Film and Technology: The 2013 Johns Hopkins Undergraduate Film Conference

By Abby Harri, Class of 2014

In its inaugural year, September’s Undergraduate Film Conference made its mark in the array of events for cinema lovers at Hopkins and in Baltimore.  The thoughtful programming and quality of presentations were exceptional for any event, especially one in its first year.   Considering the forthcoming expansion of the Film and Media Studies Program to the Station North Arts District, and the growth of the program generally, the theme of “Expanded Cinema” seemed appropriate even beyond its intended use.

            The brainchild of Nour El Safoury (class of 2013), the conference was organized and run by Nour, Helen Latimer (’14), Annie Rhee (’16), Sarah White (’16), and Emily Yang (’16), with guidance from Baltimore video artist and FMS lecturer Jimmy Roche.   The theme took inspiration from Gene Youngblood’s 1970 Expanded Cinema, which organizers described as “a ground-breaking book . . . in which he offered a framework for the ‘aesthetic application of technology’ and the inclusion of new technologies in film and other media.”  The conference thus focused on the intersection of film and technology today, sourcing speakers who ranged from students presenting academic papers, to a social media theorist, to interactive cinema pioneer Toni Dove, among others.

            Conversation circled around the rise in the digitization of media and what this means for the future of cinema.  Interestingly, this focus didn’t center solely on the question of digital vs. film in terms of media-making, although that was a valuable consideration of the last panel.  The question of the audience’s role in the digital age was also considered, taking into account forms of interactive cinema and the role of the Internet in sourcing material from the audience (such as the amateur scripts sent in for professional actors to perform through ProjectRANT, for example), and what that might mean for media producers and consumers.  Does interactivity mean free labor for media producers in some cases?  What might be the implications of consumers who are simultaneously producers?

            Not all questions were answered and tied up neatly with a bow, and rightly so.  The progressive nature of the conference not only allowed for a wonderful expansion to the slate of Film and Media Studies events, but expanded how we think about media, its production, and its consumption.  The conference encouraged us to wonder what the future of media might look like, an interesting but unsure landscape to traverse. We look forward to continuing the conversation with future conferences. 

Face to Face: Sundance 2013

by Maria Callahan, Class of 2015

"At Sundance every day holds the distinct possibility of bouncing ideas off of the minds of great directors, producers, sound designers, actors, industry insiders--the list goes on and on. By the end of the week I had engaged in conversations that I never would have dreamed of before heading to Park City. The trip left me both in awe of all the creative energy pulsing through the world of film, and inspired, feeling that it is a world which I can someday be a part of."

Read more about Maria's exprerience at Sundance Film Festival

FMS Students Read for the 2013 Baltimore Screenwriters' Competition

For the eighth year, in partnership with students at Morgan State University, Hopkins film students served as first readers for theBaltimore Screenwriters' Competition, sponsored by the Baltimore Film Office at the Baltimore Office for Promotion & The Arts. Under the supervision of Senior LecturerLucy Bucknell, interns evaluated and provided coverage of competition screenplays. Contest winners will be announced at the Maryland Film Festival in May.

Alessandra Bautze, Class of 2014: As a double major in Writing Seminars and Film and Media Studies, writing coverage for the 2013 Baltimore Screenwriters' Competition was educational, enlightening, and fun. Not only did I gain professional experience, but I also received academic feedback on the quality of my work from the professor, allowing me to see how I performed. Through exposure to different genres and writing styles, I was able to improve my screenplay analysis skills. I have written coverage in other academic and professional settings, but this was a wonderful opportunity to represent Johns Hopkins in the professional world. I was able to use the skills that I have learned here at Hopkins to contribute to a meaningful creative initiative, the Baltimore Screenwriters' Competition. I am very grateful to have had this opportunity and would recommend it to any student interested in screenwriting. It is just one of the many unique opportunities offered to students trough the Film and Media Studies Program!

Natasha Hirschfeld, Class of 2013: In this, my second year as a first reader for the Baltimore Screenwriters' Competition, I was once again graced with a collection of truly gripping story lines, beautifully imagined settings and a slew of characters I badly wanted to befriend. It is an honor to write coverage for the scripts that enter the competition, not only because it is so heartening to have my cinematic opinions considered, but because the incredible amount of effort these screenwriters have dedicated to their scripts deserves the careful attention and comprehension required specifically of a coverage writer. As an English major, I am all too accustomed to literary analysis and criticism; but reading and covering these screenplays affords me an entirely new, immensely addictive form of engagement with the written word. Few activities captivate my imagination more than ideas for films, and reading for the Baltimore Screenwriters' Competition gives me a one-month break from having to imagine movies myself.

