Alumni Profiles

Our professors showed us how films touch on every aspect of the human experience, 
why certain films have such cultural relevance, how they inform how we live. 

- Jane Miller, Class of 2004, playwright and screenwriter

Film & Media Studies Program majors pursue diverse careers that draw upon the ideas and concepts they discussed and debated over their four years of undergraduate study. Their creativity and critical thinking ability, which they developed through their course work, has prepared them to address real world challenges.

Through the following profiles we would like to introduce you to some of the many extraordinary alumni of Johns Hopkins University’s Film & Media Studies Program.


The most important thing about the Film & Media Studies Program at Hopkins is that its professors care about and believe in their students. My teachers were not just my educators, but also my mentors and friends. They challenged me when they knew I could achieve more, supported me when I became frustrated, and most importantly had enormous trust in my capabilities as a filmmaker.  FMS propelled me into production in ways I was often uncomfortable with, which tested my capabilities. But without that I could have never confidently gone into the industry. When I left Hopkins and moved to New York, diving directly into the independent film landscape that I was completely unfamiliar with, the thing that allowed me to stand out (and still does) was that I studied film at Johns Hopkins.  The filmmakers I work with immediately understand the level of seriousness and commitment that I will bring to my work - Hopkins taught me that. But it is the Film & Media Studies Program that gave me the confidence and conviction to never disappoint them.

-Alexandra Byer, Class of 2011
Independent Producer

 

I credit the FMS program for helping me merge my interests into one fulfilling, creative college experience that continues to help me even today. After college, I moved to New York City and currently work in television. In the past year I’ve gone from being an executive assistant to working with writers and researchers, learning so much along the way from people who have “made it” and, thankfully, have not lost their sense of creative adventure in the process. Being present in the control room and on set during taping, plus working alongside the writers and learning what it means to write for a viewing audience? It’s finally the perfect mix of everything I love – and FMS at Hopkins helped me realize that these two passions really can go hand-in-hand.

-Lauren Carney, Class of 2011

Read Lauren's full statement.

 

When I switched my major from Writing Seminars to Film & Media Studies, I was very intimidated by the number of students that already knew so much about the film production process and had seen every film you can think of. I was just a theater geek that wanted to learn more about filmmaking! I never imagined I would be inspired to become a teacher while sitting in Lucy Bucknell's "Women in Hollywood Film" and "Gangster Films" classes my sophomore year. Dissecting scenes in writing and during class discussions was an absorbing experience that I am excited to share with my own students one day. I learned a variety of tenets from film theory, criticism and consciousness in Bucknell's courses that I become aware of no matter what I'm watching.

-Christen Cromwell, Class of 2009

 

I have to thank the Film and Media Studies Program at JHU for introducing me into the world of film and media production. The courses that I took provided me with both the tools for analytical discussion and the utmost appreciation for the craft of filmmaking. My favorite memories at Hopkins include spending long nights in Gilman Hall shooting my final project with a 16mm camera, a wide assortment of lighting equipment, and several of my dedicated classmates who were equally enthusiastic to stay up. This hands-on experience with film directly contributed to my passion for music in film and multimedia, which grew as I began to understand the role music plays in film. Although I have discovered my calling in the world of music production for movies, TV shows and advertisements at Duotone Audio in NYC, I have only my utmost appreciation and respect for the faculty members of FMS (Prof. Mann, DeLibero, Bucknell) that inspired me along the journey. Cheers!

-Ed Cuervo, Class of 2008
Assistant Audio Engineer,
Duotone Audio Group
ed@duotoneaudio.com

 

I discovered my love of video editing thanks to the Johns Hopkins Film and Media Studies Program. The major's history and theory classes provided context for our production work, which allowed us to see what element of the filmmaking process we enjoyed most. For me, it was sitting down in the Digital Media Center with our footage to discover what kind of experience could be created. The university's connection with Bloomberg and Motion Picture Enterprises in New York then facilitated in finding a post-production internship, which eventually led to work on shows such as LA Ink, Say Yes to the Dress, Jersey Couture, and House Hunters International.

