“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 ’04, playwright and screenwriter
Film and media studies 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.
Here are some of the many extraordinary alumni of Johns Hopkins University’s Program in Film and Media Studies, in their own words.
Zach Baylin, 2002
Zach Baylin, 2002
At Hopkins, Film and Media Studies is much more than an academic program—it’s a thriving, collaborative, artistic community. When I was a student there (twenty years ago!) I met amazing teachers and advisers who taught me, not just how to think critically (and creatively) about film, writing, and story, but gave me the support, skills, and courage to pursue a real career in film development and production. The film community at Hopkins, and wonderful teachers and mentors like Lucy Bucknell, John Mann, and Linda DeLibero introduced me to films and techniques I still rely on and return to in my work today. Through classes and special events, I met amazing filmmakers like John Waters and Guinevere Turner and explored the unique, thriving, independent art and cinema scene in Baltimore. For a young filmmaker, or for anyone just inspired by cinema and story, FMS at Hopkins is an incredibly nurturing community I’m proud to be a part of.
Zach Baylin is a Los Angeles-based screenwriter and co-founder of Youngblood Pictures. His script, King Richard, about the father of tennis greats Venus and Serena Williams, was #2 on the 2018 Blacklist and is currently in production at Warner Bros., starring Will Smith, Jon Berenthal, and Liev Schreiber, and directed by Reinaldo Marcus Green. He is currently writing Creed III for MGM and has written projects for Lionsgate, Imagine, and TNT, and for filmmakers James Grey, Jeremy Saulnier, Francesco Munzi, and Jonathan Levine, among others. A father of two, Zach also worked in the props and art department on dozens of film and television projects in New York, including Boardwalk Empire, Mildred Pierce, The Blacklist, A Walk Among the Tombstone, Gossip Girl, Side Effects, and Dave Chapelle’s Block Party. A two-time Academic All-American on the JHU football team, he is represented by Grandview Management and CAA.
Max Bowens, 2015
Max Bowens, 2015
Being a part of the Film & Media Studies program permanently altered my conception of filmmaking – film became less about “medium,” and entirely about a way of being in the world (as Professor John Mann would say). This was a vital and formative shift, and in essence it’s what made me want to make films. It is also paradigmatic of the particular way that film is understood and taught at Johns Hopkins, as opposed to more “industry” oriented programs around the country. FMS coursework in history/theory with Linda DeLibero and Meredith Ward, and in film practice with John Mann, Karen Yasinsky, and Matt Porterfield concretized into an incredibly rich and interdisciplinary film education. “Films” became sites of labor: aesthetic, political, cultural, phenomenological. The FMS faculty’s guidance compelled me to pursue film from vantages both practical and theoretical. Since graduating I’ve worked as an editor for filmmakers such as Terrence Malick, Amiel Courtin-Wilson, and fellow alumna Diana Peralta, and continued to maintain a tether to academia in Film & Visual Studies at Harvard University. I still return to the notes, books, films, even syllabi, from my undergrad years, and am reminded of the great debt of gratitude I owe to this remarkable program.
Max Bowens is a filmmaker and Ph.D. Candidate in Film and Visual Studies at Harvard University. Before joining the AFVS Department, he worked extensively as a film editor for Terrence Malick and Amiel Courtin-Wilson. His theoretical work has been published in Film-Philosophy, Film Criticism, and The Oxford Artistic and Practice Based Research Platform, with research on new materialist phenomenologies, sensory ethnography, dissonance (musical/filmic), and music visualization technologies. Max is a current fellow at Harvard’s Film Study Center and holds a M.St. from The University of Oxford and a B.A. from Johns Hopkins University.
Alexandra Byer, 2011
Alexandra Byer, 2011
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. Since graduating from Hopkins nearly a decade ago, I have continued working with those who were students alongside me as we make movies professionally, and I continue to be supported by those educators who nurtured me as a student. To have my alma mater still be a meaningful part of my career nearly ten years after graduating is deeply important to me. I am now in the fortunate position where I can begin to give back to the program that launched me into the work I do today, which is one of the most rewarding feelings of all.
Alexandra Byer is a producer and the co-founder of Rathaus, a production company based in Brooklyn, New York. She most recently produced Tim Sutton’s fifth feature, Funny Face (Berlinale International Film Festival 2020), and Cedric Cheung-Lau’s debut feature, The Mountains are a Dream that Call to Me (Sundance Film Festival 2020). She was nominated for the John Cassavetes Award at the 2020 Independent Spirit Awards for Tom Quinn’s Colewell (Gravitas Ventures) and participated in the 2016 Cannes Producer’s Workshop as well as the 2015 Berlinale Talents lab. Byer has produced many short films and frequently works in production on commercials and music videos. She previously worked as a program coordinator at the Independent Filmmaker Project (IFP).
Jonathan Groce, 2005
Jonathan Groce is a talent and literary manager at Bohemia Group.
