“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.
Adaptive Studios, Culver City, CA
Class of: 2011
Deciding to join the Film and Media Studies program at Hopkins was one of the easiest decisions I have made so far. From the second I stepped foot on campus I knew it was the right place for me. I was able to learn about not just the making of film but where it came from and because of this I have been able to see, first hand, where it is going. After Hopkins I moved home to Los Angeles to work for a talent agency called William Morris Endeavor where I was able to use my knowledge of film and media and learn about the business side of the industry. From there I went to work at Walt Disney Studios in the Live Action Motion Picture Development department under executives who oversaw films such as Maleficent and Into the Woods. This was a completely different side of the business but with my background in a wide variety of films I was able to be a part of one of the most iconic movie studios in Hollywood. I am currently working at a small startup studio called Adaptive Studios. We are on the forefront of combining the old school studio model with the new world of digital media. Hopkins prepared me for a company like this by focusing the FMS department on more than just how to make film but teaching us the art of storytelling. Through my career so far I have learned that no matter what the company name or the medium used, success in the entertainment industry is all dependent on a good story and the art of being a fantastic storyteller. I really feel that the Hopkins FMS program breeds fantastic storytellers.
Class of: 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. 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.
Class of: 2011
For my first two years as a blue jay, I was a Writing Seminars major. I loved my classes, my professors, and the fact that I could escape into new, dramatic, interesting worlds simply with my words—and get academic credit for it! Even with all those “perfect” elements though, something was definitely missing.
So, in my junior year, I finally took the plunge—with only a few screenwriting courses under my belt, I added the Film and Media Studies major to my list of goals for my undergrad career. And that is when my experience at Hopkins came alive. To have ideas floating around in my head, then actually have the tools to produce those images for real so others could explore them with me – that was incredible. Almost immediately I looked at storytelling in a different, more complex, more personal way, all because of the new techniques and perspectives I learned in my film classes. Considering my raw passion for writing and entertainment, Writing Seminars/Film and Media Studies was the perfect pair for me to get the most out of my college experience. I still can’t believe how much I learned—and how much I grew—in just four years.
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.
Class of: 2009
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.
Assistant Audio Engineer, Duotone Audio Group
Class of: 2008
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 (Profs. Mann, DeLibero, Bucknell) that inspired me along the journey. Cheers!
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.
Clients include NBC Universal, Discovery Communications, and Scripps Networks. Reel available at http://bfrazer.net.
MFA in Film Directing, CalArts
Class of: 2012
The FMS Program’s greatest real world strengths are probably its perceived weaknesses. It’s a small program. It isn’t in a major filmmaking hub. It’s at a large, science-oriented research university. But these things actually help young filmmakers. They can build strong relationships with faculty mentors and talented classmates. They can build their own filmmaking identities in a great city that nurtures young artists. And they can engage in ideas outside of filmmaking and film theory with some of the brightest students and faculty in the world. Even though the program is now expanding into the Film Center, limited resources facing most smaller film programs can help students improvise and learn how to use the tools at hand to make the best product, a vital skill in the independent film world.
I would also say that there is an openness to experimentation for those who are so inclined. Students can feel free to subvert assignments, rules, and expectations. They are encouraged to do so actually. And they can know that they are safe in that process. They may fail, as I know I sure did on occasion, but daring to work in unconventional or non-traditional ways is always met with utmost encouragement and excitement.
Executive Assistant to Board Member WWE│IMG
Class of: 2013
The interpersonal nature of the program is one of its greatest strengths. Indeed what makes the Hopkins film program so special is the access students have to their professors and each other, which fosters an undeniable sense of community. The intimate class sizes (in the upper level courses in particular) also compound this feeling of community, which cultivates intellectually stimulating debate, knowledge sharing, and learning in a uniquely special academic environment.
Students are encouraged to make the program their own. It’s not just about committing oneself to production or writing, exclusively. By not having to exclusively commit myself to one aspect of film and media studies, I was able to explore a variety of subjects — from the business of film, to shooting on 16mm, and everything in between.
Director of Talent Development, Cartoon Network Adult Swim Two-time Emmy Award winner
Class of: 2004
The Film and Media Studies Program at JHU is an island of creativity, lifelong friends, and sage advisers 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.
Practically speaking, FMS led me to my first job out of JHU. It was my professors who 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 man of integrity; a man who could write a 30-page paper on musical reflections in Hitchcock’s early British films, or write television comedy scenes reflected from a careful beat by beat viewing of Frasier. As with any discipline, I could have learned these values at other places, but in Baltimore and with these devoted professors (and yes, mentors), I was given a new way to discipline my thinking and my social skills by coming from an outside the norm place, which would prove beyond instrumental in tackling NYC and Los Angeles.