-Ben Frazer, Class of 2006
Freelance Video Editor
Clients include NBCUniversal, Discovery Communications, and Scripps Networks
Reel available at
http://bfrazer.net

 

The Film and Media Studies Program at JHU is an island of creativity, lifelong friends, and sage advisors that saved me from becoming one of the also-ran medical professionals which I ostensibly wanted to be.  While Johns Hopkins can be a sea of yes men and women wanting to be the next big thing in medicine, programs like FMS really taught me how to think creatively, interpret the world with careful abandon, and analyze all problems with a certain appreciation for the creative and human process.  While others teased we were simply inflating our GPAs with easy courses on horror films and Hitchcock, we learned how to view the world of cinema through the social lenses of race, gender, and politics, and my world view was forever changed.

-Jonathan Groce, Class of 2004
Director, Talent Development, [adult swim], Cartoon Network
Two-time Emmy Award winner

Read Jonathan's full statement.

 
 The Johns Hopkins Film and Media Studies Program developed in me an unyielding instinct to always think critically about the media around me.  And it gave me a great reason to never feel guilty staying up late watching films and TV. I cannot thank Lucy, Linda, and John enough for helping me find my voice and passion.

-Danielle Hendrix, Class of 2010
 

 

Currently, I am employed at Sesame Street as a Digital Production Coordinator, a job I love, and I still make films with my former classmates whenever we get a chance. But with just a few years of insight, it is easy for me to identify what was most valuable about my experience at Hopkins. The Film & Media Studies Program breeds a spirit of collaboration and energy, not isolation and conformity. I think differently than many of my colleagues, and it has afforded me creative opportunity. For that, I am sincerely grateful.

-Jason HoffmanClass of 2010
Digital Production Coordinator, Sesame Workshop

 

 

 

The Film & Media Studies Program at Johns Hopkins allowed me the freedom to develop my own course study structure, but taught me the value in working collaboratively toward my goals with teammates, classmates and colleagues.  My independent study with Professor DeLibero (developing and implementing a media and marketing campaign for the Johns Hopkins Men’s Basketball Team) directly led to my first job after graduation as an Assistant Media Planner with an ad agency in New York City.

Today I still work in the world of media planning and buying as a Sales Director for ORION Trading.  It’s a long way from 'Introduction to Cinema', but I would not be where I am today without the foundation I received from my studies at Johns Hopkins

-Brendan Kamm, Class of 2003
Senior Vice President, Sales Director at ORION Trading Worldwide

Read Brendan's full statement.

 
 

While most of my Hopkins colleagues were busy burying their heads in their organic chemistry textbooks, I decided to take a slightly off-beaten path towards career nirvana. I wanted a "fun" job, one that I'd be happy going to every day, rather than one that just added zeroes to my bank account and that I'd probably loathe. And because I loved movies, I majored in Film & Media Studies.

I was mistaken to believe that it was just a "fun" course of study. I quickly realized that the Film & Media Studies Program gave me so much more than a list of movies to watch. It was a much more personal and challenging experience than I had ever imagined, and my professors armed me with the appropriate tools and guidance to go out into the real world and find myself a job that would permit me to express myself creatively.

-Sohyung Kang, Class of 2004
Producer, MTV News

Read Sohyung's full statement.

 

Being a Film & Media Studies major at Hopkins was a huge differentiator for me when moving out to LA to work in television. Agencies, networks and production companies knew of the intellectual prowess of the school and it was Professor Mark Friedman who helped me to get my first job through his own Hollywood agent. Close production work with Professor Mann and analytical writing and reasoning with Professor DeLibero helped me to excel in such a creative business. There's simply no replacement for being given the chance to cut actual 16mm film on a flat bed and tape it back together to tell a story.

-Emily Mayer, Class of 2004
Vice President of Development at Universal Comcast Entertainment Studios

 

Film is a reflection of the human experience.  By learning how to analyze film, I learned to analyze the world around me.  Writing my own stories and creating my own characters taught me that microscopic details and subtleties matter, and in fact, are what make people so fascinating.  Since graduating the Film and Media Studies Program at Johns Hopkins I’ve found these skills invaluable and continue to use what I learned every day.