Sam Johns, Class of 2013: I very much enjoyed writing coverage for the Baltimore Screenwriters' Competition. As a Writing Seminars major, I often analyze much shorter pieces for classes in the department. One problem with that is that flaws, especially in plot, story, and character, are easier to cover up or minimize. On the other hand, in a full-length screenplay, it's easier to identify exactly what's working and what isn't – and more importantly, to understand why. Getting to look at every aspect in such depth was not only refreshing, but a valuable opportunity to hone my own skills and thoughts about storytelling. I also appreciated the opportunity to apply those skills in a helpful way to practicing screenwriters.

Hopkins Film Students Read for the 2012 Baltimore Screenwriters Competition

For the seventh year, in partnership with students at Morgan State University, Hopkins film students served as first readers for the Baltimore Screenwriters Competition, sponsored by the Baltimore Film Office at the Baltimore Office for Promotion & The Arts.  Under the supervision of FMS Senior Lecturer Lucy Bucknell, interns evaluated and provided coverage of competition screenplays.  This year's contest winners will be announced at the Maryland Film Festival on Saturday, May 5, 2012. 

Here's what Hopkins readers had to say about their experience:

Clare Richardson, Class of 2012: Baltimore is a unique place with many stories to be told, and it was a great opportunity to read one person's take on and vision of the city. It's clear the Screenwriters Competition fosters and encourages local talent, and to be a part of the process was again an exciting experience this year.  I really enjoy providing coverage but currently don't have many chances to, so the competition is an ideal occasion for me to do so. It was a pleasure to be a reader!

Colleen Dorsey, Class of 2012: Being a Writing Seminars major, I have had a lot of practice reading other students’ works-in-progress and giving useful feedback, but writing coverage for the Baltimore Screenwriters Competition really required me to take it to the next level.  As a first reader, my analysis needed to be much more fleshed out and comprehensive.  It was enjoyable to spend hours with each script, considering all aspects – everything from visuals to dialogue to themes. It was challenging at times to explain my criticisms lucidly but in the end satisfying to get them down on paper.   Sometimes you have gut feelings about a story or a character, but for useful analysis getting to the bottom of those gut feelings is essential.  Furthermore, the experience of reading polished screenplays of emerging writers reminded me just how much work goes into such a product.  I'll be inspired in my own writing by these screenwriters' creativity and craft.

Hannah Miller, Class of 2013: The creativity of individuals in the community is impressive. Though readers aren't told who has written what, each script is a testament to their hard work and dedication, and each represents a singular voice.  It's so interesting to hear what each has to say.

Natasha Hirschfeld, Class of 2013: Reading Baltimore Screenwriters Competition entries was a unique and wonderful experience for me.  As an English major, I concentrate on novels, plays, short stories, and the occasional poem, but the script coverage process allowed me to really explore the medium of the screenplay.  No other form places as much importance on character development through action and dialogue, and scenes of charged conversation were always my favorites.  Screenplays make for an infectious reading experience--regardless of the merits or faults of a script, I just couldn't put it down!

The Experience of Sundance

by Abigail Harri, Class of 2014

During 2012 Intersession, Film & Media Studies majors traveled to the Sundance Film Festival.

"To our luck, a small group of Johns Hopkins University Film and Media Studies students were able to travel together to Park City, Utah for the 2012 Sundance Film Festival. Many have heard of the popular emerging films from the Festival this year: that top-rated child-hero flick, or maybe that action of all action pictures, the Welsh directed, Indonesian-made visceral smack in the face. But beyond the reviews and beastly raids at the box office for the popular films of the fest, what was it like to be at Sundance, in the midst of the buzz for all of these things before they were a thing?"

Read more about Abby's experience.

Film & Media Studies Students Read for 2011
Baltimore Screenwriters Competition

For the sixth year, Hopkins FMS students, in conjunction with students from Morgan State University's Film & Television Writing Program, provided coverage of scripts for the Baltimore Screenwriters Competition.

FMS Faculty Screening: Works and Works in Progress by Carlos Valdes-Lora, Class of 2010

Filmmakers Talk Art, Passion and Undying Love by Alexandra Byer, Class of 2011

Film & Media Studies Students Read for 2011 Baltimore Screenwriters Competition

Checking the Facts for Charm City by Glennis Markison, Class of 2013

The 2010 Baltimore Screenwriters Competition: Hopkins student readers provide some insight into the coverage process

"Moleque" an interview with Diana Peralta, Film & Media Studies student featured at the MidAtlantic Black Film Festival by Carlos Valdes-Lora, Class of 2010

Sundance Film Festival: The Scoop on Scoring Tickets by Clare Richardson, Class of 2012

Film Boot Camp by Alexandra Byer, Class of 2011

Hopkins Film Students Read for the 4th Annual Baltimore Screenwriters Competition by Christen Cromwell, Class of 2009