Mitchell Griffith-A Film Studies Student Studying Queer Visuality

Faculty Shout-Out by Dr. Ellen McCallum: “Mitchell made his mark in the FLM452 course on Tilda Swinton, consistently joining in the discussion with stellar insights and judiciously challenging questions for his peers. He is one of those students whose contributions to the conversation raises the game of everyone, because his efforts are inclusive, intellectually hospitable, and substantive. He has continued to thrive in FLM381, where his questions on our discussion board are invariably thinking through some specific, original, and generative angle on the reading. I admire and appreciate Mitchell’s curiosity, drive, and warm collegiality.”

Faculty Shout-Out by Dr. Bill Vincent: “Mitchell Griffith is one of the best students I have ever had.  He wrote two amazing screenplays in FLM 334 and FLM 434.  He also shone in the senior seminar for the Film Collective in Spring 2021.  He is a polished writer with a fine analytic mind.”

Faculty Shout-Out by Dr. Joshua Yumibe: “I had the pleasure of working with Mitchell in two classes, FLM 300 Film History 1 and FLM 255 Wong Kar Wai. He did great work in both, and particularly in the course on Wong, his interest in film theory was readily apparent. For his final project, he looked closely at the saturated and sensuous images of Ashes of Time: Redux. Drawing from Laura U. Marks’s work on the haptics of touch, Mitchell thoughtfully explored moments in Wong’s cinema where the images become liquid in their evocation of memory and past desire. It was super compelling work, and I’m excited to see where he goes next.”

How would you describe your time as an English or Film Studies major at MSU?

My time as a Film Student at MSU has been incredibly enlightening. I’ve discovered a real passion for knowledge through dissecting and analyzing the world of film, and in turn, gaining new perspectives about the world around me. The faculty and the courses they offer are very well rounded, and always leave room for you to find yourself within them. All in all, my time at MSU has been life changing, and I will always hold my time here in high regard.

Which classes, instructors, or experiences particularly stand out for you and why? How did they prepare you for the next phase of your life?

Ellen McCallum, Bill Vincent, Kaveh Askari, and Joshua Yumibe. Ellen McCallum’s contemporary theory classes have been the most challenging courses I’ve taken at MSU, but also the most rewarding. There is something special about the way that Professor McCallum teaches: always pushing her students to engage with the texts beyond their limitations and to elucidate deeper, more nuanced understandings. I often found myself excited to come to class and see how Professor McCallum chose to present the texts, and what questions she poses to make you question some of the fundamental preconceptions you might have about the way the world works. I attribute much of my personal growth to her classes. Professor Bill Vincent was the instructor for all of the screenwriting classes I took at MSU, and remains one of the most influential teachers I’ve had throughout my education. His dedication to the craft of writing rubs off on each and every one of his students, and due to this, I found a true passion for writing screenplays under his direction and alongside the other students in his classes. He is one of the wisest, kindest, and honest people I’ve encountered in my life, and I hold all of his advice close to my heart. If you have the opportunity to take any of his classes, I highly recommend it; you might find that you too, can be a writer. Professor Kaveh Askari and Professor Joshua Yumibe are the lifeblood of the film studies program here at MSU. As both professors served as directors of the film department (and professors during their respective semesters), you truly receive a world class education at the hands of some truly fantastic instructors. They have encyclopedic knowledge of world cinema, and consistently surprise me with the anecdotal experiences and perspectives of which they’ve dedicated their lives to. To be honest, it feels misplaced to point out the individual accomplishments of each of these professors separately. When in reality, they have all come together to make my time here at MSU the best period of my life. To each and every one of you, a sincere Thank You. You have cultivated a love for the world that I hadn’t come to know until I met you all.

What advice would you give future English or Film Studies majors, based on your experiences in the department?

I can only speak for those who are seeking to pursue film studies, to whom I would say: this major is not easy. The courses, the faculty, the theory, your education, is only what you allow it to be. If you work hard, push yourself, and understand that knowledge is a power you can use as a tool to better understand the world around you, things will fall into place. And, coming from a place of honesty, you might find yourself questioning the validity of your studies (perhaps as a result of outside influences), but you have to have faith in your desire to learn. If film impassions you to get up every morning, then allow yourself the faith to trust that feeling, and carry it with you every day. And finally, allow yourself the privilege of an open mind, because with it, you can travel to the edges of the world, learn from the stories of countless others just like you, and start to understand how our physical world translates into the world of the moving image.

What coursework-related projects were/are you working on this year, and what interests or excites you about them?

This year I have been working extensively on a queer focus of film studies. I’ve chosen this focus in film studies because of a personal passion, but also so I can learn from my predecessors about the queer universe that has long been subjugated to innaccesibility by the world we live in. This genre of film tells stories in a way that is not bound by the traditional, hegemonic standards that have long defined what film can be. This focus has led me to a study abroad in Amsterdam, where I plan to focus on queer visuality as a means of declaring our presense in the world, and the spaces that arise when that visibility is allowed. Additionally, I hope to continue these studies into a graduate education, in hopes that I will one day help usher queerness into the world in a way that demands respect and acknowledgement. On a more physical level, I’ve had the opportunity to write a number of screenplays through MSU’s film studies department, and in turn, pursue a career where I can write and create films. I’ve had the opportunity to present my work to Rob Tappert, an MSU alumni, filmmaker, and production company owner. Having this opportunity was one of the most exciting things to ever happen to me, and I never thought I’d be able to achieve what I have here at MSU. That being said, I want to give a specific shout-out to professor Bill Vincent for aiding me in this process and always reminding me to have faith in my imagination, and to “never stop writing”.

What are your hopes and aspirations, post-graduation?

After graduation I hope to continue my education in a graduate program where I’ll be able to put my mark on the field of film studies and perhaps, one day, follow in the footsteps of the faculty at MSU to help film students like myself. I also hope to one day either write films for production, or to aid in the writing process of video games as we come into the age of electronics and digitality. I think much of the work that we do here at MSU is meant to prepare us for the practical world of film, whether it be as screenwriters, film theorists, film historians, or even just cinephiles. For those who have a true passion for cinema, any job where you can find yourself working with film should impassion you and solidify your faith in the study.

If you’re interested in doing so, 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?

If I’m being completely honest, studying film during the pandemic was a bit of a blessing in disguise. Of course, this period has been hard for everyone, and we’ve all had to overcome hardships in order to allow ourselves to thrive. But working with the professors here at MSU gave me a reason to see the beauty in cinema, and in turn, beauty in the world around me. There is a specific kind of connectivity that comes with film: it allows us to feel emotions as a collective, to address issues that we come to understand as a collective, and to understand how we as individuals fit into the vast world we live in. So really, studying film during the pandemic helped me come into who I was as a person through a rigorous dedication to my studies. This harks back to some of my earlier comments on the nature of film studies here at MSU, but if you allow yourself to dive into film studies with an open mind, you’ll find that it is more fun than work, and this is what helped me through the pandemic. In terms of resources, I found a lot of flexibility with my professors, who understood that the pandemic was raising different concerns for each and every one of their students. That being said, I think a lot of the film students who studied over the pandemic became very close with their professors, as online classes were some of the only times we had to come together and dote on the art of cinema as a collective. It is with confidence that I can say we all made the best of a precarious situation, and came out victorious.