-Christopher McMullen, Class of 2009
3rd year student at the University of Maryland School of Medicine

 

Besides being generally inspired by my FMS classes at Hopkins, I learned critical skills that translated to every discipline. Our professors showed us how films touch on every aspect of the human experience, why certain films have such cultural relevance, how they inform how we live. In particular, I loved learning why and how films made me feel a certain way. We became attuned to how cinema was working on us, without losing the pure joy of watching a good movie. Our professors were passionate and that passion translated to us. I loved my production classes because they were really tailored to my vision and goals, and no one tried to push me to make commercial films. I also felt a part of an artistic community. Some professors let us in on the work they were doing as artists and that was amazing and special--to be treated as equals with valuable insight. Also, feeling a part of their lives as people. I will always remember having dinner with John Mann and his family.

-Jane Miller, Class of 2004
Playwright and Screenwriter

Read Jane's full statment.

 

I chose to attend Hopkins because of its Film & Media Studies Program. I was drawn to the variety of classes that JHU offered, each dedicated to such a specific world of film: an exploration of Tim Burton, the seduction of Film Noir, the classic Gangster Film, the Femme Fatale. The FMS program brought film to life; movies were no longer a static idea or generalization, but rather each was a world to become a part of, characters to empathize with or admonish. The faculty were true scholars who taught us film can be more than entertainment; they taught us appreciation. I spent four years learning everything from the development of story and character to the physical production of a film, but I realized that I wanted more – more time within these worlds, more time with these stories and characters. The FMS professors challenged me to find my own niche. My journey started in Professor Bucknell's class, as I watched my first screwball comedy (Bringing up Baby), and led me to where I am today, working in television.

-Sarah Napier, Class of 2007
Coordinator, Entertainment Conde Nast

 

 

The "entertainment industry," as it's referred to in Los Angeles, is a demanding one that requires paying your dues in some sort of underpaid and overworked position, yet if you want to be a part of the privileged "above the line" talent, you must create original work constantly. And boy, is it exhausting. What best prepared me for this tumultuous, busy world has to do directly with the Film & Media Studies Program at Johns Hopkins. Most importantly, the FMS Program advocates independent study. At Hopkins, you had to be self-motivated to make short films, especially since the film production track required all students shoot films on celluloid; making a short was not a simple venture. On top of the hard work required to make short films during busy academic semesters, the FMS theory courses were also incredibly insightful and unique. One of my favorite courses of all time was Experimental Film Theory taught by John Mann. I had, prior to the class, regarded experimental film as pretentious and boring, but after watching the brilliant documentary experimental films "Night and Fog" (Alain Resnais) and "La Jetee" (Chris Marker)––the inspiration for the science fiction film "Twelve Monkeys"––I gained an understanding of how film can communicate ideas, emotions, and stories unlike any other medium. 

- Emily Needell, class of 2012
Production Assistant, Comedy Central
Aspiring Writer/Director (www.emdfilms.com)

 

The Johns Hopkins Film and Media Studies Program led to my first paid film job: I was hired as a 2nd AC/loader, thanks to Prof. John Mann's hands-on 16mm production classes. This began a lucrative and fun freelancing career: I led the camera team on Spike Lee's Red Hook Summer, I pulled focus for Bulgari and Animal Planet, and I have traveled to France, Trinidad, Costa Rica, and all over America on shoots. After a few years in the camera department, I recently began transitioning into producing. I was the line producer on the feature film, Tar, produced by James Franco's production company, Rabbit Bandini. I was also a Cinematographer on the feature documentary Kink, which premiered at Sundance in 2013. I am currently attached to produce a feature adaptation of the memoir The Adderall Diaries, which was a 2013 Sundance Screenwriters Lab Project. The Johns Hopkins Film Program was my first step toward all of these amazing experiences and jobs, and it was the best decision I've made in my life.

 

-Kimberly Parker, Class of 2007
Independent Filmmaker

 

 

 

When I started at JHU I knew that I would get a good science education, but what I did not expect was a well-rounded cultural education. The film professors welcomed me into a community that encouraged discussion and fostered creativity. Every paper, professor, and class discussion challenged me to use what I learned and form my own opinions. I was taught to think for myself about the cultural arts. A couple of months ago I went to a dinner with four well-respected physicians who would be my mentors for the next two years. At first I was nervous about making the right first impression. By the end of the evening we had discussed our mutual love of Cary Grant, books, recent Broadway plays, and movies from the 1970s. I attribute my comfort level in these situations to my FMS education. Culture is the common denominator in the world – whether it revolves around books, movies, television, theater, or the news.