So after getting that diploma in ’04, I worked in NYC for five years, winning two Emmys while producing a hit game show. I learned how to interact and cast reality and scripted television. Then in 2009 I moved to Los Angeles to manage casting for MTV. After three years of that, I am now head of Talent for Adult Swim—the primetime block of programs on Cartoon Network, which wins its demo of 18-34s in its time slot every night. My life is filled, and feels fulfilled—and without the Film and Media Studies program teaching me how to take the world and interpret it in a way that is both a creative process and a business, I would not be able to process my own career.
Digital Production Coordinator, Sesame Workshop
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.
MFA Producers Program at UCLA
Class of: 2015
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.
Senior Vice President of Development, Maverick Television
Class of: 2004
Being a film and 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.
Student, University of Maryland School of Medicine
Class of: 2009
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.
Playwright and Screenwriter
Class of: 2004
I’m a bi-coastally produced playwright and screenwriter. My full-length play Feedback is currently being performed at the Lyric Theater in Los Angeles. And, I’m working as a Communications Writer at Avon Products.
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.
Especially at a school that has a reputation for being so science and numbers oriented, I was blown away by how strong the program was. FMS takes film seriously, and at the same time, the classes didn’t suck the life out of films by overly-intellectualizing them. In fact, they did the opposite. I graduated feeling invigorated by the professional world I was entering into.
Coordinator, Entertainment Conde Nast
Class of: 2007
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.
Production Assistant, Comedy Central
Class of: 2012
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.
The Johns Hopkins Film and Media Studies Program led to my first paid film job: I was hired as a second 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.
Writer/Associate Producer at Filtered Communications Co.
Class of: 2010
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.
Doctoral Student, UMass Amherst
Class of: 2006
I’m currently at UMass Amherst studying toward 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).
MFA, Film Production, Florida State University
Class of: 2007
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.
Class of: 2010
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.
Class of: 2009
Let me begin by saying that I began as a Physics major at JHU, from which I promptly ran away to Economics and the E&M minor. Film began for me as a hobby which would supplement my more “practical” Hopkins career pursuits. However as I progressed further in the department this hobby began to consume me and, after taking my first production course, it became my passion.
So much so that at graduation I found myself turning away from the call of finance and government because sitting at a desk was no longer an option. I find myself today, in New York, still struggling, on my way to Brooklyn to be a Production Assistant on a small commercial, a one-day job a friend called me for over the weekend. I do not know where my next pay check will come from. I do not care.
I started as an intern, working twelve hour days on the indie film Happythankyoumoreplease (yes, all one word), and from there it became a networking game. It took a while but I got to the point where work was consistent enough and they began to pay me for those twelve to fourteen hour days.
I’ve worked for movies, television, commercials, even spent a few months at a camera and lighting rental facility learning equipment. After some twists and turns, figuring out what I wanted to do but always in entertainment, I settled into an acting career. That’s what I’m working toward now with who knows how many odd-job W-2 forms I’ll have to file next year.
FMS didn’t exactly prepare me for what it would be like on a professional set. I honestly don’t think anyone could, you just have to do it. What it did do was inspire me to have such an appreciation for film, for what it takes to get that shot, for the deeper meaning behind a scene, that I’m pursuing a career in a passion I love. I enjoy what I do for a living.
I am able to do so because my education sets me apart. When I have a suggestion about the look of a film or a shot, it’s taken seriously because it usually makes sense and there’s logical reasoning to back it (thank you lighting courses and thank you to all the scene analysis I have done). When there’s a problem on set that needs solving, I think quickly and efficiently (thank you production courses). I’m a reliable person to have on set (your success in this industry will greatly depend on this fact). I have learned so much and come so far because I can not only think like a Hopkins graduate, but because I can draw from the knowledge and experiences of the film program.
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 ’70s: 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.
So I’ve made a documentary. I have IMDB credits which I think is so cool. I’m slowly building an actors reel and some of my shorts have gone to festivals, which I also think is pretty exciting. I’ve got a screenshot of me on Gossip Girl. I’ve worked behind the scenes with actors like James Caan, Blythe Danner, Adrien Brody, Lucy Liu, Malin Akerman and many more. I’m having the time of my life and it all started in my Intro to Film Study class, as a hobby.