Jonathan Groce, 2005
The Film and Media Studies Program at JHU is an island of creativity, lifelong friends, and sage advisers. 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. 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.
Practically speaking, FMS led to my first job out of JHU. My professors offered me the right contacts to those first few job interviews, and I would not have been afforded those contacts without proving myself as a person with integrity and taste. My devoted professors and mentors gave me a new way to discipline my thinking and my social skills. Today, I work at Bohemia Group as a Talent Manager, where I’ve built my career discovering new talent, with an emphasis on LGBTQ directors and writers. My life – and my clients’ careers – are better because of what I learned in the program, not to mention the incredible network of JHU alumni here in Los Angeles.
Jonathan Groce is a talent and literary manager at Bohemia Group, a full-service management company for artists. He has worked in talent and casting for 15 years in New York and Los Angeles. While in New York, Groce won several Emmy awards as casting director and producer for Ca$h Cab at Discovery, where he developed unscripted talent for companies such as Lion Television, Zero Point Zero, and Lucky Duck Productions. In 2009, he migrated to LA as Manager of Talent and Casting at MTV, overseeing talent on Awkward, Teen Wolf, and several scripted pilots until he was recruited as Head of Talent and Casting at Adult Swim/Cartoon Network in 2012. In 2015, he shifted from executive to manager and never looked back!
Dikega Hadnot, 2009
Dikega Hadnot, 2009
When I graduated from the FMS program in 2009, I found myself back home in Los Angeles before somehow stumbling onto the production of Terrence Malick’s Tree of Life, a cinematic masterpiece and arguably the genius writer/director’s most acclaimed work. During a defining moment that would either ensure my continued obscurity or spur a budding relationship with the philosophically oriented auteur, I mentioned The Wages of Fear, a film I watched in a philosophy & film class during my senior year at Hopkins, which turned into a brief talk about pre-Nouvelle Vague French cinema, Cahiers Du Cinema and the validity of Auteur theory. That formative talk changed my trajectory on set. I was allowed unprecedented access to Terry’s creative world that the other interns and assistants — some who were a bit older and MFA graduates of AFI and USC — didn’t have. He even treated me to dinner after a late-night run to search for obscure philosophy books. I watched cuts, delivered drives to Deluxe, gave notes, and before I knew it the film was over — I was wrapped.
After a stop on an indie film in Rhode Island, I flew to Oklahoma and joined the set of To The Wonder, where I split my assistant duties between Terry and DP Emmanuel ‘Chivo’ Lubezki (Birdman, Gravity, The Revenant). It was a delight to chase the sun, try different camera formats, and even direct co-lead Olga Kurylenko in a scene. When I asked Terry what he wanted in the scene with Olga, my heart beating hard and fast, he instructed me “to be a cowboy,” and I understood. This cowboy philosophy is what John Mann taught in his production classes. From Mann’s spirited mentoring, production students learned that every shot and movement should have intent, which I saw in Malick’s unadulterated, lyrical cinema.
Even after I left Terry and Chivo to pursue my own path, the education, rigor, and philosophies I learned in FMS were still guiding me. I called on the chaotic, kaleidoscopic work of Stan Brakhage when a Hip Hop artist at Interscope asked for a surreal aesthetic for his new music video. Character arcs that I learned in my screenwriting course with Lucy Bucknell informed my notes on client scripts as a young creative executive. Suzanne Roos’s seminal semiotics course is seared into my brain. Because of her love of Saussure, signifiers and signs abound in anything I direct. FMS gave me the same voracious appetite for knowledge and rhapsodic devotion to human triumphs and loss we see amongst cinema’s greatest creators. Of course, there are many other aspects of film that have to be learned through trial and error in the field, but the education provided a base that allowed me to jump headfirst into filmmaking.
I always loved history, and thought maybe I would study that . . . I remember Linda DeLibero, illuminating the importance of film history to me. In her Introduction to Film History course in my freshmen year, she screened a tracking shot from a German film from the 30s that stuck with me from that moment on. I knew then that I was going to direct a shot like that and make someone feel the way I did in that course. I’m still on my path with many other courageous women and men, absorbing everything around me, attempting to transcode emotions, philosophy, art, and human whims into magically imbued celluloid – or data if you prefer. Without the mentoring I received at Hopkins, I don’t think I could follow the path that I’m on now. FMS gave me my initial direction, so to speak, and equipped me with the basic tools to follow in a prestigious lineage.