-Samantha Ruff,  Class of 2011
Currently attending Hofstra-NSLIJ School of Medicine

 

Film and Media Studies helped define my interests and tweak my analytical skills such that when I finally ventured into the film industry I was well equipped with the ammunition necessary to take it on. Not only did the program enlighten me during school and give me the tools for the future, it cushioned me with a strong network of fellow alums in the industry.

Since graduating from JHU in 2005, I've worked at the Weinstein Company in London, the New York offices of ICM and Endeavor on the literary and talent side, and finally at WME Entertainment in Los Angeles, working in Global Finance and Distribution of independent films. 

I pursued a business degree in Europe, after which point I moved to Dubai.  I now work in finance and pursue film projects on the side.  I'm also doing freelance writing for Variety Arabia.

-Karina Schumacher, Class of 2005

 

Hopkins taught to me admire film for the rigor of its inquiry.  I remember combing the Homewood campus for something worth shooting. Beauty, it seemed, would yield itself to you only if you looked hard enough. And this was precisely what the camera encouraged. Through it I discovered things to which I had never paid attention before—that “sudden light,” for instance, “that transfigures a trivial thing, a weathervane, a windmill…the dust in the barn door.” For me, like for Walter Pater, film was a way of interrogating nature.

-Daniel Schwartz, Class of 2010
Writer/Associate Producer at Filtered Communications Co

 
 

As a Film and Media Studies student at Johns Hopkins University, I had the opportunity to explore different facets of the film industry through my coursework, ranging from film history and theory to film production and stop-motion animation. It was through Hopkins’ rich alumni network that I was able to connect with alumni working in the entertainment industry, many of whom gave me great advice for beginning a career in film. And when I moved to Los Angeles, I found the wealth of knowledge I had accumulated while at Hopkins allowed me to speak the “language” of Hollywood, thereby making me an invaluable asset to the production teams with which I worked. This varied and diverse exposure to cinema has benefitted me throughout my career and continues to be applicable to my work today as an employee of the American Film Institute and as an independent film specialist.

-Anjuli M. Singh, Class of 2006

 

I'm currently at UMass Amherst studying towards a PhD in Chemistry. I've been here for about two years now and my research is focused on testing new carbon-based materials for use in electronics like solar cells, LEDs, FETs, batteries, etc. While I'm not actively studying film, I believe I continue to use the analytical skills I learned in my FMS classes. I think that taking FMS classes helped me see alternative ways to look at problems and find answers. What we learn from studying films is that things aren't always obvious on the surface. Oftentimes, you need to look closer and deeper to find the true meaning.  I definitely need to think of that on a daily basis (especially now that I'm writing up my research to present to my thesis committee for approval.)

-Debra Sondak, Class of 2006
MS in Chemistry, UMass Amherst

Read Debra's full statement.

 

I started out at Johns Hopkins as a chemical engineer. It took me a very quick year and a half to realize it wasn't the life for me. In my search for a new major I happened across a Russian Cinema class. It changed my life. The Film and Media Studies Program was so kind in immediately taking me in and making me one of their own. Suddenly I was up to my eyeballs in screenings, experimental film, lost and found film editing, and shooting 16mm film. Hopkins isn't where I fell in love with film, but it IS where I realized that film and I could be in a long-term, loving relationship. There's no sense doing something other than what you love in life. For me, the Johns Hopkins Film and Media Studies Program showed me that. The program cares, the faculty care, and your fellow peer filmmakers care. You can't ask for more than that.

-George Telonis, Class of 2007
MFA, Film Production, Florida State University
Independent Film Production

 

 

 

I took my first film class only fortuitously, working toward an anthropology degree and intrigued by the idea of American cinema as my own culture's myths.  But I took a major's worth more only because of the culture I found.  In short order, I was welcomed into a genuine community both challenging and supportive.  My then-professors and classmates disciplined me in the rigors of theory and inspired me to take creative risks.  In doing so, they became my now-mentors and colleagues.  While my career has progressed from Homewood to Hollywood and back again as a lecturer in film finance and entertainment law, I still feel endowed by the energy, enthusiasm, and elan of those special few who comprised the Film & Media Studies Program.

