope to continue writing about and reviewing films while also taking steps to become a cinematographer. I am currently in the process of applying for an 18-month production apprenticeship with BBC Scotland that will allow me to develop my camera, audio, and editing skills. I’ve been invited to complete the next stage of the application process, so fingers crossed that I can embark on this next journey! Wherever I end up, I plan to incorporate exploring new countries and cultures into it.
Please reflect a bit on the strange experience of being a graduating senior during the ongoing pandemic. What resources have been most useful to you in navigating this unprecedented situation?
This has definitely been strange to say the least. It hasn’t really hit me that I’m graduating since I haven’t been in a classroom setting for so long. I’m going to be leaving MSU without the closure that I expected, but it just gives me a reason to come back and visit when the pandemic is over. Knowing that everyone is going through a similar situation makes navigating this transition easier. Something that this pandemic has taught me is how to be comfortable with the unknown. Not having every next step planned is something I never thought I’d be okay with, so, in a way, the pandemic has prepared me for this next chapter of navigating unfamiliar waters.
In terms of resources, I’d have to say that therapy has helped me the most in getting through this past year. I think there is a stigma around turning to others for help. Some see it as a sign of weakness, but it’s honestly a sign of strength to recognize that you can’t do everything on your own and to take the initiative to find help.