MFA Producers Program at UCLA
I remember like it was yesterday when Film and Media Studies professor John Mann told me, “You’d make a great producer.” FMS was crucial in giving me the confidence to pursue a career in film and television. With amazing instructors, creative challenges, and incredible support during my four years in the program, I felt prepared to tackle anything the industry threw my way. I was fortunate to attend the MFA Producers Program at UCLA, have turned in the first draft of my thesis, and am set to graduate in June 2017. In the last two years, I’ve produced six projects ranging from a feature to a web series to a music video, and I’ve had the opportunity to meet and work with several high-level producers. I currently intern in development and production at 2.0 Entertainment on the Sony lot, working for a producer I admire who, in turn, admires my ability to take on anything he asks with a positive attitude. I’ve also started a filmmaking collective with three other FMS graduates here in Los Angeles. We focus on producing content we’re passionate about. I wouldn’t have had these opportunities without Hopkins Film and Media Studies. Because of FMS I have a strong sense of who I am and what I want to do, and I still hope to become a great producer one day.
Kim Parker, 2007
Kim Parker, 2007
The foundation of my film career was built at Johns Hopkins. The Film and Media Studies faculty gave me an enduring education and generous guidance, which I am still benefiting from to this day. The combination of film theory and hands-on production classes is ideal, and it mirrors my current work as a creative producer in the independent film space, where I develop scripts with auteurs and also lead physical production. In addition to skills and knowledge, Johns Hopkins has also given me the life-long resource of the FMS community, which I continue to enjoy in Los Angeles. Some of my favorite JHU memories were within FMS classrooms. I highly recommend this program for anyone considering a career in film.
Born in Seoul, but adopted and raised in Baltimore, Kimberly Parker is a producer based in Los Angeles. Currently, Parker is lead producing the sophomore feature film of Josef Kubota Wladyka (Narcos, Manos Sucias). Parker was Executive Producer on A24’s The Last Black Man in San Francisco (Best Director, Sundance 2019) and produced I Am My Own Mother, one of two American shorts in Cannes’ Cinéfondation 2018. Parker also produced Katie Says Goodbye (TIFF 2016), starring Olivia Cooke and Christopher Abbott. Parker produced an interactive, gaze-controlled virtual reality film, Broken Night, starring Emily Mortimer (Tribeca, Cannes Next 2017). Her first feature as a producer, Those People, won Audience Awards at Outfest and NewFest, and was nominated for Outstanding Film (Ltd. Release) at the 2017 GLAAD Awards. Parker was a 2016 San Francisco Film Society/KRF Producing Fellow. She participated in EPI’s Trans Atlantic Partners, Berlinale Talents, and the Sundance Women in Film Financing Intensive. Parker is a three-time IFP alum, and a member of the Producers Guild of America. She graduated with a Film M.F.A. from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts and a B.A. in Film and Media Studies and the Writing Seminars from Johns Hopkins University.
Diana Peralta, 2011
Diana was featured in Filmmaker magazine's
Diana Peralta, 2011
When I first started at JHU as a freshman, I had no idea that the school even had a Film & Media studies department. As fate would have it, I sat in on an Introduction to Film Production class for fun and it changed the course of my life and career. The faculty were extremely passionate and generous with their time and resources. Not only did I get a great foundation in film theory and history, but I also received tons of hands-on production experience on student films and professional feature films. Learning to shoot on 16mm was such a unique education. With the practical skills I learned in the program, I’ve been able to establish a career as a filmmaker and a producer in advertising in New York City. The program cultivated a tight-knit community of students. My peers from the program are still some of my closest friends and collaborators. In fact, a few of my fellow alums worked with me on my first feature film De Lo Mio (2019). Without the Film & Media Studies program, I would never have found my tribe.
Diana Peralta is a filmmaker, producer, and writer from New York City. Her debut feature De Lo Mio (HBO) had its world premiere as the closing night film of BAMcinemaFest in June 2019. The film was awarded “Best Narrative Feature” at IndieMemphis Film Festival in 2019 and “Best Film” at Riverrun International Film Festival in 2020. Diana was featured in Filmmaker magazine’s “25 New Faces of Independent Film” in 2019. She currently works as a Senior Producer at Revlon, Inc. Her work as a producer on the short documentary LA Feria Concreta was screened as part of the Dominican Republic’s first pavilion installation at the 2014 Venice Biennale of Architecture.
Vanessa Richards, 2019
Vanessa Richards, 2019
Studio North, Johns Hopkins University’s student-run production company, provides a wide range of opportunities for students to gain hands-on production experience throughout the school year and beyond. Throughout my time as an undergrad, I grew my network as well as my skill set by working on Studio North-funded student projects. It is an excellent way to connect to the film scene at Hopkins, grow as a filmmaker, and meet other students with a similar passion for storytelling through filmmaking.
I was eventually a Studio North grant recipient myself, which allowed me to shoot House, a documentary web series about house music in Chicago, Detroit, and Baltimore. House explores regional differences in house music and what it means to be a member of the house music community, and features interviews with DJs, fans, singers, and promoters. I was lucky to work with a great team of friends and family, and I had the support of both Studio North and the Film & Media Studies faculty, who helped me bring this story to life.
I’m currently working in Los Angeles at NBCUniversal as part of the Page Program, a 12-month rotational learning and development experience, with a position on the Universal Pictures’ Creative Development team.