-Jason Tyler, Class of 2005 
 
 

"Sometimes the best way to see is to look differently."

This was one of many aphorisms I learned during my time at Hopkins as a Film and Media Studies major. While most were similarly inspiring, eye-opening, game changing observations on the acts of creation and perception, I've carried this particular statement about our relationship with the visible and non-visible world into almost all of the film and video work that I do. While the program did teach me very concrete skills, such as how to operate both analog and digital cameras, shape light, compose frames and tell a story through the visual grammar of narrative film, it would not have been enough had the coursework simply stopped there. What happened at Hopkins for me and for many of my peers was a systematic overturning of expectation and convention. I was introduced to the extraordinary potential of the medium to say something meaningful, exciting, and new about the human experience and more specifically, about the real need for individuals to restore their connectedness to the natural world and to one another.

- Carlos Valdes-Lora, Class of 2010 
Freelance Videographer/Editor

Read Carlos' full statment.

 

 

My time with the Hopkins Film & Media Studies Program encompassed some of the finer moments of my undergraduate education.  I was a Film and Economics double major, and although I now work in investment banking, I use film everyday.  Not in a direct sense however - I pull from memory an ever-growing library of scenes, catalogued over the years, which I use to motivate and enrich my everyday life.  It is a tool and perhaps quirk of the film-oriented mind which is a wonderful and surprising take away from studying and creating this art form.

-Peter Vale, Class of 2010

 

My production courses prepared me for everything that can go wrong, the tools you need to fix it, and the glory that comes when you watch what goes right on the screen.  The multitude of study courses I have taken, (e.g. the Films of the 70's: the Fall of the Code; the Westerns of Ford, Leone, and Peckinpah) have taught me what it means to tell a good story.

A friend of mine and I, amidst our inconsistent, sporadic, never ending job search, borrowed a camera and some cheap equipment and cataloged over a hundred hours of footage we turned into a feature length documentary.  Give and Take has won two awards and screened at over five festivals including the Big Apple Film Festival at the Tribeca theaters.  Without the Film and Media Studies Program at Hopkins, this doesn't happen for me.

-Chris Viemeister, Class of 2009
IMDB: 
http://www.imdb.com/name/nm3306926/; Give and Take: http://www.giveandtakefilm.com/; Vimeo: www.vimeo.com/cviemeister

Read Chris' full statement.

 
The Film and Media Studies Program at JHU cultivated within me a sense of possibility and creative expanse. As anyone who has worked in the entertainment industry, particularly in Los Angeles or New York, will tell you, this sense cannot be overemphasized in its importance. It is, or it should be, the foundation of almost any career related to entertainment and toward which one would aspire. Even in light of a recent change in career paths and with regard to a very different industry, I've found that I continue to draw upon the lessons and perspectives I garnered as an FMS major.

-B. Tyler Wilson, Class of 2009
J.D. Candidate, University of Pittsburgh, 2015

Read Tyler's full statement.

 
 

What I really appreciate and was surprised to find with the Film & Media Studies program was how much I learned that I didn't expect to. I expected to learn the essentials of production and how to evaluate a film in a critical essay, and the program met those expectations. But it also exceeded them. The best way that I can think of to put it is that I learned that it's not necessary to act under artificial constraints. A film doesn't have to be a three act narrative. It doesn't even need to be captured with a camera. Courses like Experimental Film, Lost and Found Film, and Écuslömötl taught me that. Now I'm able to take this same principle and apply it to things I do outside of film, especially at work where it's so easy to fall into the trap of doing something a particular way simply because it's how everyone else has done it before.

One of the most fun projects I worked on in the program was a film called Foolproof which was framed as an instructional video for operating a blender. I was not only able to learn about production; I also got to exercise my sense of absurdity. To this day I continue to notice the absurd in daily life, from a label on a bottle of marinara sauce labeling it as "industrial strength" to a bottle of contact lens cleaner which contains this warning: “If you are allergic to any of the ingredients in this product, do not use."

-Michael Wyszomierski, Class of 2006

Read Michael's full statement.